Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

Olympic Withdrawal

The upshot of this piece may well be this: this very moment, in a room near where I am currently writing, I have one of the NBC’s lesser-known networks on the TV. They’re running edited-together highlight packages of the recently-completed Olympic Games. London 2012 lives on, seemingly. And I like it.

Just the sound of the Olympic track and field events, swimming races, volleyball games is enough to take the sting out of the truth: the Closing Ceremonies are over, and all the athletes are now at Heathrow Airport trying to get out of the UK. And when I swing past the TV on my way to fetch something or get something to eat or whatever, I’m comforted by the sight of the pastel decorations all around whichever venue is being featured; color schemes and logos that would be laughed out of the planning rooms of most other sporting events are embraced and encouraged in Olympic brainstorming sessions, and that alone can make watching the Olympics that much different from any other event.

And so, with that as backdrop and backstory, I continue to live in the recent past. More accurately, a few moments from the Olympic fortnight are still reverberating in my head, and not all of them were top headlines. Here are some entries from my Virtual London Olympics Spiral-Bound Reporter’s Notebook…


[] “Never mind the gymnastics tonight … this afternoon I watched the women’s judo final: the US woman won the gold medal; she climbed onto the top medal platform; and at the first very note of the Star-Spangled Banner, her composure just dissolved. Confession: I had to get up and make a sandwich.

Meanwhile, the TV cameras showed the fiance of said gold medal winner, and he was very very happy. A gentle note to this fine young man: behave well. You are marrying someone who can flip you.”

[] “There is controversy in badminton. (That alone is a sentence I never thought I’d type.) Seems a Chinese doubles team was been removed from the tournament because they were playing with a strategy of positioning themselves well for the medal round, which appeared to all observers to be, in certain circumstances, playing not to win. I saw highlights: these people were blatantly serving into the net, repeatedly. On the one hand, they were interpreting the official rules correctly, which probably means someone needs to go back and edit the rules a tad. On the other hand, if you’d paid ridiculous money to see an Olympic event, you’d want to see athletes appearing to try to go higher, faster, stronger (louder); thus the ferocious booing is understandable. Apparently no one outside the US knows the phrase ‘Black Sox’.”

[] “I like National Public Radio fine, and Susan Stamberg particularly. This morning, though, their reporting and commentary this morning about the Olympics is unbearable in its snark and holier- or hipper-than-thou attitude.”

[] “Watched a bit of two-man kayaking. A couple of these guys were paddling so hard, I would swear I saw the top edge of their boat actually get below the level of the Thames River. Could’ve been an optical illusion, I suppose, as no one drowned all week.”

[] “I’ve had a great time watching springboard diving, because of many of the divers’ approach to the end of the board, to wit: stand ten feet from the end … take a step forward and launch yourself (one-footed) in the air … come down on the other foot and similarly launch yourself yet again … NOW hit the end of the board with both feet and do the voodoo you do. Splatsh!”

[] “I’ve had a miserable (and short) time watching platform diving, though, because I am desperately afraid I may watch one of these wood sprites crack her head on the platform. It’s not (*PUBBA-dubba-dubba-dubba*) springboard diving anymore.”

[] “Memo to Conan O’Brien: usually you are a funny man. However, is it worth the laughs you may have gotten, to make fun of US Olympic weightlifter Holley Mangold’s weight? That’s 350 pounds she’s lifting. Can you lift that? She’s at the Olympics. Are you? Will you ever be? Sorry, Conan, but let’s face it: Ms. Mangold can lift, what, three of you?”

[] “In the last 24 hours, I have watched: men’s doubles badminton, men’s field hockey, women’s team handball, women’s water polo, women’s 8s rowing, and women’s weightlifting. Why? Because [thank you, network execs who decide what kind of sports are popular] I won’t be able to watch these interesting sports for another 3 3/4 years. (Yeah, yeah, men’s basketball, whatever.)”

[] “Hands down, the most tolerable NBC Olympics announcer is long-time Celtics TV guy Mike Gorman, over at the Team Handball venue. Understated is appreciated.”

[] “Follow-up to yesterday’s Olympic media criticism: the Most Tolerable Studio Anchor Award goes to Michelle Beadle (Costas a distant, distant second). Whoever NBC had to trade away to get her from ESPN, the deal was a slam dunk. Humor that’s actually… funny; and if she’s reading copy off a teleprompter, you wouldn’t know.”

[Postscript: upon further review, the referees have decided that the name “Costas” needs to be excised from that last paragraph, and replaced with either “Dan Patrick” or “no one”. -Ed.]

[] “It’s the women’s-eight crew competition, and the US wins gold again, and AGAIN, at the helm is the mighty Mary Whipple!”

[] “With water polo and team handball, I appear to have chosen the two Olympics sports where whistles mean something but they don’t stop play — and there are approximately 42,000 whistles per game. Sounds like a pack of drum majors or something.”

