August 12, 2016
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We watched new events in tonight's broadcast, but no one in Rio watched them.
- Are you tired of the prime time menu of swimming, gymnastics, and beach volleyball? Well, then, how about some track and field? To the stadium, LIVE! for heats of the men's 400-meter. Tom Hammond tells us that Rio's Olympic Stadium is the first ever to have a blue track. That's nothing, their diving pool was the first ever to have green water. Brazil is colorful!
- Track star fluff! It's just ninety seconds of various track stars running in slow motion. That's really the only way to ever get a clear glimpse of Usain Bolt.
- Bill Murray (not the real Bill Murray, but a guy on twitter who's using his name) says "every Olympic event should include one average person competing for reference." There are so many heats for the men's 400m that I have time to think about that. How fast could I run a 400m? All of these Olympians are finishing around 45 seconds. That means they're running close to 20 miles per hour. I'm pretty quick, but I think I'd max out about 15 mph, and I don't know how long I could go that fast. But if I could hold that pace over 400 meters, I'd finish in about a minute. That is, at my very fastest, and I'm probably faster than most of you, I would finish more than 15 seconds slower than these racers who aren't even running full out at the finish. If you don't think that's long, try counting to 15 seconds after these runners cross the line. Believe me, it's an eternity. These guys are fast.
- It's a heptathlon recap! During a break in the 400m heats, NBC treats us to selected replays of the heptathlon events. How many heptathletes are there? Best I can tell from NBC's coverage, there are two. At least they're acknowledging there are other sports.
- An Olympic riddle: Q: What has 46,931 seats and no people? A: Rio's Olympic Stadium during the track and field competition! I didn't say it was a funny riddle. I guess the Rio Olympic Committee was hoping for a lot of walk-up traffic to pay for their $14 billion Olympics.
- Ledecky and Phelps fluff! All it was was 60 seconds of replays. Nothing too exciting. There was something in there about legacies, but I was too bored to pay attention.
- From live track and field to live swimming. We start with the women's 200m backstroke final, where the controversial Katinka Hosszu of Hungary will try for yet another gold. And by controversial, I don't mean her, I mean NBC's coverage of her. Dan Hicks apparently gave her husband/coach too much credit a few days ago and now the entire internet has lost its mind. I'd link to it, but I don't want to encourage it. So now it's up to Maya Dirado to try to beat her so we don't have to listen to it anymore.And she did! I wasn't really expecting that, and given her reaction, she wasn't either. Way to go, Maya!
- Now up, Phelps! Le Clos! Cseh! It's the 100-meter butterfly grudge match! Who will win? Well I'll be. None of them! Instead, all three of them tie for silver to Joseph Schooling's gold medal. Who the heck is Joseph Schooling? NBC did their research on this one. They had a picture of a grown Phelps with a 13-year-old Schooling from 2008. Whoever found that pic deserves a raise.
- Next up LIVE is Katie Ledecky in the 800m freestyle final. Eight hundred meters? This is when you wish it WAS tape delayed so they could skip ahead. This race is so long they could have a commercial break in the middle of it and you'd still get to see most of it. This is a great race… for second place. In first place, Katie Ledecky is so far ahead when she finishes that she's literally the only person in the camera shot. She even beat that yellow world-record line by two seconds. Katie Ledecky is so fast that even imaginary lines can't keep up with her.
- How about some medals? Maya Dirado gets her gold for the 200m backstroke. She claims this will be her only Olympics, so will she sing now while she has the chance? Yes! And not a timid, tight-lipped singing, either, but a full-out, about-to-cry-the-whole-way-through singing. C'mon, Maya! Don't you want to try this again in Tokyo?
- Now for the splash-a-thon, the men's 50m freestyle. Nathan Adrian and Anthony Ervin represent America in this single-length sprint across the pool. I'm rooting for Nathan, just because he'll be the best interview if he wins. Ervin first! Adrian third! U-S-A! U-S-A!
