In my thoughts
I have seen,
Olympic rings of smoke through the trees...
a stairway to the Temple of Heaven in Beijing
as the Olympics come to a close. Will NBC realize that all
that glitters is not gold, or will they take us to the gallows
pole of fluff? Ramble
• I await tonight in fear. For the last two Olympics,
NBC has had more fluff on the final
night of coverage than
other night. I'd love to think they weren't going
to do this again. But I'll believe it when I see it.
Bob warns us during his opening that we'll be seeing a lot
of recaps of events from throughout the games. We're warned
of fluff and the show is only minutes old. This isn't good.
Fortunately, we start with men's volleyball, where the U.S.A.
has unexpectedly made it into the gold medal game versus
NBC forwards the tape to the end of the second set. The U.S.
wins the last few points to tie Brazil at one set a piece.
Fluff #1. Weren't the Opening Ceremonies awesome? Look at
all the pretty colors and drummers! What's that? You don't
know how the volleyball game is going? We'll let you know
about that when we're good and ready!
Back to volleyball. I was a little worried when they started
the broadcast with the United States trailing that this was
going to be a short segment, but now we've jumped ahead to
the middle of the third set and the U.S. is ahead, so it
looks like it could go either way.
The United States wins set three! U.S.A. is up 2-1!
While I don't watch "America's Got Talent" regularly,
I did see the one with the opera singer that they keep featuring
in their commercials. Opera Man, Neal Boyd sang "Nessun
was pretty good. I knew the song was "Nessun Dorma" because
Luciano Pavarati sang it at the Opening
Ceremonies of the Turin games two years ago.
However, I also knew it was "Nessun Dorman" when
Potts of England sang it in "Britain's Got Talent." AND
judge Piers Morgan, who works both sides of The Pond, HAD
to have known that chubby men like singing "Nessun Dorma," given
that he had just seen it months before. Yet he acted as if
nothing like this had ever happened before. Does Piers
think we're all idiots? Hasn't he ever seen YouTube?
Fluff #2. Pandas! Everyone loves pandas! Awwwwwww... they're
Fluff #3. The Wei River! Did any Olympics happen
there? No. Is it even close to Beijing? Not really. But now
you know it's there!
This fourth set seems like it's taking forEVER. The U.S.
was ahead, then behind, then ahead, then behind again...
but now they've just tied it at 20.
High-ranking Team Rockwood member Sandy says, "The U.S.
must be about to win." Why, I ask? "Because it's
the top of the hour and Bob said we'd be watching the Closing
Ceremonies in about an hour." Insight like this is why
SHE is a high-ranking Team Rockwood member and you are not.
And she's right! The U.S.A. wins gold in men's volleyball!
Lindsay Soto interviews U.S. Volleyball coach Hugh McCutcheon.
Talk about highs and lows in an interview. Friday's
interview for him must have been
tough enough, but here it's clear that he just plain doesn't
know how to react. On day one of the Olympics, his father-in-law
was murdered by a crazy man. On the last day of the Olympics,
his team won a gold medal, the first by the men since 1984.
If you wrote a script like that, everyone would reject
it for being unbelievable.
And at the volleyball medal ceremony, what do we see? The
players singing... the coaches singing... heck, in the
background, even the FANS
are singing. And none of this under-the-breath singing,
either. Tattooed tough-looking Lloy Ball is in full-throated
glory. People in the back of the arena can probably hear
him. Dangit, Lloy. Now I'm gonna have to get a tissue.
Great job, guys.
And now we're off to the Bird's Nest, where Bob Costas and
Dan Hicks will describe what's plainly visible in the Closing
We start with a countdown in fireworks. China uses up all
the fireworks they had remaining after the Opening Ceremonies.
The Chinese national anthem is "March
of the Volunteers." One
would assume that they don't play that ironically. But they
Hey, did you hear about the 70-plus-year-old women
that are going to spend a year in a "reeducation
through labor" camp because they wanted
to protest the government "volunteering" to destroy
their houses to make way for development? Maybe they can
march there voluntarily. Wouldn't that be great?
Fluff #4. The men's 4x100m swimming relay. Phelps is screaming!
And that was only like his fourth gold medal.
