Nall comes off as winner out of water, if not in it
Want a walking ad for today's youth? Look no farther than Towson. After the Barcelona Olympics, that is.
NBC's piece on Anita Nall, Towson's titanic teen turbine of the swimming pool, painted a most encouraging picture. Nall came off as a 16-year-old answer to the prayers of parents held hostage by the teen angst loose in their households.
Quite beyond her swimming prowess, the Nall on television was a most sensible, intelligent, lively young woman. From all accounts, this is the same Nall they know at Towson Catholic.
After meeting Nall, what viewer could resist rooting for her in the 200-meter breaststroke?
Then, when she finished a disappointing third in the race, she offered no bitterness, no real whining about her fate.
Olympians twice her age could learn a lot from Anita Nall.
Winky Dink and you
Bob Costas is winking at us. Not literally -- at least not yet -- but figuratively.
Last night, at halftime of the U.S.-Croatia men's basketball game that led off NBC's Olympic prime-time coverage, the network host said we'd see American Pablo Morales swim in the 100-meter butterfly final, if there were time before basketball tipped off the second half.
Costas said it with a straight face, too. He didn't let on that Morales had won the gold. If he knew, that is.
Before the Games, Costas said he wanted to avoid knowing the result of an event when introducing it. Given that the basketball game started after Morales had swum, Costas either taped his introduction before the butterfly final -- and far before the Dream Team's first dribble -- or had to break his (admittedly quite flexible) rule.
So maybe that was what the wink was about. Nothing like an inside joke that tons of viewers can appreciate.
Give swimming analyst Mike O'Brien points for displaying enthusiasm during Morales' victorious swim. But his attempt at a Dave Johnson-like "Down the stretch they come" call at the finish was ill-timed.
O'Brien had Morales into the wall a couple of strokes before the end. This allowed play-by-play man Charlie Jones to make the call, but that's his job anyway.
Oh, the humanity
Speaking of swimming analysts, Mary Wayte would do well to dTC go easy on those hackneyed Olympic phrases we hear every four years.
Last night, during Nicole Haislett's 200 freestyle triumph, Wayte twice used "triumph of the human spirit." That phrase doesn't exactly roll off the tongue in normal conversation. In Wayte's usage, particularly during the race itself, it sounded very contrived.
Don't spike the news
That U.S. basketball game was pretty good for a while, but did NBC have to stick with it so long that the network waited until 9:20 last night before mention was made of the men's volleyball reversal that cost the United States a win over Japan?
Real news stories at the Olympics can be rare indeed. This one didn't deserve to wait so long.
Costas did display his trademark whimsy, though, giving volleyball announcer Chris Marlowe a red card, signifying a match ejection -- the point of contention in the U.S.-Japan decision -- to end Marlowe's report.
I got the music in me
Far be it from me, who averages 2.5 music references per column, to knock the use of pop stars to create Olympic music videos.
Then again, I'm not so sure that NBC's presentations so far necessarily rate an 85 (it's easy to dance to, Dick).
Last night's offering, Marc Cohn's "Old Soldier" for Morales, was nice enough -- though doesn't sports already have enough military analogies -- but wouldn't it have made a bigger impact if shown after Morales' gold-medal swim?
On Sunday night, NBC presented Eric Clapton's "Wonderful Tonight" to the accompaniment of women's gymnastics. Given that "Wonderful Tonight" is a paean to the singer's significant other and that the female gymnasts are as young as 14 and look even younger, this was a questionable pairing.
And one more thing (TV column rule: always be cranky in threes): Those Coca-Cola commercials tacked on the end of the videos make them seem like long ads.
Did you wash that towel you took to the couch last night? Good, you'll need it again today.
During this morning's telecast (7-10, channels 2, 4) and tonight's (7:30-midnight), NBC presents qualifying and finals in five swimming events, as well as preliminary-round action from the men's springboard diving.
Look for a couple of familiar names from the Seoul Games -- Matt Biondi and Janet Evans -- in the swimming. Television loves athletes with histories, especially histories documented on the same network.
The grabber tonight, though, could be the finals of the women's team gymnastics. In addition to deciding team medals, the event has the subtext -- certainly due better than footnote treatment from NBC -- of Kim Zmeskal's fate. World champion Zmeskal is trying to bounce back after a fall from the balance beam, which could keep her from even qualifying for the all-around.