Press Coverage: What NBC Has Done Right, Overused Miracles, Media Apologies & Online Games

We have spent so much time talking about what NBC has done wrong with these Olympics – from the tape delayed events to the seemingly unrelated "Olympic" fluff pieces to the networks complete and utter disregard for their partnership with the NHL by burying hockey on cable channels in favor of ice dancing(!?!) and eight-hour old alpine results – but there has to be something NBC is doing right. Right? ↵

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↵I mentioned last week that NBC had hired nearly everyone they could and shipped them up to Vancouver to announce, commentate and analyze the Winter Games. And more than a week in, everyone is really good. Al Michaels may be the best play-by-play man of all time and he's the back-up in the studio to Bob Costas, who is probably the best studio guy of all time. ↵

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↵NBC really has done a wonderful job putting together solid play-by-play personnel with former Olympians and World Champions who not only know their sports well, but aren't afraid to critique the current athletes. ↵

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↵A guy like Jonny Moseley had no problem criticizing the freestyle skiers for having bad form or taking the easy way out of a jump by tucking their knees. Scott Hamilton, during my lifetime at least, is figure skating coverage and Tom Hammond is seasoned enough to know when to get out of his way. Bob Papa and his crew of Duncan Kennedy, John Morgan and Lee Ann Parsley have done an adept job of not only bringing us the various sledding competitions, but balancing those events with the continuing controversy coming from the track as well. ↵

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↵It's not fair to really leave out anyone, as NBC's announcing crew, safe a few hiccups here and there, has done a solid job. Tim Ryan and his crew have done well with the (taped) alpine events, Matt Vasgersian and Jeff Hastings have really explained the technique needed for ski jumping and Al Trautwig and Chad Salmela have managed to make cross country skiing palatable, in just a few more examples of NBC's wide-span of television coverage. ↵

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↵Both the long and short track speed skating broadcast teams have done a very good job with their coverage as well, vacillating between an in-depth look at the storylines – Shani Davis and Apolo Anton Ohno, respectively – with solid race analysis. Ted Robinson and Andy Gabel have really broken down the short track theory during their races, both while the race is happening and in the instant replays, as well. Dan Hicks is as solid as anyone in the industry, but I am surprised at how good Dan Jansen has become, making the duo one of the top teams for NBC. ↵

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↵But no crew, for my money, has been as good as Andrew Catalon, Don Duguid and Colleen Jones. There is a lot of time in a curling match to discuss theory of each shot, and this crew has no problem giving their opinion, especially when it differs from the Olympians. They pull no punches. In fact, the other day Jones even took a shot at NBC and Jay Leno during a match, saying that winning an Olympic gold can get you on the couch of the Tonight Show before making the joke that she's not sure how many people will be watching at this point. Even Fred Roggin, who is hosting the coverage, has been a great part of every telecast. He's clearly reading cards or a prompter that's well below the perched camera they've given him, and his inability to read the script while looking into the camera, combined with his somewhat dismissive tone of voice, wholeheartedly ads to the fun and kitschiness of the event. ↵

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↵I'll admit on a roster of names you can't not know, I was unfamiliar with Catalon before these Olympics. He has proven to be affable, professional and asks questions about the game that the fan at home would want the answers to. His Twitter feed (no tweeting during the Olympics, it says) lists him as a Sports Anchor at WNYT NewsChannel 13 in Albany. Catalon called the handball event in Beijing – he's two for two with the trendy, buzz-worthy sports – and if he doesn't come out of these Olympics with a steady national job, someone hasn't been paying attention. ↵

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↵If radio is your bag, the New York Times has a look at the team doing closed-circuit radio of the figure skating events. That sounds…riveting. Actually, as the report says, it's rather hilarious. ↵

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↵Sunday's U.S.-Canada Match Was No Miracle ↵
↵A few people I didn't mention in the above list were Mike Emrick and Ed Olcyzk, who are as solid a hockey crew as you can find. Wait, that's not fair. Olczyk has been better than I expected in the last few years, but calling Emrick 'solid' is in no way fair to his talents. ↵

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↵He's the best. Al Michaels was in the building, doing a live look at the U.S.-Canada game with Cris Collinsworth for NBC while the game was inexplicably on MSNBC, and I thought that it would have been a neat thrill if, for one game, Michaels could call a U.S. Hockey Olympic contest. But that wouldn't be fair to Emrick, who has an absolute sense of the moment at all times in the game. Some may find him to be a bit too excitable, but he's been spot on with his coverage in these Games. His "six and three-quarter minutes remaining in the game" way of saying six minutes and 45 seconds is one of those style points you just have to love. And no, it's not because he constantly references Cherry Hill, N.J. when talking about American Bobby Ryan. That's just a hometown plus. ↵

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↵Now, as for the rest of the hockey crew, they have been solid (some people may think less so about Jeremy Roenick's work), but can we please stop referencing the "Miracle on Ice" already? It's fine that NBC constantly cuts to Mike Eruzione in the crowd. The guy only gets face time for two weeks every four years and deserves his due, but these odd comparisons to 1980 have become ridiculous. Michaels made the comparison with regard to the atmosphere in the arena Sunday night, before Collinsworth later transitioned into his point by saying, "Jim Craig was great for the US Hockey team in 1980, but I can't imagine he was better than Ryan Miller here tonight." ↵

