Aerials is sort of the Winter Olympics version of diving in the Summer Games, but with wearing 2x4s on your feet. There are other differences, of course. One of the biggest is that if you screw up in diving, water -- while painful -- has give to it. Aerials is just...well, painful. Fortunately, that doesn't happen too often at the Olympics. One of my favorite moment came after Lyydia Lassik of Austria just completed her jump and needed a good score to qualify for the finals. Most athletes are stoic about it, at least on the surface. Not Ms. Lassik. With the camera holding on her looking at the scoreboard, it didn't take an expert to read her lips. "Please...Please... Please." Then she held her mittens up to her lips, focusing intently to get the results. And again, "Please." Apparently begging works, because she made the finals. Where she won.
The U.S. men's hockey team beat Slovenia 5-1 early this morning (Slovenia scored its goal with just 17 seconds left) -- but if ever a score wasn't indicative of the game, this was it. For most of the first period, the U.S was outplayed, and it was pretty even the rest of the way, and I might even give Slovenia a very slight edge. But sometimes you win by finding your openings and taking advantage of them. That seemed to be the case here.
Al Michaels had a great interview in the afternoon with Russian legend, Vlatislav Tretiak, considered one of the great goaltenders of all time. He's so famous in Russia, that he lit the Olympic cauldron. And he was the goalie against the U.S. for the Miracle on Ice -- and infamously, and shockingly, was taken out by the Russian coach after one period. Something the coach later said was "the worst mistake of my life." Tretiak was utterly charming in his interview, and gracious towards that American team, crushing as the loss must have been, saying among other things how very good junior hockey is in the U.S. now, "and it's all because of that team."
During the late night broadcast, NBC had their figure skating experts in the studio to discuss the week ahead in ice skating. What I found notable is that the experts they brought in where not the primetime analysts, but rather the two from NBC Sports Network, Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir, who I've been saying are so good. Oddly, I think the primetime people (Scott Hamilton and Sandra Bezic) do a solid job with general analysis, but fail during specific skates, so they'd have been fine in the segment. But I do like that NBC is recognizing what the job Lipinski and Weir are doing.
This morning, coverage of ice dancing started. I have no idea what happened. I didn't watch. As I've said in the past, it's my least favorite event. I find it idiotic. Yes, yes, I know -- "It's so pretty." And "They're so good." And It's so difficult." And "It's so pretty." It's all that. But it's...dancing. The required tango, the required cha cha. Literally. It's dancing. They don't have ballroom dancing in the Summer Games. And ballet is so pretty, so good, and so difficult. But it's not an Olympic sport. It's dancing. And so is ice dancing, So, I have no idea how it went this morning. And won't be watching tonight. No matter how pretty it is. Nor how talented the dancers.
Mary Carrillo had a fun featurette on curling and its history, down to the one area (in Scotland) where the special granite is the only place the sliding rocks are made from. The best part of the story was an interview with the Scottish historian of curling (look must have come from central casting, complete with bushy white beard and thick burr that occasionally needed sub-titles). He mentioned how Scotland had a Grand Match in 1979 that was so hugely festive that many of the competitors saw that the spectators were having an even better time, and so the next time planned not to compete, but be spectators themselves.
There was a short segment last night by Willie Geist about the use of social media at Sochi, which he pointed out users have even been given it its own name, Sochi Social. All I could think was what a waste of a far better, indeed perfect name. So idea that it could only be used here. And if social media users couldn't figure out to come up with it, at least someone at NBC should have. What it should be called is -- Soch-ial Media.
I'm impressed that NBC covered almost all the 4x10,000 meter cross country skiing. They're heading into the fourth and final leg as I write this -- Sweden is leading after an hour and 7 minutes. The favored Norway is shockingly far back, out of the medal run. This is about 25 miles across the snow. I'm going to make a huge guess here that there aren't a lot of other events going on right now to televise (other than perhaps 80 matches of curling. But then they're on CNBC). I'm also going to guess that most people haven't watched the whole thing. But hey, that's why we're here, but to serve...
The piece on Louis Zamperini was indeed shown on the afternoon broadcast. It aired around 4:50 (Los Angeles time). One thing I had promised not to mention was that there would be footage from the film included. It was supposed to be a surprise. I thought the film clips looked great, but mainly it was a treat to see Louie.
During coverage of the women's snowboard cross, they ran a small piece about Gold Medal favorite, American Lindsey Jacobellis and her past travails. But I found it very disingenuous, a whitewash, in fact. Jacobellis, to remind you, was the favorite at the 2006 Turin Olympics, and was so far ahead with under 100 yards to go that almost no one was in sight, when she threw in a hotdog showboating twist in the air and crashed, losing the Gold and finishing second. In the piece, they never refer to the screw up being her fault. When Jacobellis talks about it in the clip, she says how she was supposed to be guaranteed the Gold, but no one is guaranteed winning, so "that's just a silly thing out there" and then the video shows her falling, suggesting it was just a normal accident in a difficult sport. She then continues talking, saying, "Obviously I was disappointed in myself" -- and I thought, ah, good, she's going to acknowledge her responsibility, hat's off to her, but instead, all she says is, " -- because I wanted the Gold."
Well, yeah, she wanted the Gold. What favorite wouldn't? What athlete wouldn't? And the thing is, she would have had it, if she herself hadn't screwed around at the Olympics. Mind you, it's one thing for a 20-year-old to screw up, such things happen, but eight years later, I sort of expect a more mature adult to say, "Yeah, I goofed." But there seems to be no self awareness, after almost a decade. The snowboard cross is the one freestyle event where hotdogging is absolutely no place, it's just decided on speed, not "style points." But she threw it in when she had the Gold. And NBC shouldn't have whitewashed it. They should have addressed that. And at this point, so should she. Perhaps NBC will during primetime.
I wish her well. Because she's talented and has trained hard for year. But to hope she can get the Gold she lost when she screwed up, that sort of requires acknowledging you screwed up first.
Here's what happened in 2006. I've put two videos together which should run back-to-back. The race itself, and then the analyst's stunned, incredulous commentary. The fall comes slight after the 1:15 mark.