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Tuesday, February 19, 2002

Lately I seem to be more obsessed with coverage of the coverage than I am with the Olympics themselves. For all my complaining about NBC, I think they're probably right about some things. Americans are not going to sit still and watch a whole ski race, and Al Trautwig knows how to tell a story, so the way they're packaging the cross-country skiing is just about perfect for their audience.

On the other hand, most of us would watch all the figure skaters, not just the U.S. skaters and the medal contenders. And we would watch for as long as they showed them. They don't have to cut away from live skating to a bobsled race taped earlier in the day. In fact, they could have shown the bobsled race live in the daytime and given us the highlights at night. (If I were in charge, that's what I'd do. I'd also put curling on pay-per-view, but maybe that's just me.)

To give credit where it's due, MSNBC did something unexpected today. Between hockey games, they showed the three medal performances in last night's ice dancing in a way we never get to see them. They left out all the commentary by their crack announcing crew and just kept the sound of the music, the applause, and the blades cutting across the ice.

That made the ice dancing seem more like a performance than a competitive sport, which of course is exactly what it is. You don't have the same ten couples in the same position in the standings from beginning to end if it's a real competition.

But it proved something else to me, too. It proved that the judges, such as they are, were right to call it nearly a tie, with a slight edge to the French couple over the Russians. It also proved that the Italians were good enough to win the bronze, despite the fall. So, all in all, I'm satisfied, and now on to the ladies. (Why are they ladies, and not women? And when did bobsled become bobsleigh?)

It was a revelation seeing even a small part of an event without the incessant blather of the experts. It reminds me of those wonderful years when HBO used to show the BBC's coverage of Wimbledon. Before that, I never knew you could enjoy a sporting event on television without the drone of voices telling you what you're seeing. That shows a respect for the athletes and their sport that the U.S. networks seldom convey.

But wait. What I really wanted to say was: Thanks, MSNBC, for the live curling today. It's the first time they've done that, and there wasn't even a U.S. team involved. It was the playoff game between Great Britain (Scotland, really, but they have to call themselves Great Britain) and Germany. We got to see about half an hour of the game, before the network ran out of time, promising that we would see the rest of it if we switched over to CNBC.

Yeah, right. For twenty minutes, the talking heads on CNBC discussed a hockey game that hadn't even started yet. Two and a half hours later, after the hockey was over, they gave us highlights of the last end of the curling game, which the Scots won easily. But still, it was a breakthrough in U.S. coverage of curling. (Oh, how I wish I were in Ogden. And boy howdy, I never thought I'd ever utter that sentence.)

looking west

Shafts of light penetrate the thick clouds.

When I woke up to a drizzling rain this morning, I wished I'd run my errands yesterday instead of putting them off for today. I especially wished I'd put gas in the car. My wish turned to a desperate prayer when I was about halfway to the station and the needle on the gauge dropped permanently below the E. Every stoplight was an adventure, but I made it. I don't often have to put 10.5 gallons in my tank, since it only holds 11.2. I ran out of gas exactly once, when I was much younger and even stupider. I never thought I'd come this close again.

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