[] “Thanks to my being a political junkie, for the first time ever, I was actually aware that there was an equestrian event that didn’t involve logical horsey things like jumping over stuff without knocking it over. So I watched about five minutes of the dressage event. I didn’t get to see the Romney Horse, but I saw enough to make me wonder: how in the living heck can they (and how in the heck long does it take them to) train a horse to move like that?! And, with regards to judging these tap-dancing equines, … I suppose if humans can be judged on floor exercise and figure skating, I guess horses can be evaluated on their dance moves.

[] “Confession: I will watch the US women’s soccer team play anywhere, any time. If I were a soccer coach coaching anyone other than the US women, I would be completely terrified of Alex Morgan. Go to the dictionary and look up ‘explosive acceleration’ and you’ll find a picture of Ms. Morgan’s feet.”

[] “For the record, before either the US or Canada wins this one [women’s soccer semifinal match]: this has been a nasty ol’ soccer game. Very entertaining. It’s Bruins/Canadiens of the early ’90s out there.”

[] “So the US women beat Canada in soccer in an epic match, and afterward the Canadians creeb and moan about two missed calls. I am tempted to trot out the ‘life ain’t fair’ meme, but that was really close to an American handball. So, in the bronze medal round, statistically France is all over Canada – something like 23 shots to 4 – but Canada prevails, on a goal in the 91st minute. Here’s the thing: I’d love to see the replay of that goal, because I would have sworn a Canadian striker was about ten feet offside on the play. But if the linesman had made that call, would it have destroyed the Canadians psychologically?”

[] “My favorite quirky thing of the whole 2012 Summer Olympiad is from Greco-Roman wrestling events: the Challenge Brick!!”

[] “The balance beam event, in women’s gymnastics, still makes me very, very, very, very, very nervous. My not-too-overactive imagination imagines one bad step and a head hitting the beam on the way, inevitably and inexorably, to the ground. And the sound that would make. And sixteen thousand spectators inhaling sharply.”

[] “One of the pre-recorded pieces that NBC showed, to kick off an evening broadcast, was about the US women’s gymnastics team from the Atlanta games in 1996. Much was made of Kerri Strug’s early-career struggles, but her eventual ankle-bending, pain-induced-grimacing final vault, which clinched the gold medal for the US team. Inspiring story, but there was one thing I wish they hadn’t included so much of, for the sake of my very young niece and nephew, with whom I was watching this. They showed archival video of an injury which Strug incurred while training several months before to the US Olympic trials, in which she came off the uneven bars (I think) all wrong and landed splat on her head, neck and back. The landing was bad enough; but what was truly awful to watch, and I swear they let this video clip run for 25 horrible seconds, was Strug lying there, writhing in pain (and yet trying not to because as it turned out she dinged up a couple of actual spinal vertebrae in the fall), with a look of mingled pain and disbelief, and making sounds that no ten- or six-year-old should be forced to hear, on prime time television.”

[] “Your instructions are simple: go to YouTube, find a world-class doubles match in the sport of table tennis, and watch. This is not the sport I played in the basement as a kid. It ain’t all slam-bang (that’s singles). It’s actually intricate.”

[] “In the Beach Volleyball gold medal match, it’s Misty May and Kerri Walsh (the latter seeming like a genuinely fun person, even in the midst of dogged competition) put on what can only be described as a volleyball clinic. However, in the end, I much prefer volleyball with a floor that you can actually jump off with some oomph.”

[] “And that [US/Japan gold medal final] entirely entertaining (if stressful) soccer match is what the world [of sport] could use more of: full-tilt competition with precious few whistles, no cheap fouls, and one largely ceremonial yellow card. If the US’ semifinal match v. Canada reminded me of a Bruins/Canadiens slugfest of a playoff hockey game from the early 1990s – a chippy affair played with cheerful bad attitudes – then the gold-medal game v. Japan was Borg/McEnroe minus the yelling at the chair umpire. It was almost elegant. The red-jerseyed Japanese team’s offense was so mesmerizing that I found myself admiring it and not remembering that I was supposed to be pulling for the navy blue US people.”

[] “Women’s team handball final. Rough-and-tumble, physical game all afternoon long. Norway heavily favored over Montenegro, but Montenegro never trails by more than two goals. Fifteen seconds left, Norway ahead by two, with the ball. Norway holds the ball; Montenegro certainly appears to genuinely applaud Norway players. Sportsmanship. … Time runs out: Norway sheds tears for gold; Montenegro smiles wildly for the silver they weren’t expected to achieve. … Good game.”

[] “If you, as a TV announcer of track and field events, are hoarse before the end of the evening’s broadcast? … you are yelling way too much. Period. The end.”

[] “Checked into the Closing Ceremonies briefly, just in time to hear 80,000 or so people do the world’s largest ‘you-hoooooooooo’ in the midst of John Lennon’s “Imagine”. This is truly tolerable!”

[] “Oh. George Michael. Never mind.”


I used to think that shifting the Winter Olympics by two years was just a craven attempt by Committees and TV networks to make more money more often.  Now … I think it’s the best idea ever.  When do the Winter Games start again … ?


August 13, 2012 - Posted by | celebrity, entertainment, Famous Persons, heroes, media, sports, television | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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