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Lou Pickney's Online Commentary

Torino Olympics

Saturday
February 18, 2006

It's been interesting watching the 2006 Winter Olympics. NBC is clearly taking it hard in the ratings, losing out to first-run programming from the other networks, which are not afraid of going heads-up with the 20th Winter Olympiad.

Seeing SSX Tricky in Olympic form has been amusing, though it was disappointing to see Lindsey Jacobellis not get the gold medal. I watched the 10 hour (or so) tape delayed highlights last night, and couldn't believe the fall as I saw it happen. She grabbed her board in mid-air on the second to last jump, which was a "show off" type move (as she was way ahead of second place at that point), but she fell on the landing, allowing Swiss boarder Tanja Frieden to get the gold. I felt horrible for Jacobellis.

SportsCenter last night ran a "Top 10 Worst Early Celebrations" in honor of the historic collapse, which included things like the famous LSU/Kentucky football game where Kentucky's coach had the stupid tradition of the Gatorade bucket being poured on him... only for LSU to win on the final play on a miracle TD pass to Devery Henderson. Apparently ESPN didn't have its sharpest decision makers putting the highlights together, as most of them were from the past three years, save for #1 (the Bill Buckner 1986 World Series flub.) I can never see that enough as a Yankees fan (since I know it pains Red Sox fans every time it is shown), but it really didn't belong since the game was tied at that point. But I digress.

One other thing about Jacobellis: she was in that awful Visa check card commercial where her coach tries to clear her head and finally manages to do so by telling her to imagine that her Visa check card has been stolen. What? I always thought that was stupid, and apparently I wasn't alone. According to this link, the commercial was a failure. "Ad Track respondents weren't impressed. Just 6 percent like the ad "a lot" compared with the Ad Track average of 21 percent. In addition, only 8 percent consider the ads "very effective," compared with the average of 21 percent."

As I type this, the ski-and-shoot biathalon is on TV. It's a bizarre combo when you think about it, but it makes for some compelling television. Well, it would if NBC didn't cut in for commercials every five minutes. Maybe that's why they've been losing in the ratings so much...

Wow, great finish between Defrasne and Bjoerndalen at the end of the ski-and-shoot. Defrasne pulled ahead at the very end to take gold. One of the nice things about the Olympics is that they can put people that you don't know, in a sport you don't know much about, and it can still be exciting.

One thing that really pissed me off was when an anchor at CNN (I think) was interviewing U.S. gold medal winner Shaun White (aka "The Flying Tomato") about his win on the half-pipe, and he mentioned that he wanted to get something to drink. The woman interviewing him incredulously said, "You're only 19, you're not old enough to drink!" Apparently she forgot that he was in Italy, where (as in the rest of Europe) they don't practice age discrimination against young adults when it comes to things like enjoying adult beverages. White played it off, saying that he meant he was going to get a Mountain Dew, but it really ticked me off.

Hockey is about to start on NBC... maybe that's why they had so many commercial breaks earlier. No Gary Thorne on play-by-play. In 2002 in Salt Lake City, ABC/ESPN lent Thorne to NBC to do hockey play-by-play, which was great. But perhaps doing that this time around would reveal how inferior in comparison every other announcing team is compared with Thorne/any color commentator. No, I'm not bitter or anything. The NHL really should have pulled some strings to get Thorne into the mix though (with the NHL moving to the Outdoor Life Network and NBC this year); Gary Thorne's play-by-play actually added a couple of excitement points to it. At least he went out with a great one (Tampa Bay's Game 7 win over Calgary in the 2004 Stanley Cup Finals, the last game before the strike.)

The action has begun, and I'm going to watch the USA/Slovakia game. Though I must note that Chris Chelios is 44 -- I had no idea he was that old...


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