Manipulation medal already goes to Lewis

Media Watch

August 03, 1996|By Milton Kent

We'll know later tonight whether Carl Lewis will get his 10th official gold medal, which would be an Olympic record, but whether he does or not, Lewis already has copped the award for these Games for the most shameless manipulation of the media.

After winning a surprise gold earlier this week in the long jump, Lewis immediately began a disingenuous campaign to get onto the 4x100 meter relay team tonight, in spite of the fact that he ran last in the Olympic trials and wouldn't participate in a pre-Olympic camp.

From NBC and CNN interviews to his citing of an ESPN Internet poll, Lewis has placed subtle, but ever-present pressure on the quartet of sprinters to yield a spot on the team, so that he can gather more glory, knowing full well that the media would make a big deal of it, given his acknowledged stature in the track world.

And, God love us, the media -- television, newspapers, everyone -- have played right into Lewis' act, because as we've seen from people such as Dennis Rodman and Deion Sanders, substance takes a distant back seat these days to style and self-promotion.

U.S. team coach Erv Hunt has the merits of the matter on his side, but that may not be enough when the force of a compliant media has been turned loose by a guy who won't give up the spotlight.

The good

One of the best of the myriad of NBC's features that have run during the Games aired last night and had nothing to do with the competition.

The piece in question was a lovely tribute to Southern hospitality and how it was key to Atlanta's successful bid to gain the Olympics. It was the kind of peek into the culture and norms of the host's society that we usually see when the Games air in other countries, and was a jewel in the rough.

The bad

In paying a brief, but noticeable tribute to Julie Pound during the synchronized swimming final, NBC conveniently neglected to mention a couple of things.

The first was that her husband, Dick Pound, is the lead television negotiator for the International Olympic Committee, and the person who helped shepherd through the deal that brought the network five Olympics in the next 12 years.

The second thing NBC swam over was that Julie Pound was arrested earlier this week for kneeing an Atlanta police officer in the groin while the officer attempted to cite the Pounds for jaywalking. The moral here is, if you're going to tell a story, tell it all, even the bad stuff.

The familiar

If it feels as though you've heard some of the background music NBC has used, it's because you probably have.

For instance, the short burst NBC has used to set up some of the track sprints is, appropriately, the theme from the movie "Speed."

On the obscure end, the tune the network has employed to promo the next day's coverage is the theme to "The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.," a witty western that ran a couple years back on Fox and airs in reruns on TNT.

Of course, if you knew either of those, you, like the writer of this column, need to get a life.

Pub Date: 8/03/96

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