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Thread: Fake, Jingoistic, And Stupid: Gymnastics Coverage Is The Worst Part Of NBC’s Olympics

  1. #1
    Elite Member witchcurlgirl's Avatar
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    Default Fake, Jingoistic, And Stupid: Gymnastics Coverage Is The Worst Part Of NBC’s Olympics

    If you have a full-time job, no privacy at work, and/or a boss who cares about productivity, you probably didn't spend two hours in the middle of the day, like I did, watching the women's all-around Olympic gymnastics final. This means that you get to see it tonight on NBC, with routines sprinkled between the hours of 8 p.m. and 12 a.m. as Tim Daggett, Elfi Schlegel, and everyman Al Trautwig pretend that they are actually commenting live.

    It really sucks to be you, because NBC's gymnastics coverage is the worst. NBC has been taking a drubbing due to its Opening Ceremonies editing choices, "virtual live" primetime broadcasts, and accidental spoilers. But all of you Johnny-come-latelies need to get in line—gymnastics fans have hated NBC forever.

    The Peacock network has had a virtual monopoly on gymnastics coverage in the States for years—not just the Olympics, but nationals, world championships, and the American Cup. If you want to watch gymnastics in the United States, you must do it through NBC's prism.

    Gymnastics coverage doesn't have to be stupid. Back in the early to mid '90s, ABC had the rights to the world championships. Former gymnasts Bart Conner and Kathy Johnson-Clark nimbly guided viewers through the competition without putting down foreign competitors or using hyperbolic language to heighten the drama. Even the fluff pieces were adorable, like the one from the 1993 World Championships where Conner tried to keep pace working out with a 15-year-old Kerri Strug.

    NBC, by contrast, produced fluff pieces that made Deva and Round Lake, the Romanian and Russian team training centers, look like Dickensian orphanages where families abandoned their athletically gifted children—while showing America's Dominique Moceanu playing on a seesaw. (Seriously, what 14-year-old do you know that still plays on a seesaw?)

    As current Olympic viewers are realizing, NBC rarely shows foreign athletes unless they are directly in competition with the U.S. During the women's team finals, the network showed few Chinese and Romanian routines, despite the fact that those two were in a heated contest for the bronze. Instead, we got endless shots of the U.S. girls and coaches on the sidelines talking, and two airings of the same exact video montage featuring poses from the five member squad—in case didn't realize just how photogenic this team is or you didn't catch their first names on the first try.

    While I enjoy seeing teenage girls talk amongst themselves as much the next person does, it would've been nice if NBC had used the time to show some other countries doing gymnastics. If you really want to savor Team USA's camaraderie, just follow the gang on Twitter. They tweet a lot. The Olympics shouldn't look like a domestic meet.

    As we've noted, NBC didn't show the floor routine of Ksenia Afanasyeva, the defending world champion on the apparatus, who crashed to her knees on her final tumbling pass—the moment that basically sealed the American women's first team gold medal in 16 years. Showing Russians unhappy and in tears is one of NBC's favorite pastimes, but seeing Afanasyeva stumble would've eliminated any sort of faux suspense that remained after Anastasia Grishina's enormous error.

    Perhaps people would have tuned out the instant they knew the gold was secure. (Or maybe they could have turned on their computers, iPads, iPhones or any other internet-enabled device, learned the results that had been finalized hours earlier, and not watched at all.) Unfortunately for the viewers, in exchange for that slightly extended plot line, they were denied the opportunity to see one of the best choreographed and performed routines of the Games (at least until the fall at the very end).

    Strangely enough, NBC also failed to show Afanasyeva's lovely beam routine from the previous rotation, which had been an important hit for the Russians after two shaky performances. Not only would the audience have appreciated seeing the Russian veteran's grace, it would have greatly added drama to the proceedings to the Americans' chief rivals nail a set.

    NBC's announcing trio is supposedly doing all of the commentary live at the arena, but that's impossible to believe. At least some of it seems to have been recorded after the fact. Case in point: their coverage of the women's preliminary, in which the big story turned out to be world champion Jordyn Wieber's failure to qualify for the all-around competition. I watched the live webcast, with 1996 gold medalist Shannon Miller doing the commentary. Miller was informative and cogent throughout, but she barely mentioned the race to qualify for the all-around until the very end—when it suddenly looked like Wieber might lose out.

    Yet when I watched the tape-delayed network telecast later that night, Tim and Elfi mentioned the possibility of Wieber missing the final at least half a dozen times. Either they're spectacularly prescient or they're the gymnastics-commentary version of the Terminator—sent from the future to revise the past.

    The NBC trio is also unusually cruel to the foreign competitors. Back in March, I wrote about the American Cup—called the "Scam" Cup by fans for its predictably red, white, and blue first-place finishes—and noted that when Great Britain's Rebecca Tunney had three falls on beam, the trio didn't stop at calling her routine "disastrous." They wondered aloud whether the she would ever be able to mentally recover from this set, meanly suggesting she seek the counseling of Dr. Phil.

