Your Lovin' Don't Pay NBC's Bills

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Women's figure skating rules the night, the U.S. men rule the day, and the accountants rule in programming. It's Day 14 of the Vancouver Olympics!

•  Money, money, money, monnn-ey... Money! That's what tonight is all about as we lead off with NBC's meal ticket, Women's Figure Skating. But we're not leading off with the actual events! Oh no! First we're going to watch them warm up so Scott Hamilton and Sandra Bezic can talk about them! You might think I wouldn't call this events, but watching athletes practice isn't fluff. It may be boring, but it's not fluff.

• And we start with that hotbed of figure skating, Turkey. I guess we're going to see every single skater tonight. Money!

•  Via the magic of Tape-Delay-O-Vision, we head off to the ski jump for the first leg of the Men's Nordic Combined. Two different Americans are pulled off the start bar because the winds are too favorable, giving them an unfair advantage over the previous jumpers. I didn't even know they did such things. I guess having Americans in medal contention alters your coverage.

But it turns out that both Johnny Spillane and Bill Demong of the U.S. benefitted from the odd weather conditions anyway, as the two of them will be in the top six heading into the cross-country portion of the race.

I've been watching ski jumping for I don't know how many Olympic Games but have never found out as much about the sport as I have tonight thanks to the Americans being in contention. I don't know if I should be happy for the new knowledge or upset because NBC never bothered before. What the heck, I'll stay positive for now.

• Off to the Women's Giant Slalom where Julia Mancuso tries to make up for her unlucky draw in yesterday's race. She's in first for now, but given how many good skiers are coming up after her, that probably won't last.

American Sarah Schlepper primally screams in the start house before pushing off, but yelling doesn't add to her speed. Why would it? If she wanted to go fast, she should have slapped someone. Just ask the bobsledders.

Anyway, we see just the enough skiers to eject Mancuso from the medal stand, plus the winners before we finish this event.

• NBC tries to stir up some trouble in a post-race interview with Julia by asking her about Lindsey Vonn. Mancuso tells Todd Brooker that the whole thing's been overblown. Really? I never would have pegged NBC for generating hype, right Shani Davis and Chad Hendrick?

• Over to the studio, where Bob tells us that the Canadian women won the gold medal in hockey by beating the U.S. 2-0. Enjoy it, Canada! Your men won't be so lucky!

But we can't leave without the "Oh, Canada" sing-a-long. Ya know, I've actually seen this very thing before in person, so I don't need to see it again.

• Mary Carillo is back in the studio with what Bob calls "Canadiana" (it's a play on "Americana"). Today Mary explores the Canadian pasttime of logging. Well, at least this one is in British Columbia. Quadra Island is within a reasonable distance of Vancouver, and Mary heads up to the area to find out about logging. Yes, she's a lumberjack and she's okay. Bob even makes that joke, later. She learns about the whole cycle, which is good, though even if she loses her day job, I don't expect her to end up rolling logs on the river. The lumberjacks seemed to enjoy showing her the ropes, however. I guess that makes sense. If they have an actual woman up there with them, then none of them have to dress up in women's clothing and hang around in bars.

• To Cypress Mountain for tonight's Men's Aerial Final, where the weather is clear but a hurricane is in the forecast! What? American Jeret "Speedy" Peterson's move is called the "hurricane." See? It's a joke!

I know I've said this before (last night, in fact), but I love the camera work on this event. The live shots are great, and the slow-motion replays are spectacular.

Money! Back to the ice for the lesser skaters. I know, I'm horrible. But admit it, you don't remember any of them now, either.

• One more run for the Men's Aerials. Will Speedy Peterson rock us like a hurricane? Yes, I know I've made that joke before. It's just once every four years, surely you can't be burned out on it already!

Why is American Ryan St. Onge's picture so bad? The picture on his identifying graphic looks like a mug shot. Couldn't NBC get a better picture than that? It didn't effect his jump, though. He's currently in first place.

•  Here he is! Rockin' you like a hurricane! Speedy does the Hurricane, which inspires lots of weather references from Todd Harris and Jonny Moseley. But it puts him in first place, so I guess it impressed the judges, too.

