Faster, higher, full of action


NBC puts the focus where it belongs, on the competition

the Olympics

August 15, 2008|By RAY FRAGER

Trying to type this week's sports media notes with chlorine-soaked red eyes from watching too much swimming from Beijing:

* Overall, NBC is keeping the action moving along from the Olympics.

Telecasts aren't filled with weepy features about the team handball player from Ukraine trying to win a medal for his cousin back home recovering from pinkeye. That's not to say we're getting no context, but we're getting lots of competition, as it should be.

And the beach volleyball pair of Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh has already gotten more prime-time minutes than some of the network's sitcoms.

* Yes, Bob Costas is quick. The other night, after Michael Phelps told NBC's Andrea Kremer how his goggles filled with water as he was heading to a world-record win in the 200-meter butterfly, Costas said, "If you're wondering if Michael Phelps is good enough to do it with his eyes closed - he is."

* After news broke of how Chinese Olympic officials replaced the young girl singer in the opening ceremony with a cuter version who lip-synced, my first thought was of C&C Music Factory. The group had a No. 1 hit with "Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)" in 1991.

You might recall the video, featuring a sexy young woman belting out part of the song. However, that singing actually was done by Martha Wash, who has a terrific voice but is rather full-figured. You might also recall Wash as one of the Weather Girls, of "It's Raining Men" fame.

But I digress.

* NBC isn't plastering it all over the screen, but the network has at least had its commentators tell viewers when they are making the call from a New York studio rather than China. If you were paying attention, you heard Barry MacKay say - though maybe just once - he and Jimmy Arias were in New York as they described the James Blake-Roger Federer tennis match from Beijing yesterday on MSNBC. With that knowledge, a viewer could notice a bit of a different feel, particularly when MacKay and Arias sounded unsure or just wrong on balls hit near the lines.

* The network's got off to a big start, ranking first among Olympic Web sites in unique visitors on each of the Games' first three days - 2.7 million, 4.0 million and 3.3 million, according to Nielsen Online. However, on Monday, Yahoo's Olympic pages had more visitors, 5.3 million to 4.6 million.

* The Olympics really can be about unique viewing experiences. You can end up watching 2,000 drummers keeping a beat or seeing a flying former gymnastics champion light the caldron during the opening ceremony. Or, even more startlingly, you can see Craig Sager reporting on basketball while not wearing a DayGlo blazer.

* When Bela Karolyi gets agitated - by, say, Chinese female gymnasts who might be too young to compete in the Games - his Romanian accent becomes more pronounced, and he's difficult to understand.

* It could be my old, slow eyes, but fencing is one of those Olympic sports that doesn't translate well on television. The red and green lights go on, but it's difficult to tell where the saber, foil or epee has landed.

On the other hand, the Olympic boxing scoring system adds a great deal to watching a match. Unlike the matches we're accustomed to seeing, where the scoring by rounds is often a guessing game, the Games feature a running tally for each boxer, so we know just where each one stands at any point in the bout.

* Enough already with the Maryland Lottery commercial featuring the fat guy on the balance beam. (However, the odds my wife would say he resembles me are a lot better than your odds of hitting the numbers.) But I'm still enjoying the Nike spots with the rapid-fire images of athletes set to the Killers' "All These Things That I've Done" - the one that goes, "I've got soul, but I'm not a soldier."

* Token non-Olympic note: Tomorrow night's Orioles game (at 7) is airing only on WJZ/Channel 13, not MASN or MASN2, because of the Ravens' preseason game (7:30). The Ravens are on MASN2 and the Washington Nationals on MASN (also at 7). The Ravens-Minnesota Vikings game will also be broadcast on WMAR/Channel 2. The Channel 2 pre-game show, a half-hour program at 6:30, features freshly retired WMAR sports anchor Scott Garceau co-hosting with Rob Carlin.

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