Welcome back to The Sports Ace, where we thank the London Olympics for quite ably helping to fill the annual “Dog Days” sports abyss.
To be perfectly honest, I didn’t spend a lot of time on social media during the Olympics. I didn’t want to see any spoilers, and even more frankly, I didn’t want my experience of the Games ruined by the constant NBC-bashing that went on. It wasn’t that bad, people. Sure, they made some hard decisions, and they could have done better. But they didn’t exactly have it easy: sponsor/advertiser demands, the advent of social media and – most challenging – a 6-hour time delay. It’s a lot harder than it looks, folks…and if you want live coverage, go online.
Still, I watched a lot of coverage, and I tried to see all sports at least once. So I feel I’m able, as well as anyone, to award medals in the spirit of the Olympics to some TV announcers who I felt did a particularly good job.
Gold – Swimming. Sure, the USA has a ton of compelling storylines/material in the pool to show off, but Dan Hicks and Rowdy Gaines are as good at mentioning-yet-not-overplaying storylines and calling the action as it gets. Hicks has a knack for saying memorable (and not cheesy) things as big news happens, and Gaines provides the emotion and context – exactly what he’s supposed to do. Take a bow, guys.
Silver – Track and Field. I’m not as wild about Tom Hammond as other people are, but the fact is he’s a solid play-by-play guy who never gets it flat-out wrong. He had some big moments with Usain Bolt and company, and did well with them. And Ato Boldon might have done the finest work of any color announcer in London.
Bronze – Judo. I watched Kayla Harrison’s gold medal match and victory live, and I was beyond impressed with how a lower-tier, inexperienced announcing team could bring home the match and moment in a way that caused tears. They helped a complete judo novice like me understand the sport, how you score points, etc. And then they put Kayla’s accomplishment in the proper context both emotionally and athletically. Big points were scored by the men in the booth.
And then…there were some Not-So-Great Announcing Efforts too:
- Brandi Chastain, soccer. She knows the game as well as anyone, and is a flat-out icon for her role in the U.S. 1999 World Cup win. But that almost always results in her speaking to the viewers in jargon that most of us don’t understand. Plus, she’s unable to separate her emotions from an objective broadcast, which results in ruined goal moments (with “OH!” and other missteps) and scenarios like the extra-time exhaustion in the semis against Canada where I felt like I was being shouted at for the last 30-40 minutes of the game. It was intense and memorable, yes, but describe that with words…don’t just raise your tone, say the same things constantly and sound out of breath. The Hope Solo fiasco didn’t help either.
- Cynthia Potter, diving. She was actually better in London than I’ve heard her in the past, but she’s still the quickest trigger color commentator when it comes to seeing something happen and then immediately criticizing it. She usurps Ted Robinson, a very good play-by-play guy, in doing so, which only reinforces the impression that she’s the ultimate know-it-all. Again, there were times when she let the action breathe…and the viewer actually watch the action before she told us how we should intepret it. But those times were few, and it was incredibly grating.
- Al Trautwig, gymnastics. Nowhere in its coverage portfolio does NBC build up stories – and edit out/around the competition – more than in gymnastics. And Al is more than willing to play along, never letting a chance pass to remind the viewer about a key storyline. He also had perhaps the worst call of any historic moment in London when he said “The Fab Five are going gold.” Yawn. Tim Daggett and Elfi Schlagel are intense, but I think they are wonderful when it comes to explaining why something is good or bad and how judges arrive at their scoring decisions. Tim’s insight into what it’s like to be a gymnast – and in the gymnastics community – is terrific as well. Too bad it’s all overshadowed by Al’s cheese.
So congratulations to the above for their accomplishments. We’ll have to see how NBC handles Sochi 2014.
That’s all for now. I’m out like Michael Phelps.