August 15, 2016
In Like a Lion!
Out like a fluffy lamb.
- Let's hurdle on over to Olympic Stadium for the men's 110m hurdles. It's raining, so Rio can use that for an excuse as to why the stadium is empty as opposed to the real reason: armed gunmen in the streets of Rio robbing all the swimmers of their tickets.
- Does the rain effect the hurdlers, asks Tom Hammond? Ato Boldon gives him several reasons about how it actually would. Bonus points to Ato for race trivia!
- Devon Allen of the US is in one of the heats. He's a wide receiver for the Oregon Ducks. We live in a strange world where an athlete's sprinter uniform is more conservative than his football uniform.
- While the first heat we saw was plausibly live, the heats we're watching now are actually live. Also live, Usain Bolt's medal ceremony for winning last night's 100m race. Again, why are the track and field medal ceremonies the day after events when the swimming events were the same day? Anyway, let's listen to the national anthem of Jamaica. Bolt sings the words! He could teach Phelps a lesson in that.
- Allyson Felix's drive comes from her family, says Tom Hammond, especially her grandmother, now 97 years old. Grandma remembers segregation, so she's proud of what Allyson has accomplished. She also has heart issues, so she gets the results of Allyson's races first, then watches them. Cute story, but still fluff.
- Sydney McLaughlin is 17 years old and running the 400m hurdles, and apparently that qualifies you for some fluff. But only about 30 seconds worth, so she'll have something to work up to for Tokyo in four years.
- Live pole vaulting! Because the rain delayed everything tonight, the running heats and the pole vaulting are all going on at the same time. With nothing on tape, NBC is forced to show us live events. Three cheers for the rain!
- Fluff from last night. Wayde Van Niekerk won the 400m and Usain Bolt won the 100m, and the two of them are friends. There is live pole vaulting going on somewhere in this stadium and we're watching Tom and Ato talk about two races that happened last night? Yeesh.
- Out of the next break, we get to see one pole vaulter. Thanks for throwing me a bone, NBC.
- David Rudisha of Kenya is a member of the Massai, and started a Massai Olympics to give that tribe something else to do other than hunt lions. Ironic, considering he ran his gold medal winning 800m race in London as if he was attacking "like a lion." Still, with live pole vaulting happening somewhere in this stadium, we just watched three minutes of fluff about a race that will take barely over half that.
- Live with the 800m race. What if all the runners attack this like a lion? That kind of strategy only works once. After that you need to actually be faster. Rudisha roars like a lion and repeats! American Clayton Murphy finishes third. In the sparsely-populated stadium, dozens cheer.
- Around the Games we go! The US men's volleyball team won, but the US men's beach volleyball team did not. The women's US water polo team beat Brazil, and that's all the time we have because we have to squeeze that fluff in somehow!
- Shawn Barber of Canada gets another shot at the pole vault and misses. He's the reigning world champion and one of only two vaulters that we've seen tonight. The other is Sam Hendricks of the US, who is currently in fourth place. So we haven't seen any of the current leaders in the pole vault, but we have seen four minutes of fluff on a couple of people who raced last night. That's some quality work, NBC!
- Live racing! It's the women's 400m final. Do your grandma proud, Allyson! Ato Boldon says that Allyson has made the Olympics in "the 100-meter dash, the 200-meter dash, and now the 400-meter dash." How long does a race need to be before it's no longer a "dash"? They're always going to run as fast as they can. What separates dash from non-dash?Felix loses a photo-finish to a diving Shaunae Miller of the Bahamas. Usually the person who dives across the finish line loses, because diving is slower than running, but not tonight. Allyson, I think your grandma will still be proud.
- How about some plausibly live gymnastics? Tonight's event is the balance beam, where Simone Biles will soon embarrass another group of gymnasts to win another gold. Not that I can predict the future (or, in this case, the past) but we all know that's going to happen.
- Canadian Isabela Onyshko falls of the beam and Al Trautwig says, "This event has a peril around every corner." The woman did a backflip with a twist onto a four-inch wide beam. I hardly think it's unexpected that sometimes you miss.
- Up next, Biles. Watch how the winner does it. Eek! She didn't fall off, but she did stumble pretty badly. Everything else looked good, but making a mistake like that is going to open the door for others. She's still in first for now, but only because she is one of the first gymnasts to go. I guess I shouldn't be jinxing our gymnasts.
- We keep seeing ads for the new "Ben-Hur." That got me thinking. Wouldn't chariot racing make an awesome Olympic sport? It would be the most-watched equestrian event ever!
- Did I say Biles was guaranteed to win? I meant Laurie Hernandez. Yeah, that's the ticket! Let's hope I didn't just jinx her, too. I didn't! Of course, how could I have, since this event actually happened hours ago. Laurie is currently in line to win the silver.
But wait! What does America do better than any other country? Lawyers! The US is going to contest the starting score for Hernandez's routine. If they can raise the starting score by two tenths of a point, then her final score (starting minus deductions) will put her into first. Would you want to win a gold that way? Heck yeah, I would!It doesn't work, but Biles hangs on to win bronze to Hernandez's silver. It's not Phelpsian, but it's not bad!
- Back in time we go to men's springboard diving! The water is blue today, but the wind is howling, and it's playing with the diver's minds. Both the Chinese and Russian have had divers that made wind-aided mistakes that might cost them a chance to advance to the semifinals. But the Americans appear to have trained in a wind tunnel and are unaffected. Both Kristian Ipsen and Michael Hixon are in the top four after three dives.
- Fluff! Biles! Raisman! Walsh Jennings! Tomorrow! Medals! So! Many! Exclamation! Points!
- Hey everybody! Ryan Seacrest is so adorable on Copacabana Beach! Wouldn't he look good taking over the Olympics? Soon, NBC. Soon.
- When Bob took us around the Games earlier, he told us the US men's beach volleyball team lost. Now we get the chance to see the replay. NBC already told us how this ends. Isn't there live pole vaulting going on somewhere?
- Back to the track where… we talk. Allyson Felix does a short interview, then Tom and Ato talk about it. Isn't there some live pole–Hey, look! It's pole vaulting! It's not live, but we finally get to see another jumper and guess what? He just happens to be the leader! Thiago Braz Da Silva of Brazil sets a new Olympic record vault at 19' 9 1/4". Can Frenchman Renaud Lavillenie beat the new record? Non! Sam Hendricks gets bronze.
- In the studio with Bob is Shaun White, the Flying Tomato. A winter Olympian, what is he doing here? Oh, you know. Just hanging out. They talk a little about skateboarding, which will be in the Tokyo Olympics, and what Shaun is up to. I know this is going to be shocking, but this snowboarding star just likes taking in the sights and relaxing. But Bob eventually steers the conversation towards Shaun's return to the next Olympics. I like the Flying Tomato, but couldn't we restrict the fluff in this Olympics to athletes who are actually IN these Olympics? We just spent more time on Shaun White, winter Olympian, than we did on men's beach volleyball. I have to think there was another sport we could have been watching.
- Now Laurie Hernandez is in the studio with Bob, and she's very gracious about getting silver instead of gold. She's actually more excited about being followed on twitter by Taylor Swift and Tori Kelley. She seems very nice but it's still four minutes of fluff.
This was the worst night for fluff so far in the Rio games. Yes, Opening Ceremonies night had more, but they also had more programming and, let's be honest, everything during the OC is borderline fluff anyway. But on a night when a rain delay could have resulted in more events, NBC defaulted to more fluff. Booo! Once Ryan Seacrest takes over, this won't happen anymore. Or, it could be worse. Hard to say.