Posts filed under 'The Olympics'

I’m Sick of Your Shit: NBC

It’s been six days and my love affair with the Olympics has ended. Or, to be more accurate, it’s been EIGHTEEN GODDAMN YEARS and NBC has BROKEN MY HEART.

I have not fallen out of love with the Olympics; no, I still go to bed every night during this fortnight murmuring “Citius, altius, fortius,” I’m still obsessively monitoring the Excel spreadsheet that features my Olympic pool (I’m currently in seventh place with six points, thanks, Shani Davis), and I’m still planning on, you know, watching the rest of the Games. But I would like to beat NBC with flaming sticks. For a couple of reasons.

First, the tape delay. Look, I know that NBC paid a shitload of money for the exclusive broadcast rights and wants to air as much of the Games as possible in primetime, because primetime commercials cost more and that’s how they make the fancy money. I work in media; I get it. But for the LOVE OF SHAUN WHITE. NBC was able to sweet-talk the Chinese into scheduling every single one of Michael Phelps’s finals in primetime, that is, at like 9:30 in the morning Beijing time. I understand that several Olympic sports, namely, the skiing, are dependent on daylight, and therefore can’t be held at 10 p.m. when it’s conducive to East Coast television schedules. But there are a number of sports that are competed indoors, namely, the massive ratings draw that is figure skating, and both snowboard halfpipe and freestyle moguls can be done at night, under lights. Not to be all EST-centric about it, but would it EFFING KILL YOU to schedule those at like 5 o’clock West Coast time and air them live? On both coasts? Because here’s the thing: I don’t like finding out who wins nine hours before I watch the race! It’s anticlimactic! It makes still-miked Lindsey Vonn sobbing happily into her husband’s chest somewhat less poignant for me! You know what I like? Suspense! Maybe if NBC put the tiniest bit of effort into preserving some of the element of surprise, we wouldn’t be all, “What, that? I heard about that five hours ago!”

Second: The Interwebs. So NBC has insisted on tape-delaying various events, including snowboard cross, skiing events, and all the short track events that don’t involve Apolo Ohno, which are relegated to the late night block with Mary Carillo and her dead eyes (more on that later). BUT. They still have live results on nbcolympics.com, so if you wander over there during the day to, say, check on how your pet luger is doing, you’ll see a great big animated graphic trumpeting Seth Wescott’s surprise repeat gold. When you had planned on watching that race after you finished your work.

I’m just confused about why NBC can’t manage to stick to one or the other. Either you’re going to tape-delay the events, and make us wait to watch them, OR you’re going to tell us who won as soon as they happen. WHY ARE YOU DOING BOTH?! It’s infuriating. Almost as infuriating as the fact that there’s nothing on the television for me to watch at work other than CURLING. SERIOUSLY. Today, there was nothing on except curling on USA until 3 p.m., when NBC started showing tape-delayed cross-country skiing. While the ladies’ downhill was happening, as Pat Kiernan’s Twitter told me. Pat, interestingly, is actually attending the Olympics with his family. And he’s a more efficient news source when he’s on vacation than NBC is while doing their effing jobs. DUDE, NBC. Stop sucking.

Third, the insane features. I know it’s a hoary cliché with, like, cobwebs on it at this point to talk about how NBC’s features are maudlin, overblown, and ridiculous. But I think they’re even worse this year. Don’t get me wrong; I love anything that reminds me that Evgeni Plushenko is a Bedazzled Darth Vader. But in Beijing, we had NBA players wandering around the Great Wall of China, and that, at least, was kind of interesting, because Dwight Howard looks funny next to befuddled Chinese tour guides. In Vancouver, which from all accounts is a completely lovely city full of delightful people, good food, and high-qualify drugs, we have MARY GODDAMN CARILLO asking some poor Yukoner when he first met a polar bear. DURING LIVE SPORTS, Mary “I do love tennis” Carillo and her dead eyes are interrogating innocent Canadians about their wildlife! WHAT THE FUCK, NBC.

