Tonya-Nancy gets Super Bowl styling

February 24, 1994|By Phil Jackman

The TV Repairman:

Now that (pause for effect) was big. Big-big.

Think about it. Television doesn't even show the warmups at the Super Bowl as CBS did while presenting the first round of the great Tonya vs. Nancy battle.

Notice! Due to technical difficulty, Ms. Harding's, there will be no concluding chapter. It will hurt ratings, yes, Tonya gazing up from 10th position after the ladies' short program, but leader Ms. Kerrigan will still have her hands full with Europe's best, Oksana Baiul and Surya Bonaly, ready to pounce.

In keeping with the magnitude of the event, the network employed all its this-is-big techniques, including showing the lead players showing up at the arena hours before the competition.

Only thing missing was a short talk with the coach as he alighted from ground transportation, a la team bus arriving at a Super Bowl team's hotel.

The staging of the three-hour show by CBS was so predictable, it was comfortable: Katarina Witt went on at 8:15 to whet our interest. Next came Harding at 9 o'clock, just as program changes were taking place on the other networks.

There were things to cover and Bonnie Blair's record fifth gold medal in the 1,000-meter speed skate filled very nicely.

With such outstanding talent skating in the final rotation, the net needed some extra time. And Italian slalom star Alberto Tomba cooperated nicely by being disqualified from the giant slalom.

From 10 o'clock on, it was everything viewers could ask for as skater after skater hit their routines almost on the mark until Kerrigan closed out the show. Her effort was such that looking at one of the rare low scores, CBS analyst Scott Hamilton said, "I wonder what the Great Britain judge was looking at." Indeed.

No matter if you're pro or con Tonya, the competition proved one thing: She had no business being out there with this lineup.

Oh, once again Tonya declined to be interviewed, which was probably a mistake. It might not be too much longer before the media has no special desire to record her thoughts.

TC * It would be nice if the networks and their announcers would credit us with at least an eyedropper's worth of sophistication when it comes to events involving American teams and individuals taking part in international competition.

From the outset it was apparent this was a typical U.S. hockey team competing in the Winter Olympics: combative (macho), slow to adapt, lots of misdirected energy and great until proven otherwise.

It didn't take long, but woe be onto the play-by-play man or analyst who played it straight with us, the audience. Until yesterday.

Jiggs McDonald and Joe Micheletti, TNT's voices, finally let us in on the bush attitude of our guys during a 6-1 waxing by Finland.

The score tells you all you have to know about what happened on the ice. Worse than the play, though, were things like attempting to start fights, insistence upon taking stupid penalties and a laughable pre-game act designed to intimidate the Finns, two U.S. players barging right through the opposition as it conducted its warmup.

Somebody should have told the lads, "Hey, that's 'Slap Shot' stuff, this is the Olympics." It probably would have fallen on deaf ears.

The last team to make the quarterfinals thanks to Italy and France being in its pool, Team USA should have been able to see it was outmanned. No need to prove it was outclassed, too, by reaffirming that maybe the "Ugly American" thing lingers.

McDonald finally let it slip that what he had been referring to as "youthful aggressiveness" was probably stupidity by spoiled brats.

"They thought they had prepared the team well," Jiggs said of Hockey USA's effort the past six months. "But they found they weren't at the level of some other countries." Thing is, a lot of the players won't even recognize that it was a lesson.

* If there's ever been a better sports shot than the ski jumpers flying off into the wild blue yonder caught from behind, it escapes memory. Almost as good were the profile shots of the Japanese jumpers leaning in as they soared 135 meters.

* The more we see of Norway's King Harald, the more one is left with the impression that he might not have a day job. Word is he saved his vacation time.

* By actual count (not certified as being totally accurate), CBS worked 82 commercials and 26 promos (network and local) into Tuesday night's telecast. How would you like to keep viewers around through that deluge?

* The definition of "English reserve" was in evidence after Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean had been robbed of the gold medal in ice dancing when Dean said, "We were confused by the marking [scores]."

* Way back before the Olympics started, Greg Gumbel said of his prime-time hosting assignment, "You have to make sure you don't make the audience heave seeing you so much. You have to be a genial host, welcome them, then get out of the way and out to the venues." He's fulfilled his duties admirably.

* Sportspeak is wonderful. The current rage among skaters is to say, "What's most important to me is making myself happy." Right. So why not bypass all the hype and commotion of the Olympics and look to skate "clean" in some empty practice facility back in the States?

* In case you were wondering, the video and audio from Olympic events travel from the venues to Lillehammer, to a satellite over the Atlantic Ocean, to Staten Island to CBS headquarters in New York, to Channel 11, to you.

* If you think the national anthem of Italy is lengthy, wait until you get the opportunity to hear Mexico's (wear very comfortable shoes). . . . I still think the Kodak-Tommy Higgins making a snow angel ad is the best so far. . . . Recalling an interview with skier Marc Girardelli last week, I sort of enjoyed it when he wiped out on the slopes yesterday.

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