August 14, 2016
Who Is The Greatest Olympian Ever?
It's hard enough just figuring out who the greatest Olympian in Rio is.
- Phelps is done, what should we talk about? Street crime! Ryan Lochte and three teammates were robbed at gunpoint last night. This is just days after Judo medalist Dirk van Tichelt's mugging. If Rio keeps this up, soon they'll be as crime-ridden as the International Olympic Committee!
- Crime is out of control in Rio, but at least we have the crystal-clear waters of the diving pool to soothe us. Uh… well, clear-ish, anyway. Crews have been installing all-new systems to remedy the green water from earlier this week. That's nice. Rio will be well prepared when the next worldwide sporting event comes through. As for the divers themselves, we're watching the women's 3-meter springboard finals. The Chinese divers dominate this event because they have no cross-sectional area, and thus produce no splash when they hit the water. American Abby Johnson missed her entry on an earlier dive and is out of medal contention. Commentator Ted Robinson tries to console her. "She's at Duke University medical school, she has a lot to look forward to, blah blah blah…" She can't hear you, Ted. There's no need for the sob story.On the other hand, Laura Wilkinson has some excellent analysis, pointing out on the replays why the Chinese divers, who look perfect to us mortals, are actually getting deductions from the judges. Not enough deductions to keep them from gold and silver, but slight errors in form, nonetheless.
- LIVE! At Olympic Stadium we're preparing for the men's 100-meter race, but first we get to watch the women's 400-meter semifinals. On the track is America's Natasha Hastings who happens to be coached by booth analyst Ato Boldon. It will be interesting to see if he remains completely impartial. He does, and in her post-race interview, she gets to look into the camera and say, "Hi, Coach!" Nice.
- Cris Collinsworth is back! Oh no! He's talking about Justin Gatlin. Twelve years ago, he won the gold in Athens, then two years later he tested positive for banned substances. Judge Collinsworth asks Gatlin if he knowingly took performance enhancing drugs. What do you think he answered? Duh. Cris feigns some skepticism, but then gives Gatlin the opportunity to pledge his cleanness and youthful naivete. Now he just wants to win races and hug puppies and create world peace. I think that's what he said. I kind of zoned out there for the last minute. Good softball journalism, Cris!
- To the actual races, LIVE! The first 100-meter semifinal contained no Usain Bolt or Justin Gatlin, so no one cares. Heat two: Bolt, every photographer in Rio, and seven other guys who don't matter. Oops! One of them false-started, so SIX other guys who don't matter. Bolt wins his heat, easily. Heat three: Gatlin and an invisible man in lane 8. Gatlin wins. Well, I'm assuming the invisible man in lane 8 didn't win. How would you know?
- Now the medal ceremony for last night's women's 100-meter race. Why are they having that tonight? The swimming medals all seemed like they were given out within an hour of the race itself. What's the difference in track and field? Maybe some gunmen robbed the Rio Olympics at gunpoint of their track and field medals.
- Next up, plausibly live, are the women's 1,500-meter semifinals. This is good filler for NBC, as it's an event that they can stick lots of commercials in while everyone in the world waits for Usain Bolt versus Justin Gatlin. American Jennifer Simpson used to do equestrian events, but switched to running because she thought horses were too unpredictable. Simpson was in first place until the end of lap three, when she was suddenly passed by three people and blown out to finish fourth. I'll bet she didn't predict that. She still qualifies for the final, though.
- We're back to being LIVE at Olympic Stadium. What should be the first thing we show now that we're live? Fluff! Wayde Van Niekerk of South Africa is the reigning world champion in the 400-meters. He's coached by a 74-year-old grandmother, Ans Botha. I'm guessing she probably has more qualifications than that, but it is still unusual to see a white-haired grandmother as a young man's track coach. They're racing for themselves. They're racing for their parents. They're racing for a new South Africa! They're racing for fluff!
- And Botha is in the crowd for the LIVE 400-meter race. If LaShawn Merritt of the US wins, will the newly integrated country of South Africa erupt in civil war? That was the impression that fluff piece gave me. If Van Niekerk wins, will South Africans set their couches on fire in the street? No, that would be San Francisco Giant fans.
Van Niekerk wins and wins big in world record time. Grandma Coach is thrilled.
- Now we're going to see the men's 100-meter! Oh, no no no. First, Bob Costas has to travel around Jamaica with Usain Bolt, talking about sprinting and his popularity at home. He enjoys being the fastest man in the world and creating a show while doing it. At the end the piece, NBC shows us a live shot of the streets of Kingston, Jamaica, where everyone is watching to see what Bolt does tonight.
- Bolt! Gatlin! The showdown! How big is this race? We just finished one fluff piece and went directly into another, that's how big. So big that what is going on in the stadium is less interesting to NBC than Bolt and Gatlin standing around in the stadium's concourse. And now it's finally getting ready to start.