This is not to say there aren’t good things. NBC finally took Dick Button out of the figure skating commentators’ booth (although they retained underminery Sandra Bezic and excitable gnome Scott Hamilton), and they’ve hired some reasonably intelligent people to call sports they specialize in, like Jonny Moseley, who did a respectable job with moguls, and Dan Jansen, who barely looks like he’s aged since his Visa commercial. And have I mentioned how I enjoy Brian Williams? I do. And I like how the Today Show folks are calling their satellite studio “Studio 1-Eh.”

Oh! But one other thing? What the HELL is up with all the fucking Dreamworks promos? It’s not just that the creators of How to Train Your Dragon bought like forty-seven-thousand ad spots during these Games, NO. They actually paid to have the commentators kick to the ad with drivel like, “Well, if you thought that ski jumping was great, wait till you see what our friends at Dreamworks have dreamed up! They think they know how Vikings might have ski jumped!” And then there are some antiseptic animations that make Shrek look like Akira and it SUCKS.

I’m too tired and tipsy (happy birthday, Kyle) to look up whether NBC has already bought the exclusive rights to the London Games. I seriously effing hope they haven’t. I don’t remember much about how the networks covered the Games pre-NBC hegemony, but SOMEONE has got to give Dick Ebersol a fucking wakeup call. Because if they’re this inept when the Games are happening three hours before us, how viciously crappy is it going to be when they’re five hours ahead?

This does not mean I am not excited about the figure skating tomorrow night. It means I want to smack some sense into Dicks Ebersol and Button, because they are RUINING THIS FOR EVERYONE. Also, I am not too dignified to say that I kind of want to see Lindsey Vonn’s gnarly shin bruise. And I want to know what cheese can do for you. Fuck, that is some air Shaun White is grabbing, yeah?

February 18th, 2010

Adventures in Noshing: What Would Brian Boitano Make?

You guys know how I love the Food Network, right? I do. I love it. My weekend rituals involve bagels, coffee, Jamie Oliver, and Nigella Lawson. And now, something else: this wonderful new show, What Would Brian Boitano Make?, in which Olympic figure skating gold medalist Brian Boitano cooks food and is adorable.

That's not juice. It's Brian Orser's tears.

That's not juice. It's Brian Orser's tears.

So I think the Food Network has been on a bit of a downward slope recently, as I haven’t enjoyed their newest crops of chefs, including Aida Mollenkamp, the Neelys, and the various Next Food Network Star winners. I’m also not a fan of Food Network Challenge, in which people attempt to make architecture out of cake. I’m more of a classicist, myself. I like the trinity: Mario, Bobby, Rachael. But if What Would Brian Boitano Make?, or WWBBM, as I’m going to call it from now on, is indicative of the network’s new direction, I whole-heartedly embrace it.

WWBBM is a pretty straightforward cooking show, at least as far as I can tell from the first episode, which aired Sunday. You will be pleased to learn that the theme song is of course the one Trey Parker and Matt Stone wrote for South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut, which is one of the things that makes BB so awesome. When Trey and Matt write a song about you, or put you on their show, it is best to react with good humor and feel rightly flattered (see also: George Clooney). And Brian is an engaging host with an easy rapport in front of the camera. Unlike Anne Burrell, whose show I like, but who is not the most natural person on-camera, Brian seems perfectly at ease talking to the camera and acting quite ridiculous. He has this splendidly sinister laugh, and I also like that the kitchen he uses does not seem to be designed for TV, and isn’t all Top Chef with the Sub Zeros and gleaming six-burner ranges. It looks like a fairly normal, although large, home kitchen.

So the first episode featured Brian cooking a spread of noshes in order to get his friend Tony laid. No, really. It was funny, with the snide little references to The Bachelor. I don’t know what they have in store for future episodes, but here’s what I’d like to see: guest star Johnny Weir. I mean, I know Johnny doesn’t eat, but how awesome would it be? They could drink sparkly cocktails and talk smack about that bitch Evan Lysacek. Michelle Kwan could come! There would be voodoo dolls of Tara Lipinski and Jeffrey Buttle. It would be the greatest cooking show EVER. Food Network, make this happen.

1 comment August 24th, 2009

Best of the rest: 2008, a year of shouting

My turn! I’m inadvertently piggybacking off Marisa’s bonus item, because these are the top 5 moments of 2008 that made me scream at my TV. Most of this is happy screaming; the vice-presidential debate would have landed around #6 just for the number of times my roommate hissed at me to stop leaping off the couch and shrieking at the box in the corner.