He's ultimately passed by Aleksei Grishin of Belarus, but still manages to get silver. Good for him!

• Back to the Nordic Combined, where Americans Spillane and Demong are 1-2 halfway through the cross-country portion of the event. I don't think NBC has ever shown this much cross-country skiing before. I know this is the most I've ever watched.

One lap to go and the U.S. is one-two with Austrian Bernhart Gruber tagging along in third. They're so far ahead that barring a fall, these should be the three medalists. The United States, which had never won a medal in any nordic sport before this Olympics, now has a real chance of getting a gold and a silver in this one event.

And with half a kilometer to go, Demong explodes away from Gruber and Spillane follows him. I don't know if Gruber is out of gas or just conceding defeat early, but he's not going to make it. It's the United States for gold and silver!

• And since all of that was actually this afternoon, we can go right to their medal ceremony. With Americans in both the one and two positions on the medal stand, surely they will sing, right? Well, Spillane joins in about halfway through, but Demong just looks shocked the entire time he's up there. I guess if I was going to excuse anyone for not knowing the words, it would have to be the never-before-won-an-Olympic-Nordic-medal Americans.

Money! Off to the ice, where supposedly we won't have another commercial break until all of the skaters are done. It does seem like they've been front-loading the programming tonight.

•  Ah, "Carmen." Sandra Bezic lets us know we'll actually be hearing this twice tonight. It's the lasting legacy of Katarina Witt.

• Skating fluff! Kim Yu-Na from South Korea and Mao Asada from Japan are famous. I'm not really sure I get what all of this is about. It's mainly just clips of them over the last few weeks. I guess they needed something to fill time so we didn't just watch the skaters practice.

•  The good side of no commercials: it gives you a better feel of what it would be like to actually be at the event. The bad side of no commercials: Scott Hamilton has to talk more to fill time. Bleah.

• First up, American Rachel Flatt. She's 17 and a senior in high school. She's skating to the "Somewhere In Time" song. Maybe she's hoping that all of the judges are members of INSITE. I think she almost looked too relaxed, but she skates a perfectly clean program. She should be in first place now, but the other five skaters are still to come.

What? She's NOT in first? How does that work?

•  Miki Ando of Japan is wearing a Cleopatra costume. If she's skates to "Walk Like An Egyptian" I'm going to call in and vote for her. What do you mean that's not how it works? Well, she skates clean and moves into first, knocking Flatt down to third.

•  Next up, the favorite Kim Yu-Na of South Korea. How will she skate?

Dang. I don't know anything about figure skating, but I know a winner when I see one. If she doesn't win gold here tonight, then I'll officially apologize for every bad thing I've ever said about Jimmy Roberts.

• So now we're just skating for silver. First up for second place is Mao Asada of Japan. She has a couple of small mistakes, but I thought the jumps she landed actually looked better than Yu-Na's. The judges like it, too, and put her in second place.

• And now the fan favorite, Joannie Rochette of Canada. My prediction: if she skates clean, she takes the silver.

With a choked-up voice, Scott says she shows a super-human amount of courage. Shut up, Scott! She was good, but she did have one slip-up. I'm predicting bronze. Yep. Just three points behind second. Told ya! If she would have hit that one missed jump, she would have had the silver.

• Last up, 16-year-old American Mirai Nagasu. Ah-ha! So she's our other "Carmen" skater! She skates well, but it probably won't be enough to overtake Rochette. Let's see.

Fourth place. I'm getting good at this! Too bad it's over for another four years.

• While we wait for the figure skating medal ceremony, we get a quick recap of the Women's Gold Medal hockey game. Canada still won. Bleah.

•  Joannie Rochette skates up to receive her bronze medal. Tom Hammond opines that we can only imagine her emotions right now. Really, isn't that true for anyone? I'm looking at her, and I imagine she's pretty happy to have won a medal.

• Hey, Kim Yu-Na is singing the Korean national anthem. You know all of those stories they told us earlier about her being the most popular person in Korea? I don't think that will hurt that status.