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↵Why bring that up? Why not bring up Mike Richter, who helped lead the U.S. to silver in 2002 and is widely recognized as the best American goaltender of all time. And in no way is it just Collinsworth. NBC has been trading off the "Miracle" theme all Olympics. It's enough already. First of all, this roster of U.S. Hockey Olympians, while young and lacking experience at the international level at key positions, is in no way as big an underdog as the 1980 team. They are all NHL players, most of whom are All-Stars. ↵

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↵And it's happened elsewhere too. On more than one occasion, including during an interview with Michaels, references to the "Miracle on Ice" were invoked for Evan Lysacek's gold medal victory over Evgeni Plushenko. It's like there's a checklist for the phrase at this point: ↵

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↵⇥Is it the Olympics? Check. Is there an American involved? Check. Is the American and underdog? Check. Is there ice? Check. Are they wearing skates on that ice? Check. Are there any Russians and/or hockey players involved? Check. Miracle! ↵
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↵Kornheiser Said What? Who Cares? ↵
↵Usually whenever Tony Kornheiser says something inflammatory about another media person, my email inbox explodes with "did you hear what Mr. Tony said today." Last week, that didn't happen, until someone sent me the link a few days later to The Big Lead's story that Kornheiser critiqued an outfit that Hannah Storm wearing on SportsCenter. Kornheiser was no different than he is every day, saying: ↵

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↵⇥"Hannah Storm in a horrifying, horrifying outfit today. She’s got on red go-go boots and a catholic school plaid skirt … way too short for somebody in her 40s or maybe early 50s by now.” [She's 47.] “She’s got on her typically very, very tight shirt. She looks like she has sausage casing wrapping around her upper body." ↵
↵Do you know how many times Kornheiser has said nearly the exact same thing about Storm in the last few years? At least 30. You should hear what he says about the exposed arms of Hota Kotb, host of NBC's Today's fourth hour. Kornheiser does his radio show with two TVs on in the booth – one on SportsCenter and one on, as he calls it, the Today Program for the specific reason of using it as fodder for the show. He constantly comments on Storm's outfits on the show, so to those who listen every day, it was maybe a little more harsh this time, but not anything out of the ordinary. ↵

↵If a tree falls in the forest – or in this case an old subversive radio host rips a woman on TV – and it takes two days for the blogs to hear it, is it worth reporting? In this case, because Storm and Kornheiser both get paychecks from the same company, it's certainly worth reporting. And while he both publicly apologized to Storm on his show, and mentioned that he privately apologized as well, Kornheiser has to love this mess because it reminds people that, yes, he still has a radio show and that he's prone to say anything about anyone at any time…especially if she's wearing something provocative on TV during the hours he tapes his show. ↵

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↵Tiger, Media & Perspective ↵
↵Just one quick note on the Tiger Woods situation from last week. After Tiger spoke to that room of hand-picked friends and family, PGA Commissioner Tim Finchem had a news conference, taking questions from members of the media in attendance. To the point of the GWAA boycott and the vociferous online applause from non-GWAA writers for doing so: wouldn’t that have been the reason to go to the event? It seemed there were more media allowed into that conference than Tiger's, but there were obvious opportunities for members of the media to get a story other than Tiger's body language or the head-on camera cutting out. ↵

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↵Kevin McGuire from The Examiner and other non-traditional media even went so far as to question the GWAA's integrity by "standing up" to Woods and boycotting the event when it was clearly the top story in golf. If a local newspaper puts in a request for 10 credentials for the Super Bowl and only gets two, will that paper boycott, or play by the rules set by the people putting on the huge event their readers want to know about? Where's the line? Are the members of the GWAA so fed up with one guy thinking he runs their sport that they lost sight of the fact that he actually does? ↵

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↵Speaking of media perspective and Tiger Woods, it wouldn't be a huge national story without our favorite major-city newspaper columnist, back in the pages of the Philadelphia Inquirer chiming in with the likes of: ↵

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↵⇥His pregnant pause while staring into the camera before saying "I'm sorry" was fake. His stuttering and stumbling over written words spoke more about his lack of familiarity with those words than his discomfort with speaking them. ↵⇥

↵⇥The hug Woods gave his mother was made for the highlight reels. And his walking away from the podium, head bowed, puppy-dog faced, was straight out of the soap operas. ↵⇥

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↵⇥Stay tuned! General Hospital may call him soon. ↵⇥

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↵It's interesting that Stephen A. would pick General Hospital of all shows, what with the fact that he had a 13-second stint on GH a few years ago. So did SAS expect us to forget he once portrayed a reporter on the show, or was he hoping we'd remember? ↵

↵Two Blogger Contests You Should Get In On ↵
↵First, Josh Zerkle from With Leather and I have teamed up again. No, this is not Vegas related, but we're hosting an online curling tournament tomorrow and Thursday nights. We're cutting off the sign up to around 50 people for pool play, with the finals consisting of an NCAA-style bracket tournament on Thursday night. We're filling up fast. To sign up, click here. ↵

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↵Second, we mentioned last week that writers during Spring Training talk a lot about food, but this contest takes the, er, cake. Brian from Punk on Deck is conducting a Twitter-based competition to track beat writers' eating habits. If you RT any beat writer's discussion about food with a reply to @punkondeck, and are the first person to send him that tweet, you get points. The most points at the end of Spring Training wins prizes. Click through to see the different scoring regulations and get involved. ↵

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↵This, friends, is a great use of Twitter. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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