Saturday, February 27, 2010

Really, NBC? Are you THAT obvious?

(Yes, yes, it's another Olympics post.)

OK, in case you missed it, here's what went down.  Apolo Ohno is in the 500m finals.  Which is pretty impressive, actually, as he's skating against folks that are ranked 1 and 2 in the world in this event, and he's like 9th.  So he's kind of outclassed, and he knows it.  

So, they're off -- there are two Canadians, a South Korean, and Ohno.  Ohno is pretty much back of the pack the entire race.  Near the end, he tries to make a move for third.  Does this.  In the process, puts his hand on the butt of the Canadian dude in front of him.  Canadian dude slides out (in what appears to be the precise direction in which Ohno is pushing him) and crashes.  Meantime, South Korean guy and other Canadian guy have some sort of interaction, and the South Korean also goes flying.  Other Canadian Guy finishes first and Ohno second, because they're the only ones left standing.

There's a good chance Ohno is going to get DQ'd for this.  (NBC quickly cuts away from Ohno -- perhaps they don't want to air him celebrating the medal they don't think he's going to get, or maybe he doesn't think he's going to get it either.  Can't say.)  NBC commentators go to the tape, and it looks like Ohno pushed the guy.  NBC can't bring themselves to say "It looks like a DQ to us," and instead say, "If Canadian guy didn't fall, Ohno probably could have gotten away with it..."  (But, of course, he did fall, and the unspoken conclusion is that Ohno is totally going to get DQ'd.)  They also look at the tape of South Korean guy and other Canadian guy, and NBC is positive there's no DQ there.  They say it looks totally like South Korean guy fell of his own accord, and even grabbed at other Canadian guy's skate.  But NBC is pretty adamant that other Canadian guy's gold is solid and there will be no DQ for him, and pretty sure things don't look quite so good for Ohno.

Ohno gets DQd; other Canadian guy doesn't.  So, yeah, NBC called it correctly. 

They interview Ohno.  I've always liked Ohno because he seems smart and handles himself well in interviews.  Generally not a sore loser (or sore winner) at all.  Just a decent sportsman.

Not so much today.  Ohno says he didn't deserve to get DQ'd.  He wasn't pushing the guy, just holding his hand out as a cushion so he didn't run into him.  (Now, normally I'd think this is bull, as Canadian guy didn't seem the type to just fly off his skates for no good reason -- but, hey, based on past experience, I'll cut Ohno some slack and think that maybe he wants to protect his reputation as someone who doesn't flagrantly foul other skaters.  At the same time, though, he's going on about how all the other skaters were really fast and he had to try a move -- and it almost sounds like he knew he was getting beat and figured he'd try a questionable pass, because he wasn't going to win anyway, so thought he'd take a shot.)  

But then, Ohno says that, well, the ref was Canadian, and we're on Canadian soil, and the dude he (allegedly) pushed was Canadian, and you do the math.  Actually, NBC asks Ohno to do the math, and Ohno takes the bait, expressly saying that, yeah, he thinks national bias played a part in that call.  (He goes on to say something about how it's all subjective -- which is maybe a quarter-assed way of saying what he should have said, which is, "I disagree, but I respect the ref's call.")

OK, fine.  Ohno's not happy and being a little childish here.  I'm disappointed that he wasn't his otherwise decent self, but I'm ready to move on.

Not so much NBC.  Ohno is one of NBC's annointed heroes of the games.  A dude to watch.  (Seemingly the only American short-track skater they've bothered to profile -- well, excepting that dude who had cut himself with his own skate and almost bled out.  Because, y'know, that's good TV.)  So NBC can't just leave it at Ohno being a little petulant.

