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Sort of like the 2000 Rockwood Olympic Watch, only colder.

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Monday, February 11, 2002

Hi! Welcome once again to Rockwood's Olympic Watch, this time the 2002 Winter Olympic version.
posted by Brian Lundmark at 12:45 AM

First of all--just in case you're wondering--no, this year's Olympic Watch will not be nearly as in depth as the Rockwood 2002 Olympic Watch. There are several reasons for this, but the primary one is that since I'll actually be attending these games, I won't be here next week to update the site. Oh sure, there was that whole loss-of-sleep thing last time, but from experience I now think I know how to work around that the next time I try watching hundreds of hours of Olympic coverage:

Take time off from work.

After all, why should working get in the way of my TV watching?
posted by Brian Lundmark at 2:03 AM

And because I was actually watching the Olympics this weekend instead of setting up this page, I've got a little catching up to do. Let's start with the Opening Ceremonies.

Like Sydney, I'm not going to criticize the OC for being fluff. Of course they are. But what I'm concerned about is NBC's coverage. If they cover fluff events like they were actually news, then more power to them. Of course, they didn't.

I like Bob Costas. Katie Couric kind of gets on my nerves, but I can stand her for short periods of time (unlike, say, Rosie O'Donnell). But I really do like Jim McKay, i.e. "Mr. Olympics." It could arguably be said that part of the reason I'm so obsessed with the Olympics in the first place is because some of McKay's enthusiasm for the Games rubbed off on me when I was a kid.

McKay, admittedly, seemed a little rusty on Friday night. That's understandable, given that he's missed that last 14 years of Olympics. However, it seemed that Couric took every chance she could to cut him off whenever possible. Katie, Mr. McKay guided the world through 16 horrible hours of the 1972 Olympic hostage situation. You interview Gwyneth while people half-listen to you over their morning coffee. Perhaps you could cut the man some slack.
posted by Brian Lundmark at 2:18 AM

Anyway, onto events. I didn't see much on Saturday, so I'm going to skip right to Sunday night's coverage.

I like the halfpipe. I really do. I like that NBC showed us that the crowd was different (i.e. younger) by showing us the mosh pit forming around the band (was that Lit? It was too short a clip for me to be sure). And I like the fact that the Olympics have accepted the snowboard as a "real" event.

What I don't like is that NBC employed announcers with one volume setting (loud) to cover it. A bad movie reviewer either always likes or always hates everything. Without any kind of range (this movie is bad, this movie is good), you can never know if their review can be trusted. Similarly, the announcers for the Women's Halfpipe competition (I didn't get their names...I told you this was going to be less intense this year) always sounded so excited that I didn't know if what was happening was good or bad, and in the end they just left me exhausted.

Compare these windbags to the team that covered the Men's Luge later in the night. Mere seconds after the American medal favorite hit the wall, they were sadly proclaiming his Olympic chances over. They weren't gloating about it, just presenting the story as it presented itself. The word is "professionalism." The luge people had it, the screaming halfpipe team did not.

posted by Brian Lundmark at 2:31 AM

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised with the limited amount of fluff in Sunday night's coverage. My arch-nemesis Jimmy Roberts is back, now abandoned by every GM division except for Chevy, who apparently are gluttons for punishment. But even Jimmy's story wasn't as sugary as the ones he did for the Sydney Olympics. His piece on Eddie "The Eagle" was well done, and even slightly humorous, although admittedly the humor came because Eddie is funny, not because Jimmy is.

However, it's Jim McKay's segment on Bill Johnson that deserves highlighting. McKay, who is really the man responsible for all of this fluff to begin with, showed why he has won Emmys while all Jimmy Roberts has won is my scorn. The Bill Johnson story was touching, sad, funny...and fluff through and through. But when it was over, instead of cursing the ground that McKay walked on, all I could think was "wow." NBC, it's surely not too late to just, say, "lose" Jimmy Roberts in the Wasatch Mountains for about two weeks. His replacement is obvious.
posted by Brian Lundmark at 2:41 AM

A few more quick comments before I call it a night...

DOWNHILL SKIING. The two-skiers-superimposed shot is VERY cool. My jaw dropped. Really. And whoever was running the camera showing the skiers' skis flexing as they rattled over the ice has earned my lifelong respect. That shot was amazing.

SPEED SKATING. Great announcers. I particularly like the comments that the racers should "draft" each other ala NASCAR cars. My only beef is this: Track and field events have the camera that rolls alongside the runners. Why not something similar for speed skaters? I didn't see it if there is one, and I'd really like to get a sense of the skaters' speed.

LUGE. Said the sideline (?...sidetrack?...siderun?) reporter, "Gravity. It's not just a theory, it's the law." Physics jokes! Is it any wonder why I liked these people so much?

That's all for today. See you tomorrow!
posted by Brian Lundmark at 2:50 AM

Noting my Jim McKay reference earlier, AlphadeltaEpsilon#196 writes "You remember 1972? How old ARE you??"

Well, honestly, I don't remember it at all. I was too young. However, given that a Oscar-winning movie has been made about the incident AND that it gets brought up in seemingly every pre-Olympic story about Jim McKay, it's hard to miss.

But then, who says you have to be "that old" to know about something? I'll bet most readers of this site know the meaning of the Giants win the pennant, even though most of them weren't alive at the time.
posted by Brian Lundmark at 1:43 PM

Paul in Salt Lake City writes...

"Just read the Olympic Watch section of the site. Just to firm up some of your information. that was Lit playing during the Woman's Halfpipe. And the younger crowd they showed... I was in a lot of those shots! Seriously, the Mosh pit thing was awesome. It's a tribute to how well SLOC planned this entire Olympics. That stage didn't just happen to be there, and Lit didn't just happen to wander by and decide to play. Someone put enough thought into this to realize how connected music is to snowboarding. It was totally awesome to have some entertainment between the qualifying and final runs! NBC really butchered the coverage of the event. The commentators talking to the crowd were far more interesting and entertaining. I know time is limited, but they didn't show any of the awesome runs from the non-Americans outside of the Medal positions. I guess lower scored runs from US athletes are more interesting somehow.

I will have to wait to see the coverage of the Luge finals tonight, but I'm sure that the people who talk to us at the venues are far more fun to listen to. They can really get the crowd going, not just report facts like the TV reporters do. What I would like to see is some coverage of the other things that go on that make the Olympics so fun. Like the German tourist at the Luge that the roving reporter got to Yodel and dance for us. It's little side stories like that the NBC seems to miss."

While I sympathize with Paul's position (indeed, things like this are one of the reasons I'm going to Salt Lake instead of just watching on TV), I don't think NBC's coverage is that bad so far.

The reality of the situation is that with the number of actual events, NBC CAN'T cover them all completely and also get in all of the side events such as Lit. All I ask is that they try to do THAT instead of giving me irrelevant stories of Olympians past or showing me what the figure skaters had for breakfast.

posted by Brian Lundmark at 11:27 PM


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