Archives for: July 2012, 31
The Olympic games are a quadrennial joy and a source of frustration. Competitive events are the occasion of traditional commentary. It is traditional in the sense that talent has been developed and honed to a razor-sharp edge by generations of football, baseball, soccer, and ping-pong games.
I was once a fan of the New York Jets. I remember one painful loss narrated by the late Howard Cosell. As the team fumbled and overthrew, seeming to toss victory away, Cosell provided irksome wisdom. "They have no-one to blame..." pausing dramatically "...but themselves." Grrrr. You couldn't just turn the sound off. There was wheat amid the chaff. But the chaff was a toothache.
I've kind of soured on football with news of premature death from brain injuries and revelations of occasional coaching that ought to be criminally chargeable. Instructing players to actively try to injure each other goes beyond what I thought it should be about.
Back when, I generally avoided halftime shows. When I made an occasional exception, it didn't last. Some of the shows were quite good, but television coverage was over-directed. Dramatic choreography would be ruined by a prolonged tight shot on a single performer. The intent of the group performance was lost. It kept happening. ABC came closest to getting it right. Just not close enough to keep the experience from becoming a little like chewing on tinfoil.
The opening of the Olympics was an NBC disaster. The commentary was non-stop. It was like sitting in front of a drunken loudmouth during a feature movie. There was no manager to complain to. It went beyond normal half-time coverage toward the air headed talkety-talk of holiday parades.
Tommy Christopher of Mediaite caught the essence of the irritation:
In last night’s Olympic opening ceremony, Slumdog Millionaire director Danny Boyle produced what just might be the most spectacular piece of live storytelling the world has ever seen. At least, I think he did, because I kept being pulled out of the performances by observations like “these dancers, they’re good,” and “you mention those volunteers, Matt, make sure the audience knows they are not getting paid.”
Tommy was kind, compared with my reaction. A couple of performances were dedicated to those lost in the nearest the British have to the September 11 attacks on the US. The July 7 attacks in London took 52 lives in 2005. I searched the internet for a transcript of the endless gab during a tribute to medical personnel. I found a snippet in the LA Times. It's worth reading just to get mad about. During what may have been a moving performance (who knows?), Matt Lauer decided the audience would not be able to understand every nuance without a nonstop, heavy handed, explanation:
"I am sitting here watching this, I'm thinking what an incredible experience for these doctors and nurses. They're looking around them in this Olympic stadium thinking, 'My goodness, I'm part of something incredibly special.'"
It was obvious that the "something special" was himself. The headline on the LA Times story was "NBC's stumble can't mask Olympics' beautiful opening ceremony"
Well, actually, it could. I understand there was a beautiful and solemn 6 minute tribute to the victims of that July 7 attack in London. I can't testify as a witness. NBC cut its coverage of the tribute. They didn't carry it. We did get to see a long, long interview with swimmer Michael Phelps. NBC cut back when the tribute to the victims was finished.
NBC was asked why they had cut the tribute out. They answered, in part, that "our programming is tailored for the U.S. audience."
The Pollyanna in me looks for the bright side. Had we actually been granted the six minutes of tribute to the victims, it would have been explained and explained and explained by the anchors. If we had to miss the ceremony and the moment of silence, at least we missed the insipid chatter that would have been cast over it.