You may recall over the past several Winter Olympics, I've written many articles about how I really dislike the figure skating coverage on NBC with Scott Hamilton, Sandra Bezic and and Tom Hammond. Hamilton often says very insightful comments, though usually beforehand, but during the skating itself he drops to a level of mediocrity. Bezic, however, is a waste of airspace. Her commentary during a skate is at best "Oh, my, how lovely," and at worst total silence. Though given how empty she is when talking, total silence is sometimes a relief. Hammond is personable enough, but like most anchors in skating comes across as somewhat clueless. At best, I expect the anchor to direct the experts into more insightful commentary. He doesn't.
You may also recall that during the last Winter Olympics, I went overboard glowing about Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir, who were doing the figure skating commentary on the NBC Sports channel, which I happened to watch because I inhale watching the Olympics. They weren't brilliant, but given that this was their first Olympics doing commentary and will learn and grow, I assume, they were quite wonderful, offering at least far more insights by comparison, as well as humor and having a great rapport, all managed terrifically by anchor Terry Gannon who knew how to keep things professional, yet play along when it fit. Their appreciation for him showed, and was even vocal in their thanks to him at the end of the games.
It was clear that NBC was getting the sense that they had something good with the pair, using them near the end of the Olympics on some late night main-network coverage, and then even put them together for doing reports during the Kentucky Derby about clothes.
And now comes the news from Philip Hersh of the Chicago Tribune that NBC is promoting Lipinksi and Weir to become the top figure skating team at the network, and saying goodbye to Hamilton and Bezic.
While I was thrilled to read this (as much for knowing I wouldn't have to suffer through Sandra Bezic anymore, and pleased that the people I'd been praising so much got a promotion), I was wary about whether the change would include Terry Gannon, who was such a critical part of the team's success, knowing how to deal with them properly. And the reports suggest that indeed he will be promoted, as well.It hasn't officially been announced by NBC, but Hersh is a top-notch reporter who, among other things, covers figure skating, and was even part of the recent documentary on the anniversary of the Nancy Kerrigan-Tanya Harding debacle.
And quotes from all the participants seems to confirm it.
"I was blessed to have that seat for seven Olympics," Hamilton, wrote in a text. "I always had the best interests of skating and the skaters at heart. I never wanted it to be about me, and I still don't. I wish them great success." Hamilton, who won the 1984 Gold medal for men's figure skating, might still have a role at NBC with studio work, and I think he'd be excellent at that.
Bezic sent out a tweet -- "Wishing @TaraLipinski @JohnnyGWeir the very best success covering figs for @NBCSports. So grateful to have had the honour for 24 years..."
And Hammond sent out a text message, "I think my figs days are over." (I'm sure NBC will find some other place for him in their coverage -- both at the Olympics and elsewhere on the network.)
So, though it's not official, it looks like it's official. Starting soon, the rest of the world who didn't get around to find the NBC Sports cable channel will now get to see the new team. I'm sure that there will be some criticism -- not just because some people don't like change, but also because Lipinski and Weir are so...well, different. Very flamboyant, though somehow (and this is their deft trick) in an understated way. Mainly, it works that way because as flamboyant as Weir is, and as much as Lipinski supports that, they are clearly being themselves in nothing more than a personal way and having great fun at it, while being insightful. The balancing act will be to make sure that the skating itself is the star, and not the announcers, as well as NBC letter the team be themselves and not soften them up for primetime. Given the free reign they gave them for their Kentucky Derby assignment, it does seem like NBC knows what they have.
But for now, all we can go on is that Tara Lipinski, Johnny Weir and Terry Gannon will be the new #1 figure skating crew for NBC broadcasts.
See what comes from inundating oneself in watching Olympics coverage?
Hey, like I say, watch this space, we tries nots to steers ya wrong...
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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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