Friday, August 22, 2008

An Olympic Grab Bag

Ah, the Olympics.

NBC's coverage has had its moments. Here are some of the bad ones:

1. Go U.S.A.! Can the NBC announcers root any more openly for the American athletes? I understand that the primary audience is America, but announcers should be at least a little bit objective. It almost got to the point where the NBC announcers started using personal pronouns like "we" and "us," which is the ultimate no-no.

2. Go U.S.A.! And if the U.S.A. doesn't win, we were screwed! This has been dreadful, especially in gymnastics. In the finals of the uneven bars, Tim Daggett and Elfi Schnagel could not have whined any more if they were five year-olds. To refresh your memory, American Nastia Liukin and Yang Yilin of China ended up tied. Because of the tiebreaker rules, Yilin ended up with the gold medal. Initially, Daggett made few, if any, comments criticizing the scoring of both Liukin's and Yilin's routines. After the scores were announced, however, Daggett became more and more bold in saying that Liukin should have won. It was if he was told to be more pro-American.

Also, it took Daggett and Schnagel more than an hour to adequately explain the tiebreaking procedure used, which made it seem pretty clear they didn't know the procedure (they kept referring to "what the computer came up with," which made no sense once the procedure was explained since it's merely dropping an additional score). Back in the studio, Bob Costas then criticized the tiebreaking procedure as being "confusing" and "unclear." This was especially true when the men's vault event also needed a tiebreaker. Costas made a huge point to talk about that tiebreaker being more straightforward. Could it be he thought that because there was no American affected by the tie?

Here are the tiebreaking procedures for the women's uneven bars. You be the "judge":

Gymnasts are judged by 6 judges. Top and bottom score is dropped.

If two gymnasts are tied, the next lowest score is dropped for each. If this does not resolve the tie, the next lowest score is dropped until tie is resolved.

Each gymnast then must make her best attempt at drawing an aardvark freehand (Okay, I made that part up).

Pretty confusing, eh?

3. Go U.S.A.! If you don't win the gold, then you're a complete fucking failure! I'm going to let the video do the talking here. Context: American gymnast Alicia Sacramone fell off the balance beam, which may or may not have cost the U.S.A. the all-around gold medal. Andrea Joyce, remind Alicia over and over how much she sucks!

And for good measure, we have Lolo Jones in the 100m hurdles. The race starts at about 3:20. Note how long it takes NBC to show a replay that actually includes the winner.

I know that these failures were part of the story, and of course they should be told. But the overall attitude that the Americans "lost" the gold (instead of winning the silver) has permeated throughout NBC's Olympic coverage. And in the case of Lolo Jones, another American won the gold, but NBC wanted to focus on someone's failure rather than someone else's triumph. They interview Dawn Harper almost as an afterthought, and not until they'd already spoken to Jones (who, by the way, was extremely classy in a tough moment).

I don't want to get all Kumbaya on you, but winning any medal at the Olympics is an amazing feat, even if you were favored to do better. Winning a bronze means you're the third best athlete in the world in your particular event. Is that not an accomplishment? The Olympic ideal is to do your best. If you do and that results in a medal, great. If not, you should still be proud. The U.S.A women's swim team gets it, after their performance in the medley relay (interview with team starts at 10:10).

Perhaps NBC should take notes.

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Blogger Zinglebert Bembledack said...

I get the fact the many of the NBC staff would want to cheer for their country's athletes and be a bit of a homer. This is the ultimate stage for most of the athletes and its hard not to want to cheer your country towards a medal. However, when you are an announcer on the world stage, you should try to be as independent as you can.

The U.S. is the "Great American Melting Pot", so while most of us are Americans, there are still quite a few of us who still have ties to another country or may be catching the NBC feed off a satellite in another country. Just because an American didn't win the gold medal does not mean they were gypped or a failure. Slut is correct in that even if you finish fourth in an event, that means you were the fourth best person in the world in your event. You are a failure in NBC's eyes because they picked you to win and YOU let THEM down.

I enjoy the Olympics, but I tend to tune out the announcers anymore because I just cannot get an unbiased commentary or I have to hear their entire life's story or how the athlete had to overcome rickets, malaria, terrorists taking over the Nakatomi building, and a tsunami (while living in a landlocked location) while becoming an Olympic athlete. I know NBC has to entertain the viewers in between the actual events, but I think I would rather watch archery or race walking than listen to whether or not Michael Phelps' sister thinks Michael is a sex symbol or not.

I'm happy that the Olympics are over. Now bring on the NFL and the World Series!

August 27, 2008 at 8:46 AM  

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