5. Justin Timberlake recaps a future, fictional SNL.

You know, there are a few things I love (actually, there are a lot of things I love: cheese, tiny blonde detectives, Olympic swimmers, my pajamas, Friday Night Lights, dark chocolate, romance novels, red wine…) and two of them are Justin Timberlake and Weekend Update. Oh, and Seth Meyers. And The Barry Gibb Talk Show. Okay, let’s just say I love a lot, a lot of things.

4. The Kevin Garnett puppet at the ESPYs.

Hey, it’s Justin Timberlake again! He hosted ESPN’s fake awards show this year. And he did a giant musical number that recapped the year in sports, including a reggae number featuring the Celtics’ big three, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Kevin Garnett. My favorite moment is when Garnett, in the audience, makes the exact same face as the puppet. (Garnett is the puppet on Timberlake’s left.) This is the only time in recent memory when I could stomach listening to reggae.

3. Galactica gets to Earth.

Hey, remember back on New Caprica when we were getting high and rolling around naked? Yeah, that was so much more awesome than this.

Hey, remember back on New Caprica when we were getting high and rolling around naked? Yeah, that was so much more awesome than this.

There are a lot of my-mind-is-blown moments across the four seasons of Battlestar Galactica, starting with “Holy shit, Boomer is a Cylon!” all the way up through “Holy shit, soylent earth is people!” last June with a little detour on the way for “Holy shit, Apollo married Dualla!” and “Holy shit, Admiral Cain is batshit crazy!” Personally, I often find it to be a slack-jawed in awe and/or horror kind of show, like when one of the Cylons ripped out Tigh’s eye and when the latter four Cylons all got together to the tune of “All Along the Watchtower,” but this final, silent, grim vision of the future, following so closely on the heels of the scenes of wild, joyful celebration all over the ship when they find Earth (it kind of looked like #1, below), caused me to make some sort of stunned, keening noise I can only describe as agony.

2. Jason Lezak wins the Olympic men’s 4×100 free relay.

MANLY HUGGING!

MANLY HUGGING!

Even though we were watching it a couple of hours later, Roommate and I were on our feet, hollering like they could hear us on the other side of the world. The monster? Out of the cage!

1. Obama wins. WE ALL WIN.

Crying. Screaming. Weeping. Hugging everyone. Gesturing madly with cups of champagne. Crying and screaming some more. I only remember very vividly where I was, what I was doing, what I was wearing, a few moments of my life. Even having had quite a quantity of wine that night, I hope I’ll remember this one as long as I live.

3 comments January 7th, 2009

The Olympics: There they go

I won’t be back til 2012. Welcome back to your real life.

It seems like we wait so long for the Olympics to start (and by “we” I mean me, and NBC, and about ten thousand impossibly ripped and dedicated Americans who didn’t avoid going to the gym tonight by whingeing about missing headphones) and now, in a blur of 27-hour days, about a million lengths of the Water Cube, endless vitriolic arguments about the Code of Points (SHE LANDED ON HER KNEES), and 30 minutes of nail-biting overtime, the end is here.

Now all the gold medals have been handed out, most of them to the Chinese. Michael Phelps has achieved a feat many (including myself) thought no human being could achieve, with Natalie Coughlin quietly pulling off a similar, yet unheralded, accomplishment, and the American softball dynasty has come to an end. Three young women swept the sabre medals, and one of them went directly from the podium to freshman orientation (and if that isn’t the best way to introduce yourself during the Name Game, I don’t know what is. “Hi, I’m Becca, and I’m the third best in the world with this big old sword.”). Soccer goalie Hope Solo has been redeemed, Misty and Kerri are ready to go get knocked up, and a flock of freakishly talented people born in 1987 blazed to unexpected medals and records (seriously, look at that marathon finish!).