They go to the tape.  They say, "Ohno said there's bias from the Canadian ref."  They show Ohno's "tiny little bit of contact" with the butt of the Canadian skater, for which he got DQ'd.  They then show a "similar tiny little bit of contact" between the OTHER Canadian dude and the South Korean dude, and they even note the contact between the other Canadian dude's skate and the South Korean dude, and note that Other Canadian dude did not get DQ'd for that.  Never mind that they'd looked at that tape a zillion times before and said the contact was all South Korean dude's fault, and there was no reason for Other Canadian dude to get DQ'd.  Never mind that South Korean dude reached for Other Canadian dude's skate while he was falling.  It's now Other Canadian dude's fault and he didn't get DQ'd for that, so it backs up Ohno's claim of national bias on the part of the ref.

Shame on you, NBC.  Revisionist history to support the claim of your star athlete.  Accusing the ref of bias and a bad call, although the Aussie ref who DQ'd the South Korean team from the ladies' relay -- based on a remarkably similarly small amount of contact -- was not questioned, perhaps because it resulted in the US team being bumped up into the bronze medal position.  Hell, this short track telecast actually started with NBC pointing out that the Aussie ref had been taken out of the competition for his safety, after he'd received death threats as a result of that call.  And rather than you guys stepping up and saying the Canadian ref's call on Ohno was consistent with the Aussie ref's call on South Korea, and the refs are just being really strict at these Games, you instead take Ohno's side on this and do a complete 180 on whether Ohno's DQ was legitimate (and whether the other Canadian guy should have been DQ'd).

Bad network.  BAD.

(One might say one would have preferred to see this kind of loyalty with Conan O'Brien.)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Random Thoughts About The Olympics

A thing I dig -- seeing the concept of "ethnic minorities competing for their countries" expand.  (And no, I don't mean people who compete for a country they don't actually live in thanks to some convenient fluke of ancestry.  I mean folks who actually live in the country for which they compete, but aren't part of the majority ethnicity-wise.)  I suppose it demonstrates a certain amount of progess, for a member of a minority to achieve that much in sport ... but I also kind of dig the idea that, back in their home countries, everyone is cheering for them, regardless of what they look like.

A thing I don't dig -- the U.S. bobsled pilot in one of them skin-tight lycra things.  Look, dude drives a mean sled, and more power to him, really.  But it looks like he's wedged his beer belly in one of those things.  I mean, this is just the stereotype of obese Americans reinforced -- if this is what passes for an "athlete's body" in this country.  (I don't mean to dwell, but I actually wondered if he got his US Olympic Team uniforms specially made.  Because I figure they make them in standard sizes, and I don't think anyone else on the team needed extra elastic in the waist.)  And, um, a word to my pals at NBC -- can we please (oh please) keep the camera above the belt when he comes back in the 4-man race?

Speaking of NBC, why is it that we saw more post-game analysis of the U.S. vs. Canada hockey game than we saw of the actual game?

I say the following with a certain amount of tongue in cheek (basically because one guy I know who switched from figure skates to hockey skates needed stitches in record time) ... but I can't be the only one thinking that when Apolo Ohno gets sick of short track, they should recruit him for ice dancing.  It isn't just the whole "Dancing with the Stars" thing -- dude's already got insanely deep edges.  (Then again, I think that's only in one direction.)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

An NBC Prime Time Olympics Coverage Observation

Watch an event where someone goes down a hill or a track quickly -- in which NBC is not going to take the time to show you all 40 competitors.

NBC will show you four types of competitors:  Americans, people who medal, people who are World champions and therefore expected to medal, and people who crash spectacularly.

You can take this to the bank.  They're showing you the downhill run of some 19-year-old from a country where they don't even have snow, it's just a matter of time before he pops a ski and earns himself a really unpleasant set of skid marks.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

I skied! I skied! I skied!

Clearly, there is much excitement over this.

After what we'll politely call my utter and abject failure in Park City four years ago, there was a certain amount of trepidation involved in skiing again.  But I was determined to accomplish what had eluded me last time:  actually skiing down a ski run.  Without stopping every few minutes for instruction.

And I did it!  (And it was a much longer run than the run I never got to ski in Park City, too!)  Much joy!  It was actually pretty fun, too.

