I Wanna Be A Cowboy

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The ice dancers' original dance program brings out the cowboy in several groups, and the U.S. strikes gold again. But what about that hockey game? It's Day 10 of the Vancouver Olympics!

• The first event tonight is the Women's 1500m Speed Skating, and the first racer we see is Canada's Cindy Klassen. She doesn't place herself on the medal stand.

But wait! We're not done with her, yet! It's time for some Cindy Klassen fluff. In 2002, Cindy was so good at winning medals that her fluff piece requires the background music to be Michael Jackson's "Don't Stop (Till You Get Enough)." Get it?

However, while at a skating event, her sister was in a horrible car accident. Long story short, Cindy gave up skating to go take care of her sister. That's honorable. Now she's back to try to get some medals, but obviously tonight she was unsuccessful. She finished 21st.

• In the meantime, while we were away, we got a new leader in Japan's Nao Kodaira. That's right... we missed the current leader because we were watching fluff. Egad.

• And now in Tape-Delay-O-Vision, the Men's Super Combined. This is the downhill portion of the event which was run this morning. Nobody important crashes and the top 25 skiers finish within 2.5 second of each other, so NBC shows us the Americans and the favorites because they are no doubt contractually obligated to do so.

•  Over to ice dancing. We start with Emily Samuelson and Evan Bates dressed as a cowboy and cowgirl. The theme of tonight's dancing will be "country" music, which isn't necessarily one branch of the two kinds kinds of music ("country AND western!"), but instead music that represents the country the dancers are from. These two are dancing to the Dixie Chicks, so I guess they hate George Bush. They're in first place now, but that will only last until someone else skates.

• Back to the mountains for a new event: Ski Cross! It's like the snowboard cross that I like so much, but on skis instead of snowboards.

And what would a new event be without some new event fluff? Cris Collinsworth talks in his serious voice to introduce us to Chris Del Bosco using the Jimmy Roberts-like phrase, "Sometimes the toughest battle is the one he fights from within." Then the subtle musical strains of "Hurt" let us know that this will be a drug addiction story. Chris started using drugs at 13, got banned from the U.S. Ski Team by 17, and by his 20s he once got so drunk that one night he fell into a creek, broke a vertebra in his neck, and almost froze to death, but even then he still kept drinking. Personally I would have called that a sign. Anyway, in 2006 he entered rehab and has been sober for 3 years. Since his father was Canadian, he was eligible for Canadian ski team. So here he is!

• Following his fluff, Del Bosco wins his quarterfinal heat to advance to the semifinals then --thanks Tape-Delay-O-Vision!-- wins his semi to qualify for the finals.

And just like that, we're at his final! He's behind at the beginning, but starts making a move toward the lead, then BOOM! Two jumps from the end he gets a little off on the jump and wipes out, the only wipe out we see in the ski cross event tonight.

• So how is ski cross as a sport? It's okay, but I don't think it's as exciting as snowboard cross because --sorry boarders-- skiers are better. Let me refine that statement; skiers are more precise. When the snowboarders go down the course, they're frequently out of control. While that may not be pretty, it does make for an exciting race because they bang into each other more often. The ski crossers, by comparison, are much more precise in both their lines and their skiing, which leads to less conflict and less exciting racing.

• A now, just hours ago, we go to the slalom portion of the Men's Super Combined. Andrew Weibrecht of the U.S. answers the question we posed last night. What if you cross the finish line on your stomach but with your skis. Answer: your time counts! Unfortunately for Andrew, it's not going to count for much more than 11th place.

• Steve Porino shows us the difference between downhill and slalom skis. He notes that only one man has won both a downhill and a slalom. And that man? That's right! It's Bode-time!

• New-and-impoved Happy-Bode speeds through the course and finishes in first place with six racers to go. I can't even convey how refreshing Bode's attitude is this year compared to the 2006 games. In Turin, I just wanted to smack some sense into him. Now he's so cool and relaxed you just want to hang out with him. Is this all because of his two-year-old daughter? He should have had kids years ago.

• Swiss skier Carlo Janka gets hit in the face with a slalom gate pole. I only mention this because in the slow-motion replay you can see his whole face vibrate. Great camera work!

• Now with one skier left, Bode is still in the lead with only Aksel Svindal still capable of beating Bode. Will Friday's fluff boost on Svindal carry over to today?

No! Svindal misses a gate within sight of the finish line and Bode gets the gold!

• Post-race Bode! He's so gracious and humble... are we even sure this is Bode Miller? Maybe he's been taken over by aliens. It's Pod-Bode! I guess those pods really aren't so bad after all.

• Now I'm going to try a slightly different experiment on the Rockwood Olympic Watch. This year being the 30th anniversary of the "Miracle On Ice" U.S. hockey team, the most anticipated preliminary round hockey game of the Olympics is the U.S. versus Canada. I want to watch it. The problem? it's on at the same time as NBC's main Olympic coverage. I can't just abandon the Olympic Watch so I can watch hockey, can I?

It's technology to the rescue! In the "Miracle On Ice" era, this task would have literally been impossible. But thanks to my DVR, I can now watch in chunks, skipping through commercials on one station while watching events on the other. My hunch is that I can watch four hours of NBC and two hours of MSNBC hockey in just over four hours without actually missing anything. Let's see if I'm correct!

• I wasn't even halfway through the first paragraph of that last post when the U.S. scored their first goal. Awesome! You know, I bet if I skip through the replays, I can watch this hockey game in a lot less than two hours, too. I did this a lot with NFL games this year. If you skip the huddles, replays, and halftime, you can easily watch a three hour NFL game in an hour and fifteen minutes.