I was listening to “Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me” a couple of days ago, as I do, and my dearest love Peter Sagal called the Olympics an entirely irony-free zone, a temporary cure for our increasing feelings of national impotence. I think that’s why I like watching the Olympics so much, even though I’ve been moaning to everyone who will listen how sleepy I am and how I wish MSNBC wouldn’t show, like, handball all day, and why the hell is rhythmic gymnastics a sport? It’s just stretching with props. Consuming as much media as I do means I also take in more snark, studied nonchalance, and thinly veiled—largely unmotivated—rage than any person really needs. The Olympics, despite the IOC’s propensity toward corruption and spinelessness (okay, if the gymnastics inquiry turns out to validate what we’ve all been saying for the past three weeks, I take it all back), are an oasis from all that. NBC’s coverage has been literally flag-waving (who is handing those flags to the runners to wrap themselves in? Their moms? The camera operators?) and jingoistic, but it’s also been refreshingly old-fashioned.

Where else can you find people so well-intentioned, clear-eyed, and optimistic? Obviously the pursuit of Olympic-level greatness is usually a solitary pursuit, one most often motivated by a yearning for personal glory, financial reward (why else would Shawn Johnson’s parents have mortgaged their house twice?), and the satisfaction of being the World’s Greatest, at least at this one obscure, inapplicable-to-real-life thing. Of course, most athletes, even most Olympians, won’t be the best and won’t get rich, but I have to assume no ten-year-old picks up an épée and says “I’m going to do this for America.” Nationalistic pride isn’t something we, as Americans, trade in so loudly anymore except at this one time, and while I think most of the competitors are motivated by those three things, most of them have mentioned how honored and pleased they feel to represent the United States, and honestly that’s kind of a difficult thing to say these days, even if you are wearing a uniform.

So these two weeks have been a glorious mental vacation of sorts. It’s been nice to ignore the presidential race, the tanking economy, the wars, and, frankly, everything else I find unpleasant: The Hills, the Yankees, the aftermath of the writers’ strike, doing dishes. I was palpably angry when Obama’s VP announcement broke into Friday night’s decathlon coverage, because it was not time to worry about that yet. I have thoroughly enjoyed losing myself in endless hours of volleyball, diving, and soccer; you just try and concentrate on off-shore drilling when Kerri Walsh hurls that impossibly long body of hers up in the air and shoves a spike down some poor Chinese girl’s throat.

And now that we’ve seen Coach K transform, at least temporarily, a pack of marginally cooperative millionaires into a free throw–shooting, teammate-supporting gang of stars and stripes–clad solid citizens, and seen Zhang Yimou blow our minds all over again, with a little assist from David Beckham at the closing ceremony, it is all over. The inflatable Fuwa are packed away (or hopefully mass-produced; I want a stuffed Jingjing), the women’s gymnastics teams returned to third-period geometry, and the London organizing committee sweating bullets. NBC will secure Bob Costas in his cryogenic chamber until Vancouver; a professional mediation team will forcibly separate Tiki and Jenna before there can be any more bloodshed; and my new favorite anchor, Jim Lampley, will hopefully get some sleep. And we’ll all be back to crass, callous media where there isn’t a pair of gawky young men from Baltimore or Jamaica moving faster than anyone has before, where no impeccable pommel horse routine can snatch a bronze medal for a team of backups and also-rans, where the closest thing to BMX is watching delivery guys try not to get sideswiped by the M23.

In other words, we’ll have to watch the DNC. Ugh. I can’t wait for football season.

4 comments August 25th, 2008

The Olympics: Bleary-eyed and yawning

I’ve spent the last half hour trying to figure out how to grab five minutes from Monday night’s broadcast from my DVR and put it here on the website (a Tifaux-to-Tifaux transfer, if you will) but, well, I can’t. And it seems no one has done it for me. So this will have to do.

These nice folks are Aaron and Sanya.Did anyone else see Bob Costas’ and Cris Collinsworth’s sassy little up-yours to an exhausted American viewing audience the other night? A little before midnight, Bob finished talking about pole vaulting (how much of a dick was the silver medalist’s coach?!) to turn earnestly to us and proclaim that he, Bob, felt our pain at staying up half the damn night for a week and half, and proceeded to offer some helpful suggestions, such as staying hydrated, wearing sunglasses, and skipping work. Thanks, guys. I actually found this kind of funny last night, but having found out what happened in the beam final from no fewer than four sources Tuesday morning, I’m kind of pissed at NBC. I wouldn’t mind the sleep deprivation quite so much if they’d shown just a few of the gymnastics event finals live in primetime so I wouldn’t have found out who won every single one by the time I finished my breakfast.
This is Eli.

