Another Summer Olympic Games have passed. These were…fine, I guess. OK, that’s harsh. They certainly weren’t terrible. But they also do not measure up to other recent games. And the constant reminders of how the Covid pandemic is getting worse rather than better was a huge bummer. I remain worried that over the next few weeks we will see spikes all over the world from athletes and the folks around them gathering in Tokyo. I hope I’m wrong.
Week two was not as interesting for me as week one was. There were some great individual moments. But that swimming week is just more exciting and has more of its excitement contained in a US prime time friendly window.
The highlight of the week, for me, was the excellently nicknamed A Team of April Ross and Alix Klineman winning the gold in the women’s beach volleyball tournament. Their knock-out matches were always, conveniently, in the prime time window, so it was easy to watch them march to the gold.
However, NBC totally botched the gold medal match. I appreciate that beach volleyball is a difficult sport to show live because it has few lengthy breaks to squeeze commercials into. And I know NBC has to sell/show ads. But the marque event of that night was constantly interrupted by ads. It didn’t help that the A Team was demolishing their Australian opponents rather quickly. It felt like somewhere between a quarter and a third of the match was shown in side-by-side coverage with commercials. These matches usually wrap up in under an hour. I don’t know why NBC couldn’t tweak their ad load for the night to ensure there were minimal commercial interruptions.
Speaking of volleyball, I had no idea the US women’s indoor team was so good. In fact, I only heard that they won their first-ever gold medal after the fact. Some of that is on me, as I’m sure NBC mentioned the team in the midst of other events and I just missed those comments. And it seems like they often played in our overnight hours. But we sure weren’t reminded of their run as much as the beach players’ run, or the basketball or soccer teams’ runs.
That made me realize I miss the big, fat Sports Illustrated preview that used to arrive before the games. It was always filled with features of athletes and profiles of the host country and new sports. There were predictions for every event, which always blew my mind a little bit, as I thought one person picked them all. It was great to keep next to you as you watched so you could know what Americans/American teams were expected to be good and when they would compete.
It also be cool if we still had good, daily newspapers that had extensive Olympic coverage with detailed results and schedules of what was to come.
Obviously I’m super old if I can’t keep up with things outside my immediate interests without some kind of physical, old-school media guiding me.
How about Karch Kiraly adding a gold medal as a coach to go with the three golds he earned as a player?
Good on the US women’s soccer team for shaking off their games-long doldrums and defeating Australia 4–3 for the bronze. That very much felt like a last moment of glory for a healthy chunk of that squad. Time for the next class of legends to roll into the roster.
Also props to the men’s and women’s basketball teams. I’m glad the men got over the shock of their meltdown against France in their opener quicker than us watching did. It’s always good to have Kevin Durant on your side. He’s amazing, in a lot of ways.
I watched the first half of the women’s gold medal game and was laughing constantly. The huge Americans were tossing away pretty much every inside shot by Japan, just as I do with L’s shots when we play. Congrats to the Japanese for sticking to their game plan, knocking down a bunch of threes, and staying reasonably close.
I know I’m not the only one who, each night, checks the Instagram accounts of multiple athletes who I just discovered moments earlier, right? It’s a very useful tool to get to know these people better.
I complained last week about NBC using a British announcer for track and field. One evening I watched the USA Network coverage of T&F and they also had a British announcer. This guy was a classic Brit in that he could not pronounce any Spanish language name properly. Seriously, there’s something in the genes of the British that prevents them from ever pronouncing a Spanish word properly.
He mangled several other foreign names horribly, but did not seem to care. I literally laughed out loud when he just skipped over Odile Ahouanwanou’s name, calling her by her first name, or “The athlete from Benin,” each time he referenced her. He wasn’t about to read a pronunciation guide and get tongue-tied on national TV. It was equally offensive and hilarious.
I mean, I get it, that’s a hard-ass name if you aren’t from Benin. But maybe practice it a few times if you know you’re going to cover her and give her the same respect you give her opponents.
Speaking of “the athlete from Benin,” I noticed a lot more African athletes contending for medals than I can ever recall. I would assume this is because training and support systems are getting stronger in those countries. Seemed like a lot of them are coming to the States for college, too. I’ve been complaining about Jamaica for 17 years. Might sub-Saharan Africa be a bigger long-term threat to our sprints dominance than Jamaica?
