On The Night Train, I Don't Love That Fluff

Saturday, February 27, 2010

A historic high for the Night Train, but an Olympic low for fluff. It's Day 16 of the Vancouver Olympics!

• To Whistler we go for the Men's Slalom. But before we even get to see the skiers, we get to see an army of volunteers doing whatever it takes to get the slope's snow ready for the competition. Team Rockwood member Sandy asks if they always have to do this. I imagine that it's just because of the poor weather they've been having, but I don't really have any idea. Does anyone know the answer? Let me know!

• While we wait for Bode Miller to ski, let's do a little counting. In 2006, I counted how many cameras NBC used for their downhill coverage (the count was 22). That's a much longer race than the slalom, but let's count just for grins.

I count 11 cameras, including the handheld cameras they use at the top and bottom of the slopes. The slalom races themselves are about 50 seconds long, so that's a different camera shot every four or five seconds. If you watch a basketball game this week, time how long they stay on that wide shot of someone taking the ball up the court. This doesn't really mean anything since they're completely different sports, I just find it interesting.

• The first American up is Ted Ligety, who's bringing the power of neon clothing to the slopes. He won the gold medal in the Men's Combined event in 2006. But not here! Halfway down the slope on his first run he misses a gate. Too bad for Ted.

•  Next up in Tape-Delay-O-Vision, Bode Miller! AAAHHH! He's out even quicker than Ligety. One might even say he was out Ligety-split! Okay, no one would say that. But he only makes it seven seconds into the race before missing a gate. His post-race interview lasts much longer and he honestly seems to have been grateful to be here. Where was this guy in 2006?

• Back to the studio with Bob and Lindsey Vonn. It's just an interview. As usual, it doesn't get interesting until the end, when Costas surprises the Law And Order fanatic Vonn with the news that Dick Wolf has cast her as a jury foreman in an upcoming episode. I'm not going to tell you she was more excited for this than for the gold medal, because that would be a lie, but she was clearly excited.

• Cypress Mountain for the Men's Parallel Giant Slalom snowboard event. I'd forgotten this even existed. So did NBC apparently, as these are the bronze and gold medal matches and we've never seen any qualifying runs. I guess there aren't any Americans in contention.

It actually looks pretty interesting. Too bad we only got to see these few races. Canada's Jasey Jay Anderson wins, so at least we'll get to see another sing-a-long tonight.

• It's the figure skating "Champions Gala." I'm starting the fluff clock now. Tonight's going to be ugly. And not just because we have to listen to Celine Dion in the first segment, which features Canada's Joannie Rochette skating in purple light. Scott says that she spoke to all of us with that performance. What did she say to me? Fluff!

• Next up in the fluff parade, Yevgeny Plushenko. Do you think he has exhibition enemies, too? Which is more annoying? Scott singing Plushenko's praises during the actual competition or him singing Yevgeny's praises during the Russian's fluff? Trick question! Scott Hamilton is the absolute of annoying and thus cannot be more or less so in a given situation.

• We break from fluff to see an actual event. What a revelation! Off to the bobsled track for the 4-man event with America's Steve Holcomb piloting the Night Train. He's ready to crash and burn, he'll never learn! Hopefully neither of those is true. The U.S. hasn't won the 4-man bobsled since 1948. Well, they're due then, right?

• We see the US1 sled first. They make it through cleanly albeit slower than yesterday. But after Friday's runs, I'm thinking just making it to the bottom not on your head is a good thing.

• Uh-oh. The Germany 1 sled has a lot of butt-slapping going on. Let's see if this means better speeds like it does in the 2-man bobsled. Nope! The Germans finish in third.

• The Swiss are taking a different slapping strategy, with the driver slapping his own thigh, then his own butt before pushing off. Maybe it's like the secret moves in Mortal Kombat. You just have to find the right combination. Obviously the Swiss thigh-butt combo move is no better than the butt-butt-butt German combo because they finish in fourth place.

•  The Germany 3 sled tries a hand-hand-hand-head combo. That doesn't work either.

• To the speed skating oval we go, for the most unexpected Team Pursuit event. It's not the event that's unexpected, but rather the fact that the U.S. team of Brian Hansen, Johnathan Kuck, and Chad Hedrick beat the highly favored Dutch team yesterday to qualify for the finals. It's the U.S. versus Canada for the gold!

They race for two miles and Canada wins by two tenths of a second. The Olympics are cruel, aren't they?

• And now that we've seen some actual athletic competition, it's back to the ice for more fluff! Meryl Davis and Charlie White ice dance to David Cook's version of "Billie Jean." (And yes, I know it's really Chris Cornell's version-- you need to chill!) Okay, this song is awesome, but the dancing is still fluff.