Further proof that Bob is as tired as we are: During Tuesday’s broadcast he introduced a puff piece on sprinter Sanya Richards and her fiancé, football player Aaron Ross, by crediting Ross as the “Super Bowl–winning quarterback of the New York Giants.” Bob? Honey?

Eli Manning, as your channel has been reminding us every two minutes (remember him, brother of Peyton, recent first-time toucher of a naked lady?) is the Giants’ quarterback. Ross is a defensive back. Maybe you should pop some No-Doz, Bobby; it’s only Day 12.

August 21st, 2008

The Olympics: Medal-winning commercials

Here on Day 6 of the Olympics, I am exhausted, saddened by how badly the American women have been swimming, and disappointed by the blatant cheating on the part of the Chinese. But my fervor for the Games has now extended to the commercials of the games.

My current favorite is this Coca-Cola spot not featuring Yao Ming or LeBron James; it’s the one in which Morgan Freeman someone who is not Morgan Freeman solemnly intones that if you’ve drunk a Coke in the past 80 years, you, personally, right there on your couch, have placed a gold medal around the neck of a Special Olympian. Since I consider myself a humanitarian and I really enjoyed Murderball*, I love this commercial. It makes me cry a little and then my roommate ridicules me.

A close second in the awesome sweepstakes is the series that NBC has built around Michael Phelps for the past few years. Even before he became The Greatest Olympian Of All Time, Forever and Ever, Amen, this commercial delighted me. Here’s one with his adorable bulldog, Herman:

In other Olympian news, Gillette has been flogging their Champions series for a few years now. Only one of the fellas in this commercial is an Olympian (that would be the poorly-enunciating Roger Federer) and none of them can act his way out of a wet paper bag that’s open at both ends. But I kind of like it.

Federer totally sounds like a Bond villain, doesn’t he? Like Blofeld. I’m sorry that he lost, or I would be if I cared about tennis.

NBC’s hegemony extends to endless promos for their shows, of course, and while I could stand never to see another clip about Chuck, I’m totally digging the smack-Dwight-in-the-face promo for The Office.

I miss Jim with a passion that Leatherheads could not nearly satisfy. Not even the delightful Craig Robinson in Pineapple Express helped.

Finally, a real Morgan Freeman–narrated commercial that I love:

Yes, it’s melodramatic and stentorian and sepia-toned, for God’s sake, but that vault is one of my most vivid TV-sport-crossover memories, and it’s wonderful. In addition, the spot with Derek Redmond is one of the most heartbreaking things I’ve ever seen. DAMN YOU, VISA!

Do you have a favorite Olympic commercial, or do you just want Chuck to die a quick and painful death?

*Yes, I know the quad rugby players in Murderball are Paralympians. It was a joke. I kid because I love.

2 comments August 15th, 2008

The Olympics: Yappers who should quit their yapping

Okay, you guys, can we talk about the commentators at these Olympics? You know I love Bob Costas, to the point that I want a keychain of him, and I’m really enjoying the screaming from Rowdy Gaines at the Water Cube. But the gymnastics team is KILLING ME. If you haven’t been keeping up with the crazy, the booth team for both men’s and women’s gymnastics is made up of Al Trautwig, Tim Daggett, and Elfi Schlegel. Al is notable for actually looking like a trout, and for repeating himself, à la Willard Scott. Tim was a member of the gold medal–winning U.S. gymnastics team in Los Angeles, and Elfi is Canadian.

And the three of them are a pack of shrieking idiots. Let’s start with Sunday’s broadcast, the women’s team qualifying competition, when Tim compared Chellsie Memmel’s and Samantha Peszek’s sprained ankles on the eve of competition to “a tear in your wedding dress as you’re just about to walk down the aisle.” Yes, because a catastrophic (and by the way, extremely painful) injury at the climax of a decade of training and discipline and self-deprivation that keeps you from competing to your fullest potential at the single Olympic games you’re likely to qualify for, is JUST LIKE something that can be fixed with a little seam tape and a hot glue gun.

