March 1st, 2010


Olympics recap

As ya'll know, I spent a lot of the last two weeks a) sick, and b) watching the Olympics. I don't think that I missed any of NBC's coverage and I saw a little of what was going on on MSNBC and CNBC.

I discovered a love for cross country skiing and biathlon, two sports I've never paid attention to in my life. While I found the NBC coverage to be lacking in some respects, their reporting on these two sports were excellent, in my opinion. I especially found Chad Salmela to be informative and informed. He was excellent at explaining the sport and letting the viewer know who the competitors to watch were. By the end of the Olympics, I felt I had a much better grasp on the "flat" ski sports.

There were quite a number of moments I think I'll remember from this Olympics, and I'm not quite sure that they are going to end up on other people's lists.

1.) Right before the women’s cross country sprint competition, Petra Majdic from Slovinia–who was heavily favored to win the race–missed a turn and fell about ten feet or so into a ravine, landing pretty heavily on some rocks. She delayed her start so she could recover a bit, but still was allowed to race in the first heat. She had to go through three qualification races before the medal race, and she somehow or another managed to come in third. When she finished, she collapsed on the snow and they rushed oxygen to her. She spent three days in the hospital. It turned out that she had five broken ribs and a collapsed lung from the fall earlier that day. I don’t know if anyone who watched the sprint is going to remember Marit Bjoergen and Justina Kowalcyk’s performances–as impressive as they were–as much as they will Petra Majdic’s bronze medal performance. I later read an article that she was trying really hard to get better enough to enter the 30K, but she just couldn't do it. Justina Kowalcyk and Marit Bjoergen came in on top in that one, too.

2.) Joannie Rochette. That Bronze is worth so much more than just bronze.

3.) Norway’s silver medal in the Men’s 4×10 km Relay Classic/Free. Peter Northug’s anchor leg started 35.7 seconds off the lead, and he cut it by 22 seconds, passing Czech Republic, France and Finland. Sweden decidedly and deservedly had the gold in that race, but the race was made interesting by Norway’s amazing comeback, and that individual performance was just stunning.

4.) The Swedish men in the 30K classic/free pursuit. Since I was new to the sport, I didn't realize until later how remarkable this particular race was. Apparently, this was the first time cycling-type team tactics were used in cross country. Somewhere early in the third loop (of four) Johann Olsson took off by himself at a pretty fast pace and made the lead pack chase him. Then Marcus Hellner and Anders Soedergren got to the front of the pack and held them back enough so no one could catch up to Olsson and reel him into a more reasonable pace. Finally, realizing that Olsson likely would get too far away, Austrian Tobias Angerer split off to catch Olsson. Helner went with him, and Helner and Olsson ended up pretty much playing Angerer for the rest of the race. Helner won the gold, Angerer the silver and Olsson the bronze. It was beautiful teamwork though, and we saw something similar from the Americans with the big hill nordic combined race and then later the Norwegians and Swedes tried to do it again in the 50k. From what I gathered from the commentary, this was a new and exciting approach to cross country skiing.

5.) Johnny Weir's press conference to address comments made about his gender and masculinity. The event wasn't on the ice, but it was a lovely response to mean-spirited cheap commentary.

According to The Canadian Press, Claude Mailhot of the French-language RDS network began by saying, “This may not be politically correct, but do you think he lost points due to his costume and his body language?” Alain Goldberg responded saying Weir’s femininity may reflect poorly on other male figure skaters.”They’ll think all the boys who skate will end up like him. It sets a bad example.” Goldberg is also quoted as saying, “We should make him [Weir] pass a gender test at this point,” and Mailhot then joking that Weir should compete in the women’s competition. The two broadcasters later issued an on-air apology.

These are the ones that stand out for me right now, though I'm certain there are others. I was enormously happy to see Bode Miller win medals on his own terms instead of on NBCs. I thought that Apollo Ohno was one of the more gracious athletes I've ever seen. I got irritated at NBC's escalation of the Mancuso/Vonn "tension," though I was really happy to see the alpine skiiers in general do so well. Snowboarders rock. Ski jumpers and arialists scare the crap out of me. The sliding area seemed poorly designed, and the death early on in the competition put a sour taste in my mouth about all of those sports. I will admit, though, that I enjoyed rooting for Steve Holcomb, nicknamed the "pot bellied psychopath" by Graham early on in the competition. Oh, and one of the Canadian female bobsledders had an ass to die for. I think she was the brakewoman in Canada 2 for the two-woman event.