- Michael Phelps is on the medal stand again, but has a different kind of "first." This is the first time in Olympic swimming that there's ever been a three-way tie for silver. So tonight we get to hear the national anthem of Singapore. To his credit, Joseph Schooling starts singing. But midway through he shoots a glance to the other three racers. They're not going to be able to help you with the words, Joseph!
- Phelpsian fluff! A short recap of Phelps' career finishes with an invitation to watch his last race ever tomorrow night. Uh-huh. Seems like someone told me that in London, too.
- We're plausibly live at the track for the last event of the first day of the heptathlon, the 200-meter race. NBC is willing to show us heptathlon events as long as then only take 25 seconds.
- American 100-meter runner Tori Bowie likes to go home to Mississippi to see all the people who support her. Awwwwww. That's precious. But still fluff. Bowie coasts through her heat, easily taking first.
- As we continue the 100-meter heats in the half empty Olympic Stadium, commentator Tom Hammond asks analyst Ato Boldon a reasonable question. Ato had mentioned it was strange that all the number one seeds in the heats had been in lane nine. Tom asked him if that made a difference, a reasonable question given that the middle lanes are preferred in swimming. No, says Ato, it just looks better. A reasonable answer. What does reasonable commentary from NBC mean? Bizzarro Olympics!
- Back to the pool for the women's 50-meter freestyle semifinals. Let's get some fluff on Simone Manuel! Both her brothers were athletes, so that helped her want to compete. Would you have heard of these athletic siblings? Nah. None of them made it past college level. If they had, this would have been a longer story. Simone swims her 50m heat just fast enough to qualify for tomorrow's final.
- Michelle Tafoya tells us that some of the swimming events had to be delayed because one of the buses carrying athletes mistakenly drove to the track-and-field venue instead of the swimming pool. To be fair, the driver was probably confused because the track was blue and the water was green, and also because there were more fans in the swimming venue than the stadium.
- How about some field? It's the final two throws of the women's shot put. American Michelle Carter wins the gold medal in her last throw over two-time Olympic champion Valerie Adams. Valerie, by the way, is the sister of Oklahoma City Thunder star Steven Adams, so impressive athletics run in the family, though it should be noted that Valerie was famous first. Michelle's father is in the stands, himself a silver medalist in the shot put as well as a Super Bowl champion. And his name is… never shown on the screen. Someone dropped the ball on that one.
- To Copacabana Beach LIVE so we can watch Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross beat up on the poor Italian team. They win the first set 21-10. The second is tougher, but the US still wins 21-16. And then, after the match, Kerri and April run all around the stadium, giving every volunteer high fives and signing a bunch of autographs. I suppose they do this every match, but usually we never get to see it. Why are we seeing it tonight? NBC probably doesn't have any other programming to fill for a few minutes.
- Into the studio with Bob, Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir for some Carnival fluff. Tara and Johnny join a Carnival team where they have to dance and sing – in Portuguese! – to help their float win the competition. The funny thing is they spent this entire piece building up to the two of them performing on this float, and then as soon as that time came, the story was over. It was like watching "The Making of Star Wars" without getting to see "Star Wars." That said, there is no weirder nor more perfect match for Olympic fluff than Weir and Lipinsky. They're the Reese's Peanut Butter Cup of commentators, two good tastes that taste great together.
- A quick recap of women's soccer, where the US team actually lost. They were tied at the end of regulation and lost on a penalty kick tiebreaker. Bleah!
- Back in the studio LIVE Bob interviews Katie Ledecky and her neck full of medals. She's very nice and happy, but there's nothing really exceptional here. That is, until we get to her medal ceremony, where she both sings and cries. The funny part is watching her watching herself. Her taped self is crying; her live self has a smile wide enough to reflect four gold medals.
Will the crowds show up tomorrow night? The world's accountants are watching! Maybe if someone in Rio can convince Michael Phelps to run track they'll start filling that stadium. We'll find out Saturday!