During the women's figure skating last evening, I spent a bit of time switching over to NBCsports for the women's biathlon relay. What can I say? I've grown to like the biathlon and all the cross country events. This was particularly fun last night since there was a blizzard for much of the opening of the race. Thick snows and heavy winds make for difficult skiing -- but they are hellacious conditions for trying to shoot. At one point, the woman who was leading took to the range and missed her first shot by an inch (which is a lot), and missed her second shot -- and then basically stopped, and waited. You don't wait in a race, but the wind was blowing so hard, she needed it to slow down. And so she waited for probably 20 full seconds. It was probably awful for the competitors but terrific for us viewer folks.
As I've written, I don't think 99% of people who watch figure skating (myself included) can tell you in the slightest what specific moves are or have a clue what makes them performed properly. But I think it was still difficult to not recognize that the two Russian skaters were so far ahead of the rest of the field that it was like they were competing at another level, in almost a different sport.
Four years ago, I wrote about coming across Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir, with Terry Gannon, announcing figure skating on NBCsports and noted how good they were -- fun, spirited and informative, even willing to analyze during a skate. They since have become stars for NBC and have moved over to be the network's top skating commentators, not to mention popping up elsewhere. And they're still good, and preferable to what was before. But I've been only whelmed this year, staying silent far too often during a skate. Not always, fortunately, but I expect better, because they've shown it. Gannon, though, remains solid, good and consistent. Apparently, the three will be the hosts for the Closing Ceremonies, I can see that being either rambunctious and lively or a disaster. They'll bring fun to it, but the job is an odd one and requires a sense of history and perspective to make what is a pageant substantive.
I always like the job that Lewis Johnson does during Olympics broadcast, though he doesn't get much air time. So, you may not have even seen him this year. But I especially like him during Winter Olympics, because he's a fish out of water. Johnson was an All American track star in college, and that's his expertise. But he's always game for anything. Lately, they seem to assign him to bobsledding, and just seeing him so heavily bundled up is a treat. He also comes across like a real gentleman, and asks thoughtful questions, even if he knows a whole lot more about track and field.
The host country always adds something personal to the awards ceremonies, usually a floral arrangement or wreath. But for reasons unknown, the South Korea organizers in their infinite wisdom have decided to give a stuffed toy. I'm not even quite sure what it is, it looks perhaps like something mawkish as if it's a Hello, Kitty knock-off. I'm not sure what they were thinking. Was it their assumption that the Austrian men's Alpine skiers would treasure this? Or that the Swedish hockey players or Slovakian contingent would cherish their very own plush animal? These are adults, grown-ups, who have trained gruelingly for their entire lives to compete for a historic medal, and finally achieving that dream. Only to have them presented with, "And here's a special gift for you, a Smiley Kitty." At least a pink lunch box would have been functional. It's not that the athletes would hold on to their flowers for long, but receiving them with your medal adds texture and historical, naturalistic meaning to the moment. Something a toy doesn't.
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Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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