I enjoyed the figure skating competition, though I think that figure skating gets way too much coverage. How many Dick Button one-on-ones did Costas have to do? I was really irritated that the non-medal event gala kept interrupting competition on Friday night. Can't they move that to Sunday, when there are only two other events going on? On the other hand, I saw someone on facebook who got irritated that the whole gala wasn't shown, so I guess opinions on figure skating differ. I suppose it's a ratings bonanza, so NBC is going to suck that teat dry.

We fast forwarded through the poignent vignettes and commercials, so anything that we thought was exploitive we didn't see. Mainly that meant that the Dan Jansen interview before the women's short program and the interview with Joannie Rochette after the medals were given out were zipped through. And that Visa commercial pissed me off every time I saw it zipping through on fast forward. I was overjoyed that NBC got fucked up intel on which crying Canadian man was her father, so the real man could grieve and watch his daughter in privacy. I hope they apologized to the crying man whose face they focused upon.

NBC had high points and low points. I don't necessarily have anything against Costas. He can be funny sometimes, and he doesn't annoy me as much as he did when I was younger. But I'd get annoyed with some of the stuff he was fed by his producers. And the artificial drama and overhyping of athletes needs to stop. Calling Lindsey Vonn the "possible Michael Phelps of the winter Olympics" was ridiculous overstatement. If you want to talk Phelpsian, talk Ole Einar Bjørndalen, the Norwegian biathlete who won his 14th medal at these games (a bronze in the 15k mass start). Or at least talk Marit Bjoergen (3 golds, sliver, bronze) and Petter Northug (2 golds, sliver, bronze) from Norway for these games. Mary Carillo at night and Al Michaels during the day were servicable enough, though I liked Carillo better.

I wish that NBC would catch up a little with the Olympics itself and find more gender diversity in its reporting. Not a single play by play announcer was female. Six of the 21 color commentators were female (two for figure skating). The sideline reporting was the most equitable, with five of the nine people shoving microphones in athletes faces right after they wiped out/won being women.

I encourage any and every coach that has a camera on his face while he's talking to his athlete to drop as many F-bombs as possible and talk about not-child friendly stuff. That NBC apologized to the viewing audience for broadcasting a conversation between grown men was inexcusable. They should have apologized only to Shaun White and his coach. And they should suck it for any FCC fine they get as a result.

I allowed myself to look at the Yahoo front page for the first time in two weeks this morning. I can go to news websites again without fear of finding out some event that NBC decides to delay airing. I'm sort of sad that the Olympics is over, but I'm glad to have had the experience. I'm hoping, though, that in four years, I don't get sick again. I'd actually like to be there.
on film

pretty pictures

Also, saw Avatar yesterday on 3D IMAX.


I'm not quite sure that my brain has absorbed it, but it sure was pretty. The story was ok-ish, not nearly as bad as my friendslist seemed to make it out to be. And I just loved the visuals. It was the first movie in a long time that I felt like I was really there, in the screen.

I think that Cameron got a little too enamoured with his technology at some points, which made the movie run a little slower than it should have. But it was entertaining. I tried to go in without thinking too much about politics or messages. It wasn't difficult, though, to see some recurring Cameron themes. I'm almost surprised that Giovanni Ribisi's character wasn't put in red and black plaid flannel, just to drive the point home that his was exactly the same as Paul Rieser's character in Aliens. Graham thought that Zoe Saldana over-did it a little, and I could have taken or left the lead character. I did think it was probably better that they chose relative unknowns for the leads. Sigourney Weaver rocked. I feel really good that we got around to seeing it in the format that we did. While I'm sure it will be also really pretty on our TV, there was something about that theater experience that was particularly good.

Of the movies nominated for best picture, I've seen Up, District 9 and Avatar. I'm not sure how it's possible to compare the three, though I think that I was the most impressed by District 9. I suspect dissertations can and will be written comparing and contrasting Avatar and District 9.

We can get The Hurt Locker on our cable and will probably do that sometime this week. We're kicking around going to see Up in the Air sometime in the next six days, since that's the movie we have the most interest in.

I don't have a real dog in the Bigelow/Cameron duel, since I haven't seen The Hurt Locker. I'm sure that my opinion will change after I've seen it.