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August 11, 2016

A Good Day To Be Simone

It wasn't a bad day to be Phelps, either

  • It's time for Simone Biles and Aly Raisman to make NBC some money! I mean, it's time for the women's gymnastic all-around competition! Both of these statements are true.
  • Al Trautwig asks Nastia Liukin what she thinks about the Chinese gymnasts. Nastia says they're not as strong as they were in the Beijing Games. Maybe that's because they're really all 12 years old. Seriously, is there anyone who can look at these girls and think they're 16? Someone needs to buy everyone on the Chinese team a sandwich.
  • It's time for the new Star Wars trailer! Wait, no it isn't. It's time for a commercial telling you to keep watching to see the new Star Wars trailer later. It's an ad for an ad. Very meta.
  • To live swimming for some un-live fluff. PHELPS! LOCHTE! PHELPS VERSUS LOCHTE! GRRRRRRR! That is all.
  • But first, the 50-meter dash semifinal. There's no finesse to this event. The swimmers splash so much you'd think there was a shark attack going on. Nathan Adrian, the American who qualified in race one, is probably the most enthusiastic interviewee in the Olympics. Every time Michelle Tafoya has talked to him he's responded as if the interview was even more exciting than the race. In an era where a lot of athletes seem to resent reporters, it's kind of refreshing.
  • Anthony Ervin, the American in race two, swam this race in the 2000 Sydney Olympics and tied for the gold medal. Today, 16 years later, he finished tied for first again. What is it with this guy?
  • You say you some Ryan Murphy fluff? Done! For a minute anyway. It's just elaborately edited footage from his previous races Yawn.
  • Now Ryan races, LIVE, in the 200-meter backstroke final. Interestingly, his fluff segment was just old race footage, but while they showed him getting on the starting block, they did a cutaway to the book he wrote to his mom as an eight-year-old, predicting his future as an Olympic champion. So the fluff was events, and the events were fluff. It's like we're at the Bizarro Olympics.
  • Would you like some Michael Phelps fluff? Of course you would! He was depressed after "retiring" from swimming, got a DUI and was on a self-admitted downward spiral. But he's getting old, will he be able to compete in two races that are nearly back-to-back tonight? This sounds like a lot of hype to me. After what's transpired this year, are you going to bet against him? Finally, he says in his interview with Bob that he's as happy as he's ever been. I'll be he'll be even happier than that if he can pull off these two races tonight.
  • And the first of those two is up now, the 200-meter individual medley. I don't know if I just hadn't noticed it in previous Olympics, but I love how quiet the entire arena is now getting just before the start of any race that has Phelps in it. It just makes the start of the race that much more dramatic. And speaking of dramatic, after 100 meters, Phelps was tied for second place, one hundredth of a second behind the leader. After the final turn, and there's no better way to put this, he embarrassed the rest of the field, winning the gold medal by almost two seconds. In the meantime, Ryan Lochte finishes fifth and upholds the modern Olympic streak of no swimmer with blue hair ever winning a medal.
  • Ryan Murphy gets his gold. Does he sing? No. Wait! Yes! He picks it up at "the rockets red glare." He seemed a little sedate about it all, but he did sing.
  • NBC has a running clock of the time since Phelps' last race because they've been emphasizing how little time he has between races. Again, do you want to bet against him?
  • I wasn't even going to write about the next race, the women's 100-meter freestyle, because Rowdy Gaines assured us that world-record holder Australia's Cate Campbell was a shoe-in to win. But as Chris Berman likes to say, That's. Why. They. Play. The. Game. American Simone Manuel comes out of nowhere in the last 50 meters to stun the field and win gold along with Canada's Penny Oleksiak. Looks like it's going to be a big night at the Olympics if your first name is Simone.
  • And now, in the second biggest news of the night, the Star Wars: Rogue One trailer has Darth Vader at the end of it. Ohhhhh yeah.
  • Phelps is back on top of the medal stand for the 22nd time. Once again not singing, but he does appear a little choked up, which is unusual for him. "…and the home of the brave." Phelps takes a picture, then hustles off the medal stand. The next race is less than 10 minutes away!
  • Laszlo Cseh of Hungary, according to Dan Hicks, is Michael Phelps old nemesis in the 100-meter butterfly. Lochte, le Clos, Cseh… is there any race that Phelps doesn't have a nemesis? Halfway through the race he was in eighth, but he finishes strong and gets second behind… dun-dun-dunnnnn… Cseh. This should be interesting tomorrow. Some advice, Laszlo: don't do any dancing in Phelps' vicinity tomorrow night.
  • Michelle Tafoya interviews Phelps, then throws it back to Bob in the studio. As he segues the coverage over to women's gymnastics, the "live" button that's been in the upper-right corner for all of the swimming coverage discretely disappears. I think NBC should have a "plausibly live" button, too.
  • Al Trautwig narrates some gymnast fluff. Aly Raisman and Simone Biles had to give up a lot of normal things to be Olympic gymnasts, like proms, football games, and high school dances. In retrospect, how many of you would give up your high school prom for an Olympic gold medal? I think that was a good trade.
  • As part of our plausible liveness in the gymnastics events, NBC isn't editing out any of the dead air where all we're doing is waiting for the gymnast's scores. If we got rid of all of that we'd have some time to add another event to the evening's coverage. What would you rather watch? Five minutes of judo or five minutes of a gymnast staring at an offscreen scoreboard? Ha ha ha ha! It doesn't matter what you think because NBC has made the choice for you.
  • Russia's Seda Tutkhalian has a terrible floor exercise and as she leaves the platform her coach pats her on the back, less in a "keep your chin up" kind of way and more in a "you've embarrassed Mother Russia, get out of the arena" kind of way. Ahh, Russian compassion. Vladimir Putin would be proud. Of the coach, that is.
  • Holy cow, Aly Raisman! Aly missed out on the bronze medal in 2012 after tying Russia's Aliya Mustafina and getting bumped to fourth after what could most generously be described as a BS tiebreaker rule. As they say in other sports, don't give the ref a chance to determine the game. After watching several other gymnasts stumble their way around the floor exercise, Aly got out there and stuck a dagger in them. If it wasn't for the fact that Simone was already so far ahead of her going into this rotation, that would have been a gold medal performance.

    Sure enough, Simone follows that with a gold medal performance of her own. The only question about American dominance in gymnastics this year is had the Olympic rules allowed three competitors per country, could the US have swept the medals? Gabby Douglas is sitting in the stands, nodding silently.
  • Let's go straight to the medal ceremony, because we can due to the magic of editing. Will Simone and Aly sing while Mustafina sulks silently? Aly does, Simone does not, but Biles looks like she's about to start crying at any moment, so I'll cut her some slack. She'll probably have a few more chances this Olympics.
  • But wait! We have one more medal ceremony, featuring the other gold medal winning Simone. And Ms. Manuel starts singing immediately, until she starts smiling, then starts crying. Way to go, Ms. Manuel. You are Team Rockwood's favorite gold medal winning Simone of the night!

This was truly a Phelpsian night, not just for Phelps himself, but also for Simone and Simone. With a little luck, tonight won't be the last we hear of them this Olympics. Let's find out together starting tomorrow. See you then!