    During Olympic prelims, when talking about the British girls, Schlegel mentioned that routine yet again as if it's the only piece of gymnastics she's seen Tunney do. Tunney is actually quite good at bars, and despite a rocky meet at Scam-one of her first as a senior gymnast-she has competed well for Great Britain all year. Maybe it was the only performance Schlegel had seen the Brit do. Perhaps she is contractually prohibited from watching competitions not broadcast on NBC.

    This Games, the NBC crew has decided to tar the Russians as "divas," as though it's a bad thing. It's not as if the Russians are demanding the beam be made wider for them or that their favorite brand of chalk be stocked on the podium. Yet before 2010 world champion Aliya Mustafina started her uneven bar routine during team finals, Al asked Tim, "Have you seen any diva moments?"

    By all accounts that aren't from NBC, the Russians have had some difficult practices, struggling with skills and routines. As a result, they've expressed frustration to their coaches. (Alexander Alexandrov, the Russian coach, seems more amused or bemused than upset by this.) Showing how you feel in practice and competition? Oh, the horror! Someone alert Mariah Carey that a bunch of Russian gymnast are zeroing in on her diva throne.

    Personally, I root hard for the U.S. team. So why care that the Russians and others are unfairly portrayed by NBC?

    It's because gymnastics is a particularly international sport. If you're a fan of basketball, you don't have to look outside of the United States for viewing and competition opportunities. With gymnastics and other Olympics sports, the domestic field is insufficient. There are only a couple of major national meets a year.

    So to understand the sport, gymnastics fans have to be knowledgeable of and familiar with what's going on abroad. This tends to breed an appreciation for other countries' gymnasts. Even if you don't want them to win, you don't want to see them maligned, treated as cartoons, or ignored.

    This could be too cruel. Maybe, after years and years and years in the broadcast both, the NBC trio is merely suffering from commentating fatigue. They are tired, traumatized (especially after seeing the Italian Vanessa Ferrari's leotards) and drained. They can't think of anything else to say aside from, "Orozco is from the Bronx," "The Russians are divas," and "She has the look international judges love."

    Whether they're weary or just incompetent, it's long past time for a switch. How about Shannon Miller? Thus far she has done a wonderful job narrating the live feed from the O2 Arena—thoroughly enjoyable and informative, and critical without being mean or vicious. When competitors make mistakes, she doesn't merely say, "That's bad," but explains precisely what went wrong. She never resorts to dramatic hyperbole, saying things like "This is desperation time," as Al Trautwig said last night after Danell Leyva's mistakes in the all-around.

    And Miller has stayed classy throughout. Pressed today by her co-commentator about how it must feel to win an Olympic gold medal, as the winner stood atop the podium, Miller, a silver medalist in the all-around in 1992, said that she couldn't imagine what it felt like.

    Back then, the posters that lined the Olympic trials arena read "It's Miller Time," signaling the passing of the torch from world champion Kim Zmeskal to trials winner Shannon Miller. If NBC cared about gymnastics viewers, it would make primetime Miller Time.


    Fake, Jingoistic, And Stupid: Gymnastics Coverage Is The Worst Part Of NBC's Olympics
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    Elite Member OrangeSlice's Avatar
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    Goody. Another place for me to vent about how much NBC sucks and their coverage of the Olympics had been epically bad. I don't follow gymnastics much after the Olympics, but even I have to wonder at how they slight every other country besides the USA and made snide nasty little remarks everywhere, and overdramatize the shit out of everything. It's not a fucking soap opera or one of their cancelled dramas. And that doesn't even begin to touch on my hatred of their broadcast schedule, live streaming, editing, and spoilers. I just like having another place to say that NBC sucks. And apparently NBC doesn't give a damn if they suck.
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    Elite Member MontanaMama's Avatar
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    Excellently written and exactly what I've been thinking during all the gymnastics coverage.
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    (Replying to MontanaMama) This is some of the smartest shit I ever read

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    Elite Member *DIVA!'s Avatar
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    That article is spot on!! I love gymnastics and I love watching ALL of the countries compete because they ALL work so hard and are the BEST!! NBC did a piss poor job of covering the Olympics and I kept saying that even though I know the results something is missing!! No back stories, no struggles, no how parents sacrificed.... They are sucking the Olympics out of the Olympics...biased asses!!
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    Elite Member Kat Scorp's Avatar
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    That was an enjoyable read. It's comforting that other countries also have piss-poor gymnastics coverage; down here they tend to only show the three to four highest scoring routines on each apparatus.
    JazzyGirl likes this.

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    The article is dead on. The coverage has been appalling, and so USA-focused it's been boring despite NBC's attempt to edit for dramatic effect. Really, how dare they. This isn't reality television. Just show the competition, tell us what is technically going on and stfu.

    Oh and I'm glad the article mentioned those pics of the USA girls posing or whatever they were doing. Hair and makeup and slightly provocative poses. First off, they looked stupid and over-posed. Secondly, how about we focus -- at least for now during the fucking Olympics -- on the talent these girls possess. They are Olympians! They don't need to be reduced to quasi- pin up girls.

    You never see that bullshit with male athletes.

