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Monday, September 06, 2004

Reliving the Olympics
Although it was wonderful to be in Britain during the Olympics—whatever I may have said about CBC, the BBC was much, much better; sure, they spent a lot of time focusing on the sports that Britain is good at (otherwise, how would I have seen so much sailing—yawn—rowing, and cycling), but also providing great coverage of the rest of the events—I did miss out on the North American coverage (and also on blogs like this one, which I would’ve been checking out constantly if I’d been living my “normal” life).

Before I left, I bought a new TiVo with a 140-hour hard drive so that I could tape a whole bunch of Olympics coverage and enjoy it upon my return. I’ve started at the beginning, with the Canadian and U.S. coverage of Day 1, which we missed altogether because we were in airplanes. After only one day’s worth, I know for sure that I’m going to hate the NBC version. Bob Costas is so full of himself, it’s almost impossible to watch—at the start of every show, and often at the start of a new segment, he has to play the sports poet, treating the sporting events as if they were a matter of life or death (especially hard to take when we are, like it or not, at war). I wouldn’t mind if the writing was any good, but it’s not—it’s just ponderous and portentous instead of inspiring and/or illuminating. And Jimmy Roberts? I can’t talk about him—there are still 15 days to go, and if I think about his schlock too much, I’ll go off the Games.

What I never understand is why NBC allow some comments to go by unchallenged. For example, after U.S. gymnast Blaine Wilson’s first-day fall from the high bar, when he was whining (reasonably enough if NBC’s presentation of the last-minute judging-standards change can be trusted) about having had to incorporate new elements into his long-established routine, he said, referring to the Japanese judge whose decision had necessitated his disastrous routine-change, “If you can’t beat us fairly …”—an outrageous, open accusation of cheating on the part of a judge on behalf of his own nation. Did NBC offer any reaction or follow-up? Hell, no.

It really was unfortunate for the fragile, at times, U.S. psyche that Michael Phelps came across as a vapid car-loving blandoid, while Ian Thorpe is a smart, articulate superstar. Phelps is still young, but Thorpe is only 21, just two years older. Thorpedo's the kind of guy who would've been a star no matter what field he'd gone into; Phelps is now famous because he has the perfect body for swimming and has worked his ass off to become one of the best in the world, but he has nothing to say for himself and seems to have about two brain cells in that permanently conjested head of his.

Back to the Brits: The BBC TV presenters were almost too informal—dressed in super-casual clothes and just leaning on the set most of the time. (I’m a life-long slumper/sloucher, even I was upset by their terrible posture.) No suits or poetry for them.

And who could have guessed that Sue Barker would’ve turned out so well? Back when I was a mad, crazy women's tennis fan, Sue was a rather dull girl who didn’t do much to stand out among the players. I thought she sublimated her own fame and success amazingly well—for example, in her interview with the mega-gold-winners Mark Spitz, Carl Lewis, and Steven Redgrave, she didn’t stop to correct them when Spitz and, to a lesser extent, Lewis treated her like a dumb blonde who didn’t know anything about being an athlete or winning a major world title. (She was always surprisingly good with her obviously gay fans. I remember a Barker-freak who was as butch as they come, with major visible tattoos—and this is back in the late-'70s/early '80s when tattoos were fewer and farther between—who would get a kind word and an occasional ticket from la Sue. I suspect my own internalized homophobia would’ve driven me to give said fan a wide berth.)