• Bah! Canada scores to tie it up. Stupid deflection. All the way from the blue line, too. Nice shot.

• Ha! Just like that the Americans get it back! The tastefully named Brian Rifalski has scored twice in this game. Brians are awesome!

• At the end of the first period, it's the U.S. 2 and Canada 1. Time to use my DVR-Fu! Back to ice dancing!

• The French pair of Isabelle Delobel and Oliver Schoenfelder skate to a French country song which apparently involves a poor French peasant boy dating a can-can girl. It has a certain je ne sais quoi, but I don't know what it is. That's a little French joke.

• The brother/sister team of Sinead and John Kerr from Great Britain are dressed as Canadian cowboys and dancing to Johnny Cash's "I've Been Everywhere." Oookay. Here's my question. Is her tramp-stamp part of the costume or is it real?

• The Russian pair of Oksana Domnina and Maksim Shabalin are dressed in controversial Aboriginal garb. Apparently some have called it offensive because certain tribes don't let women wear red or they don't have outrageous designs. If outrageous designs in ice skating costumes can generate protests we'd better hope we don't get a lot of formal complaints from cowboys for being represented as wearing lots of glitter and sequins.

The real question is how does this follow the "country" theme. Shouldn't they be dancing to some sort of Russian country music? I guess it doesn't have to be your own country. The people who wrote the rules should have been more specific. Personally, I thought their routine looked kind of sloppy. Maybe they should have spent less time picking out leaves for their costumes and more time practicing.

But what do I know? Say the judges: first place for now.

•  So now we're off to the mountain for the final two runs of the 2-man Bobsled. We first see the German sled that--

Dangit! Bob cuts in and takes us away from the bobsled action to take us LIVE to the U.S.-Canada hockey game, where the U.S. is ahead 5-3 with just 30 seconds left. And that's how it ends. The United States wins!

Well... I guess there's no point in watching the rest of that MSNBC coverage I recorded, is there? Who would have ever thought that NBC would screw up my plans by showing me live events?

• After a commercial break, we go back to the ice hockey arena with Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth for highlights from the hockey game. Fluff or events? It was just a straight recap of the game, so I'm calling it events.

• Back to ice dancing? What happened to the bobsled? That's probably pre-recorded anyway, so saving it for later doesn't matter. So... the dancers.

The American team of Merrill Davis and Charlie White has an East Indian themed dance that has, says Tom Hammond, over 250,000 hits on YouTube. That's it? I've got more than that and I'm not even an Olympian! Still, their dance is good enough to get them into first place! USA! USA!

• The next pair, Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat from France are also trying out a country theme while dancing to John Denver's "Thank God I'm a Country Boy." But who designed their costumes? The American and British cowboy costumes look like they were designed by professionals. These French cowboy costumes look like they were picked up in the Halloween aisle at Wal-Mart.

• It's Priceline Negotiator with Evil Shatner! Mirror, Mirror! The only way this commercial could have been better? If he would have been talking to a bearded Leonard Nimoy.

• And now the Canadian team of Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir with their traditional Canadian dance. They'll be dancing to "Take Off." Nooo...

Instead they skate to something Spanish that is more percussion than music. Of course they get a standing ovation, being the home team. Their score: First place! Davis and White get knocked down to second with only one pair remaining.

• That pair, Tanith Belbin and that guy she dances with, are skating to a Moldavian song. And they do... well. I guess. Again, I don't know what I'm looking for in ice dancing. Every time Tracy Wilson tells me to "look at that twizzle" I just get hungry for red licorice. You know who they really need to have calling this sport? Len, Bruno, and Carrie Ann! After all, they've already judged several Olympians.

The scores are in for Belbin and Agosto. The judges say: Fourth place? Bah!

• Back to bobsled. This time for sure! Here's some technical trivia for you. Announcer Bob Papa welcomes us back to the bobsled which we left earlier for the hockey update. How would he know to say that if this was tape-delayed? The answer is that this audio hit was a JIP, which is short for "Joined In Progress." Bob recorded that line however long ago to be played back when NBC finally got back to the bobsled event. If you ever watch a late-night replay of a ballgame, they'll often use JIPs to get that event to fit into a two hour window (they'll say things like "due to time constraints, we move forward in the action"). Now you can talk like a TV insider!

• We start with the U.S. team of Steve Holcomb and Curt Tomasevicz. They need to slap each other! That's the only way to win! Ask the Germans!

In fact, the non-slapping U.S. team finishes sixth. The slappy Germans? First and second. There's your key for the 4-man sled, America!

• And now it's time for Pod-Bode to get his gold medal for the Super Combined event he won earlier today. Will he sing? Old Bode wouldn't have even considered it, but I've got a hunch that Pod-Bode will.

Okay, I guess that was expecting a little much. Maybe he's not a pod-person after all. He did at least smile. Given 2006-Bode, I'll let that one go.

• Now Bob is in the studio with Apolo Ohno. Using video review, Ohno finds out that he actually got pushed by one of the Koreans in last night's race. Even then it's not accusatory. It was more "hey, look at that!" As I said last night, he's very gracious and it would be great to see him in four years. C'mon Anton! What else are you going to do? You can't win another Mirror Ball Trophy!

• We close with some Bode fluff. It's just a highlight reel, but there's a lot of slow-motion and rock music, so it is what it is.

Leave it to NBC to find a way to surprise me by showing more events. I'm hate to say this for fear of jinxing the upcoming week, but I've actually been pleasantly surprised about how little fluff there has been this year. Even today's four-hour-plus broadcast only had 11 minutes, and six of that was in the first hour. Join me tomorrow for more!