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    Elite Member angelais's Avatar
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    Nbc could eliminate all the extra bullshit they add in that takes up 90% of the coverage, and show some competition that includes other countries, not just the USA. They suck and I want to drop kick Bob Costas, which would be easy because he is a midget. I might get my shoes covered in cheap hair dye, but it would be worth it.

    I would like to hear from those of you in other countries - how is the Olympics coverage where you are?
    lurkur likes this.
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    I stopped watching the Olympics at all several years ago because of the coverage and the commercialization. I think it was the Atlanta summer Olympics, which began my abiding hatred for Bob Costas. That's also the Olympics where they decided to add more sob stories to attract female viewers.

    The point of the Olympics is to see the best athletes in the world compete. Why would they assume that US viewers only want to see Americans compete? I remember as a child that the whole world, including the US, was enthralled with Russian gymnasts, then Romanian, etc. We rooted for the US but appreciated the best when we saw it.
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    Elite Member Sarzy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by angelais View Post
    I would like to hear from those of you in other countries - how is the Olympics coverage where you are?
    The BBC have done a pretty good job imo. It's on all day and you have a few channels to choose from which show different events. Obviously they focus on the Brits if they stand a chance for a medal, but with the gymnastics for example I think they showed pretty much everyone's performances.

  10. #10
    Elite Member sputnik's Avatar
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    i haven't really watched any of the olympics, except for a few minutes here and there, usual spoiled by some boring ass background story on the athletes that prompts me to change the channel. until last night when my roomate and i caught the gymnastics all-around, and man did it suck.
    i knew nbc coverage was going to be bad, and patriotic to the point of being vomit-inducing (there are a lot of great things about american tv, but reality tv and jingoistic, patriotic/crypto-fascist sports coverage are not part of those), but seeing it after growing up watching the olympics on the bbc or on state-owned french tv channels where they have the usual commentators who are actually there to comment, not to try to turn sporting events into high drama, was really kind of shocking.
    i miss the no-nonsense, no-frills, coverage. i really don't give a fuck about how some gymnast overcame adversity and i don't want to see interviews with their families and i don't want to hear them try to get all deep and i don't want that horribly cheesy 'heart-warming' music in the background. i really don't give a fuck about who these people are. i want to see them doing what they're good at - gymnastics - and i want to bitch about ugly uniforms, unfair scores, bad music, and cheer when they do something incredible. and i don't want to put up with an hour of cheesy family stories and half an hour of ads, for every five minutes of actual olympic sports.
    fuck you, NBC.
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  11. #11
    Elite Member witchcurlgirl's Avatar
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    Default The Problem with NBC’s Paternalistic Coverage of Gymnastics “Divas”





    When applied to a woman in the public eye, the term diva can convey two very different meanings. In the positive sense, we prize the diva’s extraordinary talents and revel in her ability to command an audience with presence and poise. But in other cases, diva is a term of derision, a put-down for a woman who, though skilled, has overstepped her place by being too assertive, demanding, or emotional.

    As Hanna Rosin mentioned in her post on Sunday’s Olympics gymnastics competition, NBC’s commentators fixated on the young women’s displays of emotion, taking particular note of reigning world champion Jordyn Wieber’s briefly tearful reaction to the news that she would not advance to the all-around final.

    The obsession with "girlish" emotional expression didn’t stop there. Before the Russian team took to the floor, NBC screened a segment on the tradition of the diva in Russian gymnastics. “A diva can be temperamental,” Al Trautwig narrated. “Adulation is expected. There might be petulance to criticism.” Then, a clip of an interview with Alexander Alexandrov, the Russian coach: “Everybody is like diva. A little—nose up.” Trautwig then finished up by soberly noting that divas must learn the “difference between confidence and stubbornness.”

    Good thing there are men on hand to rein them in, even if, as one of the announcers reveals later, the girls’ diva attitude makes Alexandrov (who is, you know, paid to be a coach) “miserable.”

    The diva appellation is not new in gymnastics. As Meghan O’Rourke pointed out in Slate back in 2004, some athletes have relished the term, most notably Russia’s Svetlana Khorkina. But while Khorkina owned the label and spoke openly of her pride in it, her successors were labeled by a bunch of men without getting the opportunity to comment themselves. The whole thing read as paternalistic and, in the end, unnecessary.

    That “these girls are very emotional,” as NBC’s Tim Daggett put it, should be neither here nor there. After all, when Michael Phelps and his teammates express diva-like torrents of emotion poolside, their whooping and grimacing—if it’s noticed at all—is deemed nothing more than uncomplicated masculine enthusiasm.

    If we’re going to start policing an athlete's emotional responses during what is arguably the most important competition of her career, we should at least be equal in our application of the criteria. A young female gymnast is a diva for being a little self-possessed? Fine—then diamond-grilled Ryan Lochte is the biggest prima donna of them all.



    London Olympics gymnastics: The problem with NBC
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    Elite Member JazzyGirl's Avatar
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    want to put pen to paper (not email) and write to NBC when this is over. I love the Olympics and their manufacturing of drama and WTF Ryan Seacrest is just nauseating.

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