I find it fascinating that for almost two hours into the primetime broadcast last night, NBC never mentioned announced that Yvgeni Plushenko would not be skating that night, but had been injured and even retired that morning. While it's understandable that they wanted to keep the audience anxious to see him, there are ways they could have addressed it without "giving it away" for those who didn't know, saying something like how there was big news at the skating rink about Plushenko, more on that later. But then, considering that it happened 12 hours earlier (and was shown live on NBC Sport Network that morning), even that is a paltry way of handling it. They should have explained that he wouldn't be skating, "and we'll have the whole fascinating story coming up, along with an exclusive interview." Or something like that. It would have held people. But even while I can at least understand them not saying anything, I find it totally acceptable for the network to have done a promo during the broadcast saying that Yvgeni Plushenko is "coming up" when they'd known for 12 hours he wasn't "coming up." Yes, they had a little feature on him preceding the event, but that's not what the audience expects when they hear it said that he's "coming up" in the skating competition. Not good of NBC, hardly their finest hour in reporting.
The next morning on the Today Show, Yvgeni Plushenko showed up as a guest. He was quite gracious and, while clearly he had to be hurting emotionally (and physically), he likely also had had time for the initial shock to pass. The interesting thing, though, was when he talked about two skaters who had reached out to him and had been incredibly supportive. You could see it in his voice how deeply appreciative he was. The first skater he mentioned was Michelle Kwan. This didn't totally surprise me because I've read what a nice person she is (and years back, I did some work with her personal manager, and he said back then what a joy she was.) But the other person did surprise me -- as did Plushenko's reaction. It was Evan Lysacek. Four years ago, Lysacek beat Plushenko for the Gold Medal, and the Russian was blistering and unrelenting in his criticism, one of the most ungracious reactions I've seen from someone who did not win. It speaks loudly that Lysacek was so supportive, and that Plushenko was as moved by it as he was. Unfortunately, as he seemed to be about to describe their conversations, which would have been great to hear, the Today host, Savannah Guthrie cut him off and went to a commercial.
Overnight on the late night broadcast, I watched a qualifying race in the men's 1500 short track relay. (What can I say? There is no rest for Olympics Watchers...) Short track is that speedskating event which is a bit like demolition derby. But the relay short track event, yipes!, that is like a Marx Bros. movie. Organized mad chaos. Think the final scene of Duck Soup. Or the stateroom scene in A Night at the Opera. (To put it in perspective, on a running track, 1500 meters is four laps. For short track skating, it's 45 laps! With six teams. And four skaters on each team. Each zipping around, somehow avoiding one another, to get in place.) The American team was in position to move on to the next round, in close second place to South Korea with just five laps to go. (That's about a minute.) But then they got tangled up with the Koreans, crashed, and were out of the competition. But the distraught looks soon changed to joy when it was ruled that they'd been impeded, so they were advanced to the finals. But this means the finals will have seven teams, not six. And six is four too many. Man, is that race going to be over-crowded.
Media Alert. Tomorrow, there's a huge hockey game on the NBC Sports Network -- the U.S. against Russia. It starts at 4 AM in Los Angeles, but that's why the DVR is around.
I know I say I won't give any results, but I just have to figure that NBC isn't going to be spending a lot of time covering the women's 15K biathlon on the primetime show. So, for those of you keeping a scorecard, Darya Domracheva of Belarus won. And by a full minute and 15 seconds over the Swiss biathlete. So, people who had Czhechoslovakia in the office pool didn't win. What can I say, I like the biathlon.
They held the freestyle long program in men's figure skating this morning -- and again I didn't watch much. Just a little, mainly some of the favorites, as well as the two Americans. Not because "I wanted to see the Americans," because I wanted to see the reaction that Jeremy Abbott got after the rousing, explosive support last night when he crashed into the boards and got hurt, but kept skating. It was a terrific response today, and he did wonderfully. I also wanted to watch Jason Brown because he's from Highland Park, Illinois -- a town that borders Glencoe, where I grew up, and it's where my dad had his doctor office for 40 years. I won't give the results, but will say that what I saw among the leaders was not going to make this a classic. And the skater who will be most pissed off by the mediocrity will be...Yvgeni Plushenko. He probably is going around saying to every stranger he can find, "If I wasn't hurt and had to drop out, I would have won!!"