(It was fun because ski school at Northstar in Tahoe is way better than ski school was at Park City.  Rather than just having a little space roped off, they had a whole learning area with hills groomed at just the right incline for the best practicing.  So, I got that whole uncontrolled speed thing more-or-less under control.  And my instructors were really helpful when I told them about my previous knee issues, so made sure I was holding myself correctly.  And the fact I ended up with kids' boots probably helped too.  Also, that there was a lot less me for me knees to hold up.)  So, after my two-and-a-half hour lesson, I could either take the gondola lift back down the mountain or try the whole "Village Run."  And, I was a bit tired, but my knees were doing ok, and this is what I was freakin' here for, and no guts, no glory, and all that rot.  So, (after hiking back for my sweater, which I'd left back in the snow in the practice area), I plopped on my skis and set off down the mountain. 

I'm sure I looked like the insane beginner I am (weaving back and forth across the slope while little kids just sailed straight on by at twice the speed), but, dammit, I did it.  Didn't fall.*  Didn't stop.  Didn't even wildly lose control.  And had fun.

Go me.  :)

*OK, I fell once in the whole day, but I have it on good authority that it didn't count.  I was wearing my skis at the beginning of the lesson, and the instructors told us to take off our skis and walk over to the lesson area.  So, I poked at the release thing with my pole, missed, and ended up toppling over.  We're all in agreement that falling down while taking off your skis does not actually count as falling down skiing.

Monday, February 8, 2010


Well, apparently we've entered that time of year (which we've entered 3 times before) when my posts get really sporadic because I'm hunkering down to do this Awards show.

For the casual/new reader:  Hi.  I'm a lawyer by day and theatre critic by night.  Rarely the two meet.  (OK, once, I was working on a case where an actress fell into the orchestra pit, and my boss let me get away with quoting from the play.  But that's about it.)

A number of years ago, I was thrilled to be voted into an association of local critics, who give annual awards.  At an awards show.  Which nobody wants to produce.

Long story short:  This is the fourth year I've been co-producing the Awards show with a fellow critic/partner-in-crime.  I rarely blog about it for two really important reasons:  (1)  When we're busy producing, I don't have much time to blog; and (2)  This is the sort of stuff I don't want to make public.  (And, after three years of co-producing, let me just say:  damn, I got some stories.)  But I don't blog to anonymously dish dirt on the local theatre scene -- in fact, doing so would be totally antithetical to why I put in the effort to put on a good Awards show in the first place.  (Being:  I genuinely love theatre and want like hell to support the good stuff.)

Turns out that my co-producer and I are, uh, risk-takers.  The first year that we did the show, we didn't know what we were doing, but we muddled through and put together a sort-of system and (to our great surprise) it actually worked pretty well.  Every year since we've aimed higher -- or, at least, aimed differently.  We keep trying to change it up, make a better show, or find better ways to get money to fund the show.  And because we're not just sticking with what we know, mistakes are made.  (We have the good sense to learn from our mistakes -- but it is, actually, the fact that we made mistakes last year that made us want to co-produce again this year.  We really felt like we could do better and wanted to take another shot at it.)

Tonight was one of our risks.  We decided to add to the process of the Awards show a whole second event -- a reception for our nominees.  And, over the past few weeks, a lot of stuff went wrong in planning the reception.  (First bartender wanted too much money.  Second bartender had a better price but was "between insurers" at the moment.  Third bartender wasn't getting my e-mails for some reason....)  Indeed, things were threatening to go wrong as late as this afternoon.

But it worked!  (Nobody was more surprised about this than we were.)  We achieved our goal of an informal gathering of critics and nominees (where we could give something back to them) -- on a shoestring budget.  (It took a lot of people being very generous with their time and their businesses -- but they all believed in the same goal we did.)

OK, sure, part of me is just basking in the glow of putting on an event that worked.  (And part of me is "basking in the glow" of drinking wine on an empty stomach.)  But, mostly, I feel like we actually succeeded in encouraging a bit of that feeling of theatrical community, and that fills me with all sorts of warm fuzzies.

And now ... six weeks until the Awards show itself.  Back to work!