So, you may recall the other day in my write-up about the Opening Ceremony that I said how my favorite announcer during the Olympics is Teddy Atlas, a career boxing mug who makes Olympic boxing almost a joy. He so loves the sports and analyzes the bejeepers out of it. (I also noted that Olympic boxing is a bit different from the pros, though it's Teddy Atlas who makes it so completely watchable and a pleasure for me.)
I was extremely pleased therefore when I saw that first-day coverage yesterday included boxing, and so I turned to the channel to watch. And it was with shock and horror (okay, a bit of an exaggeration, but only a little) when I saw NO Teddy Atlas. I quickly did a near-panicked search of NBC's Olympic site to see if they had an expanded broadcast team for boxing, or maybe he wasn't there because it was an early round or something. But...no, they do not have Teddy Atlas listed. Nowhere among their 140 announcers.
I don't know why, whether it was their choice or his. But wherever the reason sits, it's AWFUL Much as I don't care for boxing, I actually look forward to Olympic boxing...specifically because of Teddy Atlas. But to be fair, I did give the new team a chance and watch. That lasted about 30 seconds. It was dismal. Bland and lifeless. You remember the opening scene of Rocky? It felt like that, like you were in a third-rate club with people milling around, smoking with empty beer bottles everywhere, as a couple of guys talked about the the punching without a whole lot of interest.
I'll check back again, give it another chance, but I'm not holding out much hope. Just awful, a real shame. I miss me that Teddy Atlas.
By the way, no single video can give a true sense of why I love Teddy Atlas's commentary so much. He gives demonstrations before a fight, wrangling in his broadcast partners to help out and show what the viewer should look for and why.. During a fight, he is meticulously detailed to what is going on, voicing a stream of criticism and praise, not caring who or what country wins, just that it's a good, well-crafted match. And after a fight, he is profoundly outspoken about the results, saving his greatest fury for judges who he believes acted irresponsibly. Even though no one video can give a him, here's one small, two-minute example, on ESPN being asking about a fight just finished between Floyd Mayweather and Carmelo Alvarez, won by the former in a split decision.
I was going to leave the Atlas video sample at that, but I came across another very short video -- only four minutes -- that I think is important to add here, since I've been yammering so much about liking Teddy Atlas's commentary. This is footage that someone shot on their cell phone of Atlas visiting a local gym and making an inspirational speech to the kids there. It's all part of the reason I like Teddy Atlas -- and am SO sorry he's not on NBC's coverage. This is low-key Teddy Atlas, but part of the full picture why what he says on the air when covering a boxing match is so compelling, almost even for those who don't like boxing.
Moving on -- the U.S. women beat France 1-0 in a very closely fought soccer match. The U.S. is favored to win the Gold Medal, but the score was 0-0 until about 15 minutes to go in the game. That's when Carli Lloyd scored the game-winner. Of note is the analyst who, in her enthusiasm, shouted out something along the lines of, "Only Carli Lloyd could have scored that goal!!!" To which my stupefied reaction almost knocked me off the sofa. The French goalie had misplayed a ball and was completely out of position, leaving the net totally open. The ball bounded in front of the net -- which was now absolutely wide open, unblocked -- where Carli Lloyd was in position literally just two feet in front of the empty goal line...to knock it in. "Only Carli Lloyd"??? Seriously?? She did well to be in the right place, but there is a Chihuahua that lives two apartments down from me that could have scored that goal. All it had to be was in position, and if the ball bounced off it, Ruby would have scored.
Most of the coverage during the day was quite good. And that speaks well, since I watched A LOT. Particularly good on cycling, and Rowdy Gaines always does fine commentary on swimming. Also, solid coverage of women's soccer, women's rugby, two-man volleyball, men's basketball (an easy first-round for the U.S. against China, winning by about 50 points), and even ping pong (yes, I know that officially it's "table tennis") -- a match between a 19-year-old American and 54-year-old Spaniard (both Chinese), and the Spaniard was whupping him. And much, much more. By the way, I prefer the variety of indoor team volleyball to beach volleyball (er, sorry, two-man volleyball), the latter of which I find a bit "gimmicky," which isn't quite a fair word, but close to what I want to describe, being more limiting and has a bit of repetitive sameness.
Amid all my vegetating OlympicsWatching, I also always watch (and have much enjoyed, indeed looked forward to) the Olympics late night show. Unfortunately, I read that the host of the late night broadcast will be that ace, crack sports journalist Ryan Seacrest. In the past, it's been a good recap of the day, a place for some nice interviews, and a venue for showing featurettes that don't get airtime during the day, along with live coverage of late events. But now...Ryan Seacrest?? I have to assume that, since the late night show over time has had more variety to it, NBC figures they can attract a wider audience with him as host. Perhaps, but my feeling is that when someone turns on the Olympics as 12:30 in the morning, it's because they Really Like Sports a Whole Lot. Last night wasn't a good sample to check it out -- they had a lot of live gymnastic coverage (again, though, supporting the concept that people who like sports will be watching), so I only got a bit of Seacrest to see how he did before even I had to collapse and turn it off. (Though even at that, with me being me, I left the sound on as my computer in my bedroom -- I was streaming the broadcast -- as I drifted off. So, I'll have to keep checking it out for an update.
Actually, this is an appropriate time to note that NBC has an excellent website with massively extensive Olympic coverage, which you can find here. It's full of news stories, results, video featurettes, schedules and more. But what I like most about it is that they stream everything live. Everything. For instance, I watched a bit of the Sweden-Argentina women's handball match. (Hey, I told you I vegetate in front of the screen for the Olympics. I was not lying.) The stream runs for 30 minutes, unless you log in with your cable provider account. Then, you get the full broadcasts. My one complaint is that I don't think the website is very well-organized. And this has been the case in the past. It's not "bad" -- and in fairness, there's SO much material, that it would be a jumble of necessity -- and you can generally find what you want, eventually. But it's still a bit of an adventure at times. Also, I wish their featurette videos allowed for embedding. But they don't, so I can't post anything here, which is a shame because some of them are so terrific. But all they provide is a way to share them on social media. Here's one I shared on Facebook, for example, a fun and charming piece about a Samba streetsweeper who you might recall at the closing ceremonies in London four years ago to promote Rio. You can watch it here.
The featurette was produced by my friend Clare Duffy, who I first crossed paths with when she wrote, produced and starred in a tremendous special on women's hockey.for the Vancouver Olympics. It was a sort of George Pllmptonesque piece where she trained with the team. I wrote a rave article about it for the Huffington Post, "The Great Vancouver Olympics Documentary You Haven't Seen" (which you can read here), and that got to Clare's attention. Her work is wonderful, and she'll be doing a bunch of things during the Games, including the pieces you see with Tom Brokaw.
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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