BOLT! Gatlin had him early, probably until 60 meters, but then Bolt just overpowered him. As Bolt walks his victory lap around the stadium, he's followed by a herd of cameramen. Notably, the camera on the Segway is keeping his distance. Given previous events, that's not surprising.
- In Kingston, the population is celebrating, I'm sure with substances that are all perfectly legal. Bolt is celebrating by walking around the track taking selfies with fans. How good was this? So good that instead of Phelpsian, it might be Bolt-ian.
- Off to plausibly live gymnastics for the men's event finals. Are the parallel bars still part of men's gymnastics? I don't recall seeing them at all during these games. Did I just miss them, has NBC not shown them, or have the been expunged from the Games?
- The floor exercises are first. Lots of tumbling and flipping and bouncing. What's interesting this time? Because two Brazilians are in silver and bronze position for the last three gymnasts, every time one of those three misses a landing the crowd cheers, because that means the home team will stay on the podium. Sure enough, the crowd gets their wish and Brazil picks up silver and bronze. Were they better gymnasts? They were tonight, and that's all that counts.
- Let's go around the horn! Golf? Justin Rose of England. US Basketball? They won, but only by three points. Tennis? The co-ed doubles team of America… wait. There's co-ed tennis at the Olympics? Apparently so. The US beat the US for gold and silver. And then some romance. Chinese diver He Zi, who just won the silver, was proposed to poolside by her boyfriend. You can't really say "no" there, can you?
- Women's vault finals. The world's oldest gymnast, Uzbekistan's 41-year-old Oksana Chusovitina misses both of her vaults. Of course, I'm hardly one to be snarky, as I wouldn't have even made it over the vault at 41. Team Rockwood member Sandy notes that the next vaulter, China's Wang Yan didn't get much air off the vault. I pointed out how difficult that would be, given that she had no upper body strength since she was only 12 years old. Ha ha ha ha! Not really! (Yes, really). As each vaulter falls or misses their landing, I can't help but feeling we're just killing time until Simone Biles comes out and wipes these people off the map. Sure enough, Simone Biles is the first American to ever win the women's vault competition, and she wins it by seven tenths of a point. To show you how big a margin that is, the margin between all the rest of the competitors (2nd to 8th place) was only four tenths of a point. She's so good she might not be Phelpsian, but Biles-ian.
- Simone Biles, Allyson Felix, and Laurie Hernandez are all American women, and tomorrow they're all competing for medals. Yay, American women! Fluff!
- LIVE on Copacabana Beach, Ryan Seacrest continues his secretive pitch to be the future face of NBC's Olympic coverage. Seriously, have you watched his Olympic late night show? It has all the charisma that the prime time show lacks. Bob Costas should be concerned.
- LIVE on Copacabana Beach, women's beach volleyball. Having been stung by having to wait for Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross's match before, NBC now lets the game start before they join it in progress. So Kerri and April are tied 3-3 against Australia as we join them on the beach.
- Australia's flag colors are blue, red, and white. Why are all of their Olympic uniforms green and gold? Because they are the colors of their national floral emblem, the golden wattle. There's your bit of Aussie trivia for the day.
- Kevin Durant gets interviewed during the match. He says he's here with "his brother" Draymond Green and the rest of the US basketball team. I hope no one on the Australian basketball team kicks anyone on Team USA in the groin lest KD change teams to make him his brother. And yes, I'm bitter, but I'm hardly the only one making the joke. Commentator Chris Marlow jokes that "his brother" this month was "his hated enemy" a few months ago. Even beach volleyball commentators slyly mock Kevin Durant.
- And how was the volleyball match? Kerri and April win again, 2-0. This is my shocked face.
- Simone Biles, Allyson Felix, and Laurie Hernandez are all American women, and tomorrow they're… wait a minute. Didn't we do this fluff already? We did! We're repeating fluff! Auuuggghhh!
- Michael Phelps is in the studio with Bob Costas. Is he coming back in 2020? No. So he says. He seems pretty content with it, though. Bob's last question, if you can call it that, was that it's good to retire without regrets, and Phelps did that. Of course, this begs the question: wouldn't he regret it if he didn't try again in Tokyo? Come back, Michael!
- Bob grills IOC chairman Thomas Bach about whether Rio was ready for the Olympics. What, does he think Bach is going to say, "Bob, we've made a terrible mistake!" Bach gives a politician's response, as expected, and Bob says we can watch the rest of the interview online. I wonder how many people are going to watch Bob Costas interview an oily Olympic official. I might just so I can say I was the one.
- Let's finish with the golf medal ceremony. Justin Rose of Great Britain gets his chance to sing "God Save The Queen" and he does!
Phelps? Bolt? Biles? Who's the best? I'm not here to make a determination for you. You'll have to pick your favorite based on your own criteria, but needless to say, there are good arguments for all three. Let's think about what's really important. Do you think Ryan Seacrest will surpass all three to be the greatest Olympic host of all time? So many questions. See you tomorrow!