Friday, February 17, 2006

The Olympics' Biggest Embarrasment

After meeting deadlines and being in conference calls all week, I've finally had a chance to watch some of the Olympics broadcasts I'd saved in the DVR. As I'd noted before ("An Olympic Plea"), I was concerned about how NBC would handle the coverage. I hadn't liked the coverage in Salt Lake. Of course, that could be that in 2002, I didn't have Tivo. (Actually, I don't have Tivo now. The DVR is from Comcast, but it's just easier to say Tivo.) But the point is that I've actually quite enjoyed the coverage. The personality features aren't too long (especially at FF4), and are well done.

Of course, the premiere event of the Winter Olympics, figure skating, gets lots of airtime. What I like to watch is coverage of sports that rarely if ever receive global television exposure. Sports for which there is no pro tour, no lucrative endorsement deal waiting. Fortunately, NBC has actually covered several of these events relatively completely. Cross Country Skiing, Nordic Combined (ski jumping in the morning, cross country skiing in the afternoon) Speed skating. Biathlon. (You ski a while, then stop and shoot at stuff with the rifle you've been hauling around on your back.)

Mostly I've skipped the snowboarding; it's all just too subjective for me. And there's plenty of it on ESPN2. But the Snowboard Cross is fun, because four racers are on the course at the same time. First one down wins. And even if it's a relatively new sport, the prize for first is still a Gold Medal, and it still means something to say you are an Olympic Champion.

Today's Women's Snowboard Cross found favorite Lindsey Jacobellis way out in front in the final race. So far in front she tried to showboat a bit by turning the penultimate jump into what boarders call a "Method": grabbing the rails of the board and twisting the lower body. But when Jacobellis came down, she was off balance, caught an edge and went down, allowing the Swiss racer (who'd been 50 yards behind her with 100 yards to go) to pass her and take gold. It was an awful sight -- compounded by Jacobellis's post-race assertions that she wasn't trying to showboat, that she had tried several different grabs off that jump in order to deal with a cross wind and this was just another, albeit failed, attempt. No one believes that, and Jacobellis changed her story somewhat in an appearance on NBC several hours later.

The whole situation is incredibly sad: Jacobellis in the air, counting her chickens, then spinning on her back, then lying about what she had been doing and later spinning her lies -- though not terribly effectively. Jacobellis just saw most of her endorsement deals turn into smoke. She'll go down in history as the girl who took too much for granted at the very wrong time. An object lesson in how a single bad decision can have long-lasting effects. Snowboarding certainly has a showboat aspect to it, but save it for the half-pipe. A race is a pure thing, and Lindsey Jacobellis defiled it.

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