Back to the CC. More drummers, this time wearing red jumpsuits
and gold bicycle helmets. There are women surrounding them
and two inflatable drums lowering from the rooftop to meet
them in the middle of the floor. What does it all mean? Dan
Hicks can't tell us, but he does know it's something on an
epic scale. Insight like that is why Dan Hicks is NOT a high-ranking
Team Rockwood member.
Holy Program! It's the Bicycles
of Tron! They're not really
even bicycles since they're just one wheel, but the riders
sit inside the wheel, and the wheel itself is all lit up
with neon tubes. It's hard to describe. You'll just have
to Google it.
Now the stadium is filled with weirdness. Helmeted drummers.
Flying drummers. Bikes of Tron. Pogo stick people. Dancing
girls. Weird Disney-Main-Street-electrical-parade floats
with helmet drummers playing drums with their feet as they
of trampolines. I guess tonight's theme for the Closing Ceremonies
is that director Zhang Yimou has been taking too much acid
and listening to too much Pink Floyd. Hey! Maybe Pink Floyd
is the connection
to the next Olympics in London!
The athletes storm the floor, and now you get to see thousands
upon thousands of athletes that you never saw on NBC's primetime
Fluff #5. Usain Bolt wins the 100 meter dash and sets a world
record! What? He just did that several days ago and now he
did it again? Oh... oh yeah. Taped. Never mind.
Back at the Bird's Nest and the camera wanders the floor,
picking out random people who seem to be having a good time.
So now you know. It's not just fans at sporting events that
enjoy pointing and waving at video cameras. I'm just amazed
that we haven't seen anyone on their cellphone yet.
Bob tells us we're not done but we're pausing... FOR SOME
Fluff #6. More from Phelps, this time his seventh medal,
the one he won by a fingertip. Okay, yeah... this one was
Next up, the last event-related thing of the Olympics, the
medal ceremony for the men's marathon. Samuel Wansiru of
Kenya sings. Yay!
Members of the International Olympic Committee are walked
into the arena by Chinese children, one would presume only
the best looking ones. There are no ugly children in China!
Fluff #7. Shawn Johnson's balance beam routine. I'll bet
she wins the gold. Hey! I was right!
Li Qui, president of the Beijing Olympic Committee, and then
Jacques Rogge, president of the IOC, speak to the crowd.
They say that the Chinese Olympics were great. They were
amazing. That we speak the truth. No force can stop us
now, we're cool, we're badasses, blah, blah, blah.
The sound for Qui and Rogge is terrible. Doesn't NBC have
a direct feed from these microphones? I know times are tight,
but maybe that's something they could have squeezed in to
the BILLION dollar budget.
Fluff #8. The Redeem Team. I actually stayed up late last
night... uh, this morning... to watch the U.S.A. win the
gold in basketball. They did show a medal ceremony, but I
missed that. I was lucky to have been able to stay up until
the 3:30 a.m. central time ending. I think I missed a few
minutes of the fourth quarter, but I did see the final score.
It was zzzzz to zzzzz. Or something like that.
The next summer games are in London, England, so now, the
raising of the British flag over Chinese soil. Ha! Hong Kong
once again belongs to England, Hu Jintao! You should have
read that "Olympic transfer" contract more carefully!
Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, appears in the stadium
to accept the handover of the Olympic flag. Apparently he
doesn't realize that his jacket has buttons. Or that combs
have been invented. But he waves the flag and everything's
good. The Olympics are London bound!
Fluff #9. Nastia Liukin's floor exercise in the all-around.
It's the one gold she received, but not the only one she
earned. We're talking to you, International Gymnastics Federation
rule-making idiots. Tie-breaker, my butt. Equal scores should
get equal medals!
The London Olympic organizers wanted a symbol of London,
so they chose a double-decker bus. Presumably it's full of
tourists who look the wrong way before crossing the street,
like happened to me when I was there.
And now the double-decker bus is turning into... A TRANSFORMER!
Optimus Prime is here to kick some Chinese butt!
No, no, no... it opens up and Leona Lewis emerges along with
Jimmy Page. They start playing "Whole Lotta Love." NBC
gets a shot of Page with the giant Olympic flame directly
behind him. Awesome! Speaking of Zeppelin, have you seen
Robert Plant lately? Leona Lewis is a lot easier on the eyes.
Oh! Now David Beckham rises up out of the bus. Does that
mean his wife is going to be here, too? What represents England
better than the Spice Girls? I'll tell you what we want,
what we really, really want: a Led Zeppelin-Beatles double-bill
for the opening ceremonies in 2012. Yes, I'm aware that nearly
half of them are dead. By 2012, it might be more than half.
