Death as a sales pitch now running on empty
Looking for an underlying theme to the Barcelona Games on NBC? Here it is: all the people who died.
On every telecast, it seems, we're hearing about one athlete or another performing in memory of a dead parent, grandparent or other close relative. Failing that, maybe the athlete has been concerned about someone who's very ill.
This is not to discount the real depth of feeling that individuals might have about their loved ones. But, unfortunately, most of us have suffered a loss. And perhaps we'd want to dedicate an Olympic medal to someone's memory.
But there is -- and, no, this isn't a tasteless pun -- overkill. Viewers can become desensitized.
Tonight, we should hear the story of American swimmer Ron Karnaugh. He is competing just days after his father suffered a fatal heart attack at the Games' opening ceremonies. This is an extraordinary story. But have our hearts already been hardened?
Might as well jump
Strip away announcer John Tesh's purplish talk of gymnastics goddesses and NBC's stretching out the competition, and last night's women's all-around event made for outstanding viewing.
American Shannon Miller's silver-medal effort, particularly a nearly flawless vault, was an audience-grabber, especially when the pre-Games star, Kim Zmeskal, faltered. Maybe analysts Elfi Schlegel and Tim Daggett revealed a little bias by knocking the ** vault score given gold medalist Tatiana Gutsu, but give the announcers only a tenth of a point reduction.
HTC Did you catch Miller's coach, Steve Nunno? His last-minute instructions to Miller made him sound a bit like Mike Ditka. "Pop it up, open it and stick," he ordered.
That she did, and then allowed herself the briefest of little-girl smiles.
If you paid for the Olympics TripleCast, you shouldn't be too upset about the free look NBC is giving viewers on CNBC. What viewers get is a four-way split screen, showing the three TripleCast channels and the TripleCast logo. The audio is a pitch for the pay-per-view package. The overall effect is like a home- shopping network. Where was Susan Lucci?
We get our first look at the track and field events today. NBC has scheduled coverage of men's and women's 100-meter heats this morning (channels 2, 4, 7-10) . Look for Americans Evelyn Ashford and Dennis Mitchell.
Tonight (7:30-midnight), NBC has more swimming finals, with lots of the Americans we've grown to know and love over the past few days after never seeing them before -- Jenny Thompson, Summer Sanders and Nelson Diebel.
Also scheduled are the men's all-around gymnastics and U.S.-Brazil men's basketball game. In gymnastics, NBC already has made a rock star of the Unified Team's Vitali Scherbo, so look for more of Scherbo tonight. In basketball, take a peek at Brazil's Oscar Schmidt tossing up a tray of treys before the Americans turn the game into a rout.
For today's ratings report, let's go to Bud Collins:
The Sarnoff Soldiers racked up an 18.9 rating and 35 share on Day 4 of the Barcelona Athletic Summit on Wednesday night. That rating was 12 percent higher than the 16.9 for Day 4 prime time from the Hot-Buttered Seoul Games of 1988.
Thanks, Bud, and you'll never lose those pants, because they're checked.
NBC's four-night average of 19.3/35 is 15 percent better than the network's 16.8 average after four nights from Seoul.
NBC has sworn on Jay Leno's chin that it will deliver a 15.3 average rating for the Games.
Ratings measure the percentage of television households watching a program. Shares measure the percentage among homes where television is in place. Ohms measure the resistance equivalent to the resistance of a conductor in which ,, one volt, the unit difference of potential, produces a current of one ampere. See, you get ratings, you get science -- so be sure always to read to the end of the sports TV column.