That’s just so sexist and meaningless and stupid I don’t know where to start with it. So let’s move on to how mean they’ve been to the Romanians. On Sunday, NBC’s cameras cut to Nadia Comaneci, the first woman to achieve a perfect 10 in gymnastics, who was looking vaguely European and bored, inspiring Elfi to comment on how the Romanians at this Olympics were talking to each other rather than, like, purging. And when a girl fell off the beam and her coach had the temerity to hug her, Tim commented that you’d NEVER have seen that in the old, gold medal–winning Romanian gymnast factory. The gold medal–winning gymnast factory that saw their greatest athlete defect because she wanted to eat carbs and maybe make out with a boy rather than sleep on a four-inch-wide balance beam.

This is Jonathan Horton. He’s adorable.

Monday night the team was even more vapid, if that’s possible. From NBC’s coverage, you’d think only China and the U.S. were competing in the men’s team event, even though the French were in second place after a few rounds. As one of the American men approached the high bar, which is a seriously scary apparatus, Tim, rather than telling us something relevant about great past performances on the bar or what the Americans needed to do to stay in medal contention, simply breathed reverently, “The first thing you do in high bar is, you grab the bar. You grab. The bar.”

I am so glad this ziphead is getting paid and getting a free trip to China to say something my friend’s eighteen-month-old can say (although when he yells “ba” he means “bus”).

I’m also disappointed that we’re not hearing more discussion from these announcers about the quality of the judging. They have bitched about some substantial delays, and about the instant replay the judges are allowed to watch that would seem to offer a greater degree of scrutiny than, say, the diving judges are allowed. But on Sunday the Chinese women fell off apparatus, took big steps on their landings, and otherwise faulted, and it wasn’t reflected in their scores; in fact, regardless of what they did they got higher scores than the Americans. Shawn Johnson and Nastia Liukin had particularly spectacular vaults, and their scores came in lower than similarly difficult vaults performed by Chinese athletes with less perfect landings. I’m not enough of an authority on the technical aspects, but I’m calling bullshit. I would really kill to hear John Madden call these events for the next couple of days. Or Charles Barkley.

8 comments August 13th, 2008

The Olympics: Hotness is universal

Water polo: That’s what I’m talking about.

People watch the Olympics to participate in the universal phenomenon. It’s a rare show of international cooperation — a tradition that is like no other in its scale and grandeur.

Me, I watch it for the hot softcore action.

And don’t pretend you don’t either, judgey. Even people who are really interested in displays of patriotism or athleticism can’t deny that the buffness on the men and women of the Olympics is highly distracting (and, if you must know, somewhat shaming).

As such, here is a quick round-up of the absolute hottest Olympians. I’ve rated them on a scale of one to five pecs. I’m including mens sports and womens sports, although I’m just taking my best guess on the ladies. Straight guys and lesbians should feel free to pipe up and correct me or make alternate suggestions.

Men’s gymnastics – Mens gymnastics is notable for psychotic upper body strength. However, I have to take minor deductions because of the floor routines which are, frankly, not hot. (Four pecs)

Men’s water polo – My new obsession. The problem with water polo is that the players are mostly obscured by water. However, when they’re sitting on the bench (damn, that sport must be exhausting) they are probably the hottest Olympians of them all. The fact that they have to wear their silly swim caps while being otherwise almost nude only serves to make them more humble about it. (Five pecs)

Men’s rowing – Plenty hot, but infinitely boring. (Three pecs)

Women’s beach volleyball – Admittedly, you should consider the source, but I found the womens beach volleyball team way hotter than the mens. I think it might be something about how tough they are — the grit of the sand, the bare midriffs, etc. (Five pecs)

Women’s softball – If for no other reason than Jennie Finch, right? (Three pecs)

4 comments August 12th, 2008

Special Correspondent: Olympics Opening Ceremony

[Ed. Note: Please welcome Friend of the Faux Sara who’s here to talk to us about things we know little about. Namely, sport. The Olympics. They’re happening, did you hear?]

In honor of Friday’s opening ceremonies, here’s a look back at some notable moments from the past four summer Games, starting with the one that got me stuck. (For thoughts on the Winter Olympics, check this space in 2010, when we will discuss Kristi Yamaguchi and her enormous influence on my concept of womanhood.)

Click to continue reading “Special Correspondent: Olympics Opening Ceremony”

August 8th, 2008


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