The time to act is now.
Now that London's presentation is done, some athletes walk
up an symbolic airplane-boarding-ladder to nowhere. What
happens once they get to the top? Carousel! Carousel!
Noooo... instead, they look longingly back at the video images
projected on the membrane around the stadium's edge. Also,
two men in white makeup pose dramatically on top of a "memory
tower" in the middle of the field. Ironically, after
these Olympics are over, all of the bad things that happened
in Beijing during the games will disappear into a "memory
It's time to extinguish the flame. Hu Jintao orders it crushed
by dozens of tanks! Ha ha! No, he doesn't. It just fizzles
But the memory tower, a lattice-like structure, is suddenly
covered on the outside by hundreds of people all looking
towards its center. What are they looking at? IT'S THUNDERDOME!
Dan points out that all 91,000 people in the stadium are
trained on precisely when to turn on the lights you see in
the background. Yes, it takes a lot of training to tell people
to turn on a flashlight.
The memory tower is now covered in fabric which magically
lifts off towards the ceiling revealing the tower climbers
in the shape of the Beijing Olympics logo. Very nice.
More fireworks. Lots of fireworks. In the stadium. On top
of the stadium. Around the stadium. In the city within sight
of the stadium. The Chinese like fireworks. That's okay,
because I do, too. They look great!
And now the parade of Chinese pop stars! Maybe it is. Everyone
in the stadium cheered, so I'm assuming that's who these
people are. They ain't no Spice Girls.
I don't understand Chinese, but I'm going to translate the
lyrics for you the best I can:
Something something something
It's very profound, I'm sure.
More Tron robots! Rappellers covered with Christmas lights
drop from the edge of the stadium roof all the way to the
floor. Then they get reeled back up. Then lowered. Raised.
Lowered. They're like electric human yoyos. Why? Because
it looks cool! Duh!
Fluff #10. The women's 4x400m relay at the Bird's Nest. They
ran fast AND didn't drop the baton. A winning combination!
Jackie Chan! Jackie Chan is singing along with everyone else!
You know what would make this the most awesome closing ceremonies
ever? You know those thousand "volunteers" on the
stadium floor. Jackie Chan has get out of the stadium by
fighting his way through them. GO!
Pip, pip, cheerio. Now we're in England, chaps! Michael Phelps
is in London talking to a BBC reporter and a crowd of thousands,
telling them all he'll be there in four years. Is this the
Chinese Closing Ceremonies? No. You know what that means:
Fluff #11. Usain Bolt again, this time in the 200 meters.
He's still fast.
Should I call this fluff #12? It's Cris Collinsworth, America's
favorite soccer dad, one more time from Beijing. "What
a couple of weeks it's been for me," starts Cris. Holy
Jimmy Roberts, Batman, it's a FLUFF RECAP. I should double
this amount of fluff time just out of spite. He selects favorite
moments from his favorite fluff pieces. Fluff about fluff.
Amazing. I never would have even conceived of such a thing,
but now that I've seen it, its existence is so obvious that
I can't believe that Jimmy Roberts never thought of it.
Bob's closing thoughts come with Chairman Mao looking over
his shoulder. Basically he says that the Chinese Olympics
were great. They were amazing. That
we speak the truth. No force can stop us now, we're cool,
we're badasses, blah, blah, blah.
The credits start and all of the biggest of the big wigs
not only get their name printed on the screen, but also voiced
over. This happened in Athens, too. How pretentious! Can
you imagine what people would think of a movie director who
something that vain?
Anyway, the credits do NOT count as fluff, because these
people --with the exception of the vain, pretentious people
who had their names read out loud-- actually work for a living
and deserve a little credit. Read along and see if you recognize
anyone's name. Enjoy.
The last credit? "See you from Vancouver in 18 months." Wow.
Is that all? I'd better start getting ready.
And so, we made it. Seventeen days of events and a whole
lot of hours of television later, Beijing managed to clamp
down on anything un-volunteer-esque and put on a pretty good
games. NBC didn't do that bad either. I'm going to get some
sleep, but I'll be back one more time for 2008 to give you
a wrapup and to see who won the much coveted Rockwood
Olympic Watch Medals. See you tomorrow!