NBC's callous approach mars a brilliant run ATLANTA OLYMPICS

Media Watch

July 30, 1996|By Milton Kent

How would you feel if, after years of toil, training and suffering, you had turned yourself into the world's best, only to have the moment tainted by a sense of underachievement?

If that happened, you would be in good company, since you'd be joined by Michael Johnson, whose golden moment, a win in the 400-meter run, was tarnished by the weight of NBC's expectations.

Before the race, NBC hands from Bob Costas to race callers Tom Hammond and Craig Masback set the table for Johnson's certain demonstration of superiority, with Masback implying that with the Olympic Stadium track yielding world records in other sprints, Johnson would do no less.

In every reasonable sense, Johnson was triumphant, winning the race handily over his competitors -- his 55th consecutive win at that distance -- and in Olympic record time to boot.

As the race ended, and he was being interviewed by Cris Collinsworth, Johnson became an even bigger winner, dedicating his race to the memory of Alice Hawthorne, the Georgia woman who lost her life in the bombing at Centennial Olympic Park.

Then, Collinsworth asked Johnson if he was disappointed that he hadn't set a world record, which was akin to asking a U.S. men's basketball team member if beating China by 50 points is a disappointment.

Johnson graciously dodged the question, but one wonders if we have reached the point where simply to win and achieve -- rather than to win, achieve, dominate and then preen -- aren't enough.

Johnson, who runs Thursday in the 200, will have another chance to conquer. Here's hoping he doesn't let NBC down.

The good

On the theory that women want stories more than results and action, NBC has wrapped these Olympics, particularly in prime time, in presentations right out of Danielle Steel novels.

And yet, the most attractive program of each day, particularly for hard-core sports fans, is the morning show, airing at 10 a.m. each weekday.

Since track and field opened last Friday, the morning show has looked a lot like what we have come to expect from sports telecasts, with people actually doing things, rather than violin-accompanied features about people seeking to rise above every conceivable disadvantage.

The bad

What else? John Tesh's screech as the balance beam gold medal was clinched for Shannon Miller. And just when we thought we would be done with Tesh, with the end of gymnastics, along comes rhythmic gymnastics. Oy!

The hoped for

Sometime before the end of the Games on Sunday, it would be nice if one of "Dick Enberg's Moments" was devoted to the story of the life and times of Alice Hawthorne, whose death is as much, if not more, of a symbol of these Olympics as Kerri Strug's vault.

Pub Date: 7/30/96

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