Kim Yu-Na follows them and skates all pretty-like. Even though it's boring and un-athletic, Scott ruins it even more by asking, "How do you make a Kim Yu-Na? You can't." Her parents did, Scott!

• Back in time to Whistler for the second runs of the now American-less Men's Slalom. In a competition with no U.S. component, how many skiers will we see? I'm betting four. Let's see if I'm right.

First up: Sweden's Andre Myhrer. He takes the lead. Next: Croatia's Ivan Kostalic. And he passes Myhrer for the lead. Hmm... maybe we're only going to see three skiers.

And three it is. Last to go is Italy's Giuliano Razzoli. And he edges the other two for the gold, leaving Kostalic in silver, and Myhrer for bronze. I guessed four skiers because I thought NBC would show somebody crashing just to keep us guessing. Shows what I know.

• More fluff. Evan Lysacek, dressed as a waiter, dances to "Rhapsody In Blue." You know, I can only hate fluff so much when it features one of the best songs ever written. Of course, with Scott Hamilton talking over it, the hate flows much more easily. Seriously, Scott, Sandra, you both need to shut... up. Don't make me use the popular internet acronym that is an even more strongly-worded version of that. And I think you know which one I mean.

• Into the Delorean we go so we can head back in time for the final run of the 4-man bobsled. The US1 sled starts this round in first place by over four tenths of a second.

• Oh... but first we get some bobsled fluff. Steve Holcomb had an eye disease called keratoconus and was almost blind until he got an unapproved-by-the-FDA surgery. But now he can see, so here he is. Well thank goodness. On the other hand, if he had been blinded he could have piloted one of Mary Carillo's dogsleds.

I wonder if he could see that this was fluff?

•  You know, for a tape-delayed event, there sure is a lot of non-race footage here. We could have watched two or three more sleds running if NBC would cut out the fluff and interviews.

• Since all of these sleds are now racing in reverse order, it's hard to determine just how much they're gaining on the US1 Night Train. My guess is that unless one of these other countries can move into first by about a half-a-second, then all Holcomb has to do to win gold is be upright when he crosses the finish line.

• And just as I say that, the Germany 1 sled piloted by three-time-gold-medal-winner Andre Lange takes first place by 0.76 seconds. That could be trouble.

The second to last sled is Canada 1. NO! They finish just a hundreth of a second behind the Germans.

Only one sled to go and it's loaded like a freight train, flyin' like an aeroplane. The United States 1 sled goes slap-free at the top and pushes off. And they're into the sled clean! Don't crash don't crash don't crash...

THEY WIN!!! And then they slap each other. Finally! That's the key, bobsledders, do your slapping after the finish!

How tape-delayed was this? Well, the clock on the wall behind the celebrating U.S. team says 3:35 p.m. Pacific Time and it's about 9:35 p.m Central Time when I'm watching it. Do the math! Show your work!

• In a post-race interview with Lewis Johnson, Steve Holcomb says that he hopes that their win takes U.S. bobsledding to the next level. No offense, Steve, but what is the next level of bobsledding above an Olympic gold medal?

And post-post-race interview, Lewis encourages Team USA to do "The Holcky Dance." Well, I guess if you win the first gold medal in your sport in 62 years you get a little creative license. But clearly these sledders' strengths don't lie on the dance floor.

• And since all of that was really "x" hours ago (What? You thought I was going to give you the answer? I told you to show your work!), we immediately get to see Steve Holcomb, Justin Olsen, Steve Mesler, and Curt Tomasevicz take the podium for the presentation of their gold medals. Will they all sing? No. But they all have their hands over their hearts, and I think Holcomb is trying not to cry.

By the way, NBC, that's a great, great shot with the back of the four sledders wearing USA jackets in the foreground and the US flag in the background. That'll make the post-Olympics clip show.

• More fluff. Canada's Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir ice dance a little comedy skit. She's a ballerina! He's a hockey player! He checks her into the boards! Noooo... he doesn't.

• Mary Carillo? Haven't we had enough fluff already? Holy SCTV, Batman! We're on a quest! A quest for fun! It's all an analysis of why Canadians are so funny. This is really just cross-promotion for Saturday Night Live. And the best Canadian comedian they could get for this segment was Martin Short? That's really kinda sad, I must say. This is a joke!

• Hey! It's Usher! Yeah! Why does this remind me of the Olympics? Oh yeah.

We all knew something like the "Champions Gala" was coming, but yet there's still never a way you can prepare for it. Well, I guess you could change the channel, but that's not an option for me when I'm doing this. One more day to go! USA-Canada hockey by day, Closing Ceremonies by night. See you then!