Presenting the Olympics on tape does have its advantages. For example, take NBC's presentation of the women's team gymnastics compulsories during the early part of last night's telecast.
Two marvelous features framed the competition in all of its heartbreak.
Svetlana Boginskaya of the Unified Team was pictured as a tortured athlete, pursuing Olympic gold while living with the memory of the suicide of her coach. Though no one was saying so, the timing of the suicide, not long after Boginskaya's disappointing effort at the Seoul Games in 1988, points to the pupil's failure for the teacher's death.
Can any of us imagine carrying that kind of burden around every day, much less while performing world-class athletics?
A piece on American Betty Okino, she of the broken body but not broken spirit, made an ugly point. There was an X-ray, showing a large screw -- the kind that looked as if it might go into a wall stud -- inserted into Okino's bones. And then there was coach Bela Karolyi, criticizing Okino for lacking the spark of a champion.
I wanted to -- in fact, I think I did -- scream at the television: "She has a screw in her leg; what do you want?"
Shortly thereafter, Okino was seen completing a floor exercise routine for which she was awarded a 9.90. On the way off the floor, she went by U.S. team coach Karolyi. The famous Karolyi bear hug was nowhere to be seen.
Time has come today
Let's say you didn't know that Barcelona was six hours ahead of Eastern time. Would you have believed that NBC's coverage of the Olympics yesterday afternoon was live?
Not if you were paying attention.
About an hour or so into the telecast, Bob Trumpy, at the boxing venue, spoke of a planned protest by the arena's neighbors at noon. In interviews with swimmers after their races, the competitors referred to racing "this morning."
NBC isn't trying to hide the fact that its coverage is taped. It isn't going out of its way to advertise the time difference either.
As an intelligent viewer, you already knew of the delay. As an intelligent network, NBC already knew that viewers don't necessarily care whether Olympic coverage is live.
And if we had an intelligent sports television columnist, he'd tell you that well-produced telecasts, not necessarily you-are-looking-liveliness, is what matters.
That was it, huh? This is what the drum-beating over the Dream Team has been about?
As the rap song goes, don't believe the hype.
Watching the U.S. men's basketball team run fast-break drills on Angola, I was struck by a familiar feeling. It was the same thing that makes me want to turn off a blowout NBA game.
She'll be baack
During yesterday afternoon's coverage, we nearly overdosed on U.S. swimmer Jenny Thompson and her workouts.
A large component of the feature on the competition between Thompson and Nicole Haislett was Thompson's weightlifting, including her posters of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Shortly thereafter, another segment, just on Thompson, again went into her pumping iron.
What is this, "Body Shaping"?
Bring your towel to the couch today. There will be lots of action from the pool.
During this morning's coverage (7-10, channels 2, 4), NBC presents qualifying in five swimming events, and, tonight (7:30-midnight), it's finals in those five, including the women's 200-meter breaststroke, featuring local heroine Anita Nall. Expect to hear and see a lot about Nall, so, if you're a friend of the Towson Catholic student, maybe you'll be on NBC tonight.
In addition, the women's platform diving finals will be splashing down tonight, along with men's team gymnastics.