Olympic Viewing: Soggy pipes, groovin’ luger
Highlights from coverage of the Sochi Winter Olympics:
GRACE UNDER PRESSURE: NBC snowboard analyst Todd Richards noted that American Shaun White was “trying to be gracious” after finishing fourth in his bid for a third straight gold medal. White didn’t just try; he was the picture of grace during a time of crushing disappointment. He gave a lesson in sportsmanship that deserves to be remembered with his athletic accomplishments. Meanwhile, it was NBC’s Cris Collinsworth who looked as if he had suffered a personal loss.
IN THE NEWS: Brian Williams dropped the whole idea of “spoiler alerts” on NBC’s “Nightly News” by straightforwardly reporting White’s loss, pleasing news purists while no doubt disappointing some people who wanted to be surprised in prime time later. You can’t please everyone. In this case, it was the right call. Trying to keep secret the biggest athletic story of the games so far — from an American perspective — for some 10 hours made little sense.
SOGGY PIPE: Richards was adept at describing the slushy conditions of the halfpipe and demonstrating precisely how it would most hurt a competitor like White, who needed a slick surface to generate the height needed for his acrobatic moves. But neither he nor White used that as an excuse for the results, remembering that the conditions were the same for everyone.
FULL PIPE? Richards after the gold medal run by Switzerland’s Iouri Podladtchikov: “Will the judges look at that like he needed another hit on the pipe?” Hmmm. What sport was Richards referring to?
TWEET OF THE NIGHT: “Guys, Shaun White didn’t die. He was the 4th best snowboarder in the world today. Let’s save the eulogies.”
LUGE MEDAL: From a production standpoint, NBC’s decision to end the night with Erin Hamlin winning bronze in women’s luge — the first medal by an American singles luge athlete ever — was understandable. You want to send the audience to bed feeling good. In this case, it was anticlimactic and many viewers were likely to have turned away in disappointment following the halfpipe competition. Better to have stuck some ice dancing in that last half hour and given Hamlin more of a spotlight.
JAMMIN’: Nice work catching American Kate Hansen’s unorthodox warmup before her luge runs, jamming to some righteous groove on her headphones. But, hey, what was she listening to?
RATINGS: An estimated 22.4 million people watched NBC’s prime-time coverage of the Olympics on Monday night. That’s down from the 25.2 million who watched the comparable Monday during the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, according to the Nielsen company. Continuing the network’s pattern, it’s also up from the 2008 Olympics in Italy, which had similar time zone issues that prevented live coverage. Tuesday will be another key test, seeing how many people tune in to watch snowboarder Shaun White even if they heard during the day he didn’t do well.
NUMBER ONE: U.S. ski jumper Sarah Hendrickson tweeted out a proud moment, saying she had been assigned the No. 1 bib for her event. “That means I will be the first girl EVER to ski jump in an Olympic event,” she said via Twitter. Sochi marks the first Olympics at which women have been allowed to ski jump.
EYE ON COSTAS: Matt Lauer ended his night subbing for Bob Costas with a sincere hope that his colleague would soon be back after being sidelined with an eye infection. Costas had never missed an Olympics hosting gig since getting that job for NBC after 1988. Earlier, Lauer had dropped in what must have been an obscure sports reference to anyone under 50 and not from the New York area, mentioning Willis Reed’s last-minute return from an injury to help the New York Knicks win a championship. Here’s another obscure sports reference for Costas: Wally Pipp.
We kid, Roberto! Get well soon.
David Bauder can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter@dbauder. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/david-bauder.