I was shocked to learn that Dan O’Brien didn’t still hold the world record in the decathlon. To be fair I don’t think I’ve paid attention to the decathlon since 1996.
One of the great images of the games was after the heptathlon and decathlon athletes had run their final races and joined together to walk down the length of the track, waving to the cameras and the few people in the stands. It was cool to see the women hang around to congratulate the men on their successes, and then the two groups exit as one, savoring their final moments in the Olympic stadium.
I assume there was probably some big, world-class-athlete orgy immediately after, right?
Another favorite image from track and field: the robotic truck that returned the hammer, discus, and shot put back to the competitors. That was awesome. I loved seeing it zip around the infield while there was a race on the track.
Another frustrating aspect of track coverage was how NBC would combine live coverage with events that had been recorded over 12 hours earlier. It was generally obvious what was what – the prerecorded material often took place under stadium lights while the live stuff was in the Tokyo morning sun – but still abrupt and awkward. It was weird to watch a live heat in an event, a prerecorded final that I already knew the result of, then another live heat. Oh well, it’s tough to broadcast with a 13-hour time difference.
Big time props to Allyson Felix on an amazing career. Wrapping it up with a gold in a truly staggering 4×400 relay win was a terrific topper. That relay was siiiiiick. Felix was the slowest woman on the American squad by far, and she’s won more track medals than anyone ever! Watching Athing Mu blow out the anchor leg was awe-inspiring. I wonder if Mu or Sydney McGlaughlin will be blog material as long as Felix was?
It was great to see the Geico Tag Team commercial reappear!
On the other hand, I know I wasn’t the only person completely sick of the Toyota ad with the Paralympian who was adopted from Siberia. I swear that was in every single prime time commercial break. And it’s not even new, it has been bumming me out for awhile. Even S looked up from her charting one night and said, “Not this ad again!”
Saturday evening L and I were watching the women’s basketball pregame show, and when the announcer mentioned that the games were coming to an end, she said that made her sad. I kind of laughed at her, because she didn’t watch a ton of the games. She more popped in-and-out the way she does with all sports. But I was glad a little of her dad’s love of the Olympics is in her.
Tweets of the games
I’ve never tried to embed Tweets before. I probably should learn how to do that. We’ll see if this works. Regardless, here are some of my favorite Olympics-related Tweets of the past two weeks.
How is it possible that NBC has all these channels and streaming options and not one of them is like "Olympics RedZone" jumping around to key moments across all the sports
— Emma Baccellieri (@emmabaccellieri) July 26, 2021
Million-dollar idea I can’t believe NBC has thought of on their own, unless they’ve thought of it and shot it down for some dumb reason.
Events should just be
Fight that guy
Run to that stick
Swim to the other side
Throw this thing as far as you can
Do some flips over this thing
Can you lift this https://t.co/LHEEVr5DAN
— kang🚎 (@jaycaspiankang) July 24, 2021
This is awesome.
Simone Biles won nationals w/broken toes in both feet, worlds w/a kidney stone, and has carried the burden of being a face of sexual assault survivors as a national institution failed to support them
Half of y'all yelling about "toughness" can't handle wearing a mask in Wegman's
— Kavitha A. Davidson (@kavithadavidson) July 27, 2021
Damn, shit just got real! And a-fucking-men.
I don't know who the lady doing the analysis on the synchronized diving is but she's a hell of a lot, I tell you what.
— Craig Calcaterra (@craigcalcaterra) July 29, 2021
Evergreen Summer Olympics Tweet.
Peacock has Snoop & Kevin Hart doing uncensored Olympic highlights and the equestrian bit "oh, the horse crip walking cuh… you see that?" 💀 pic.twitter.com/beCaJhAIpI
— CJ Fogler #BlackLivesMatter (@cjzero) July 31, 2021
Just brilliant analysis from Snoop.
Let’s do it again in six months in, checks notes, China. Fuck. Third-straight games in Asia, in the country where the Covid pandemic started, and during what could be that absolute worst time of the Delta (or whatever the strongest variant at that point is) winter. I’m sure everything will be just fine.