Monday, February 24, 2014

7 Things: The Winter Olympics on TV

I've spent much of the past 17 days watching the Winter Olympics, and today I'd like to share 7 Things about the coverage. Some are complimentary, some are not. Some are snarky. some are not. But all of these thoughts are born out of my love for the games and the athletes who have entertained me over the last 2 weeks.  So here we go...
  • At every Olympics I always love the pieces networks so about the host country. Mary Carillo's travel pieces during these games were simply marvelous. I especially found her trip to Siberia to be enlightening. For those of us who are students of history, Siberia has always sounded like "the worst place in the world." Now I know the rest of that sentence should say "unless you live there." Thank you, Mary.
  • I was reminded again that as a USAmerican most of the sports of the winter games are sports that I pay attention to once every 4 years. I am ignorant about them. And as a result of that, the commentators can say pretty much whatever they want to without me knowing the difference. But even with that said-  Has there even been an announcer more wrong more often and more loudly than Chad Salmela, the guy who did color on the cross country skiing and biathlon events? Every prediction was sure to go wrong, and at the end of every event he was screaming like it was the last play of the Auburn/Alabama football game. But I couldn't look away- just like with any other train wreck!
  • I am always frustrated at every Olympics with how much time NBC spends reporting on USAmericans instead of on some of the bigger stories from other nations. This time around there not even much coverage of the medal ceremonies featuring national anthems of other countries. This is particularly frustrating for me as during the Winter Olympics I become a fan of Norway. It's been true ever since Lillehammer in 1994, when I fell in love with the place. I'll never get to visit, so I become Norwegian every 4 years. And while my team won many medals, I didn't get to hear the anthem at all.  Boooo, NBC. Boooo!!!
  • Bob Costas deserves a medal of honor for his work while surviving pink eye, as do those who helped fill his shoes while he was out. I have to tell you, however, that I was way ahead of the curve in making "Costas took the red eye flight" jokes. I also made a "Ligety split" joke during the opening ceremonies. I am available for parties and bar mitvahs. 
  • I was confused and frustrated by the figure skating coverage. I am home pretty all day. and so I watched a lot of live event coverage on the NBC Sports Network. When they showed the skating live, the broadcast team was former NC State basketball Terry Gannon, along with former Olympic skater Johnny Weir and 1998 gold medalist Tara Lipinski. When my wife would watch the exact same footage during prime time the announcers were Tom Hammond, Scott Hamiliton and Sandra Bezic. My first question is why? No other sport got new announcers for the taped version. And my second question is WHY? Gannon, Weir and Lipinski were absolutely brilliant. They were honest, concise and full of insight. And Tara and Johnny gave us a fashion show everyday as well!  I love Scott Hamilton, but the rest of his team just did not measure up. And Bezic was better than Sominex. Just awful...
  • I love watching curling. I find it to be unique and fascinating. But does anyone else feel like after 17 days you still have no real idea what the rules are and no clue what the announcers are actually talking about? It's like they speak a foreign language. Curlish. And also, am I alone in thinking that the rules of the biathlon were made up by a middle school youth group? Ski, then shoot while laying down. If you miss, ski around a penalty circle one time for every shot you miss. Then ski some more and shoot standing up. The ski some more. The only thing missing were live bears stationed along the course the spice it up a bit. A very odd sport.
  • The closing ceremonies were. as always, full of pageantry and spectacle. I do have some suggestions on ways they could have spiced them up a bit. First of all, where was YakovSmirnoff? The greatest of all Russian comedians (the ONLY Russian comedian?) could have put  little zip into the festivities. Also, during the tribute to Russian authors, NBC could have easily slipped in the Seinfeld clip of Elaine suggesting that the original working title of War and Peace was actually War- What Is It Good For? Big laughs, no doubt! And finally, did anyone else have trouble deciding if the giant animals at the end were cute...or creepy? That bear was just a little TOO life-like. Wouldn't it have been awesome to see it go on a rampage, squashing dancers like Godzilla and then destroying the cauldron of the Olympic flame? You have to admit, that would have jazzed it all up! 
All-in-all I thought it was an good Olympics. The best part was that after all of initial concerns about security, toilets and Putin that once the games started it became all about the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. It was all about athletes, And that's the way it's supposed to be. And the United States team did well, even though many of the people and teams who were supposed to win fell short. Maybe we just need to invent a few more freestyle skiing and snowboarding events so we can have the most gold medals! Now bring on the summer games of 2016 and beach volleyball in Rio!!!

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