Awesome Announcing

A story on Slate today takes a pot shot at NBC for its Olympics coverage. Aside for a bit too much women’s beach volleyball in prime time, and timing issues of which it is only partially to blame, let’s give the network credit for some absolutely fantastic play-by-play and color work. Tom Hammond’s “winning by daylight” call of the 100 meter final is a classic that captured all the excitement of Bolt’s crazy accomplishment. Dan Hicks and Rowdy Gaines have similarly brought tremendous energy to the swimming events, especially the Lezak and Phelps come-from-behind miracles. Tim Dagget, is terrific as color man with gymnastics—honest, optimistic, and detailed about the subtleties of a sport most casual viewers are unlikely to appreciate. Mike Breen is doing the very difficult job of making Team USA’s blowout victories on the hardcourt special, by reveling the athleticism and spectacular talent on display. In almost every case, they’ve done an admirable job of rooting for the American squad, but not at the expense of objectivity, or with any loss of enthusiasm for the amazing victories of other nationals, even when Americans don’t win or even medal.

The way things are going, the Olympics sure beats watching the Yanks.

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  • i’d have to agree…considering the helter-skelter nature of olympic coverage, the announcers must have a heck of a time knowing just the right way to get a viewer caught up…as you mentioned, rooting balanced with objectivity is another challenge, which they do seem to handle quite well…my only beef with the olympics has been the awkward scheduling…can’t be helped of course…can’t put everything in u.s. prime time…

    dc August 17, 2008, 10:22 am
  • Sort of mostly agree, YF, other than the fact that the gymnastics portion of the broadcast is insulated from it’s creepiness by popularity. The sport is abusive, frankly, and the brouhaha over the Chinese girls was a smokescreen for the bigger abuses of the sport itself, a sport that breeds anorexic girls quite infamously. The presence of Bela Karolyi, who is on another whole level of creepiness, only exacerbated the discomfort for me.
    The swimming has been broadcast superbly, on almost every level.

    SF August 17, 2008, 12:50 pm
  • Anorexic girls? With the exception of the Chinese team, I felt most of the gymnasts I’ve seen have been pretty muscular. You don’t build and maintain that type of body by starving yourself.
    Alicia Sacramone
    Shawn Johnson
    Sandra Izbasa
    Those were the three big winners that I saw last week. Petite is not the same thing as anorexic.

    Atheose August 17, 2008, 1:11 pm
  • Oops, meant to post Nastia Luikin and not Sacramone.
    She’s skinny to be certain, but has incredibly strong legs and abs. Gymnasts may be on strict diets, but they do eat a lot–they do too much work to NOT consume 5000+ calories a day. If you want to talk about a dangerous and abusive sport, look at wrestling. Yo-yo dieting is crazy-dangerous.

    Atheose August 17, 2008, 1:19 pm
  • But wrestling you want to go out there hungry. Those are some tough SOBs.

    Jeff August 17, 2008, 1:20 pm
  • Yeah Jeff, one of my best friends in highschool was on the wrestling team. He would starve himself for 5 days before his weigh-in, then binge himself on protein for a week before the actual tournament. Horrible for his body, and dangerous as hell.

    Atheose August 17, 2008, 1:38 pm
  • My parents complains about the beach volleyball (and regular volleyball, even). There are just so many games, and it takes up so much time.. haha..
    A little homer-ish, but mostly acceptable. Phelps the highlight for me thus far, as he lived up to the hype. I especially enjoyed the little bit they did on NBC, where they show why he’s as good as he is – shorter legs, double joints, etc.

    Lar August 18, 2008, 12:08 am
  • I liked that too Lar. I can’t believe his wingspan is wider than he is tall. Not that I’ve ever measured anyone, but that can’t be normal — especially when you’re 6-5.
    Second the praises for swimming and gymnastics announcing. As someone who watches those sports every four years, it’s a great combination of explanation and description; I don’t want to feel like I’m being condescended to, but I also like to learn while I watch. If only ESPN could find announcers as good for its national baseball broadcasts… besides Orel Hersheiser, anyway.

    Paul SF August 18, 2008, 12:46 am
  • Ya, I only know a few other example of a longer span for that height. Elton Brand, I think, is the example that people go by – he’s ~6′ 6 or 6′ 7, but has the wingspan of someone with 7′ 5 – for a reach of a 7 footer.

    Lar August 18, 2008, 5:26 pm
  • I have found Dagget to be an annoying know-it-all.
    And I have been very disappointed in the willingness of about everyone to go all ESPN and annoint Phelps as the greatest ever.
    No context and no perspective.
    This is a shot at the journalists, not Phelps.
    Phelps is terrific, no doubt. And I tip my hat to him. Eight times. But let’s keep a few things in mind:
    Phelps has had far more opportunities to win medals than previous swimmers, more events. He has benefitted from technology not available to Mark Spitz – the pool, the suits.
    He has benefitted from Spitz’ standards, and from the lack of Spitz’ moustache.
    Look at the other Olympic sports. How many of them provide the opportunity to medal eight times in a single Olympics?
    Even that moronic short track speedskating doesn’t have as many disciplines.
    All of those points are relevant when considering where Phelps fits into the big picture. But even when those facts have been mentioned they’ve been glossed over and brushed aside.
    I haven’t been watching 24/7, but I’ve also heard a too many references to “The Greatest Olympian Ever” to believe that I’ve missed appropriate perspective and context.

    I'm Bill McNeal August 19, 2008, 1:52 pm
  • He has benefitted from technology not available to Mark Spitz – the pool, the suits.
    Even playing field: all the other guys have access to the same suits and pool design that Phelps does. This isn’t a good argument, other than to pinpoint or criticize the huzzahs over the world records. But forget the records, I think everyone, announcer and alike, realizes that technology has generouly lent itself to the pursuit of these lower times, there’s been no glossing over that. Just look at Spitz’ comments themselves to understand what Phelps has done, at least in terms of the swimming discipline.

    SF August 19, 2008, 1:56 pm
  • to quote: “but I’ve also heard a too many references to “The Greatest Olympian Ever”
    doesn’t the media heap that on their favorite multi-medal athelete every olympics?
    Eric Hyden was crowned back in the day, as were others.

    dw (sf) August 19, 2008, 2:17 pm
  • Does the fact that there are so many events help Phelps because he has more opportunity to win gold — or hurt him because it’s that much more likely that he won’t be fully rested in any given event? I’d say winning eight golds in eight events in roughly seven days is even more remarkable because of the number of events in which he’s performing. To me, that adds to the wonder.
    Also, more events means more competitors and a greater chance that he can lose the gold by some fluke occurrence or an inferior swimmer having a better day — or, more likely, an inferior swimmer who hasn’t swum six races in the last six days.

    Paul SF August 19, 2008, 6:44 pm
  • I thought I heard that Phelps performed with 4 distinct strokes while Spitz only mastered two distinct strokes. That another way of saying what you just said. Phelps’ dominance was that much more distributed throughout the sport.

    Jeff August 19, 2008, 7:02 pm
  • To be clear, by criticism is of the media for so poorly considering context and perspective in its coverage.

    I'm Bill McNeal August 20, 2008, 12:09 pm