Wednesday, August 13, 2008

We are the champions, my friends

I have the Olympic fever.

Every two years I think casually, “Ehh…the Olympics. Means Conan will be on very, very late.” Then I find myself excited to catch a glimpse of the 400 meter men’s relay, live from Beijing (truth told, I stop and watch whenever the men are swimming. Goodness, they have nice shoulders).

Last night, between eating away at yet another corporate deadline and leftover Chinese and catching up on blog reading, women’s team gymnastics played in the background. By the end of the evening, as I slid into bed around midnight, the U.S. team earned a silver medal. Why is it when a team or athlete earns anything less than gold the press diminish the achievement? Guess they go for “good TV” or the "better read."

My goal going into college was to come out a music writer, or a writer of non fiction, and that meant acceptance and training at the CU Boulder School of Journalism. As someone who financed school 100%, attending classes and working retail nearly full time, I had little room for error, little wiggle room. Had to get 'er done. Once accepted in the school (not a simple task; at that time for every 200 applicants the school took in perhaps 20 or 30) you had to select an area of study – Advertising, Broadcast Journalism, something to do with the electronics shenanigans that made it all happen and Public Relations. I was Broadcast Journalism, thirsting for libel law, better copy writing skills, how to work the AP Wires and what made a good story great. I went to school, however, in the heyday of the tabloid press where style often won over substance. I’d barely make it to class in rolled cuff sweats and last nights makeup, only to sit with perfectly air brushed girls dressed in skirts…and heels. Stepford sorority sister and fluffy local weather girl rolled in one. Some boys already had the newscaster tan or sports writer drinking issues. I began to dislike how and what I was being taught, the obtrusive JonBenĂ©t debacle). After a passionate talk with the Dean, I completed my degree with a split major in Broadcast Journalism and Public Relations, minor in history.

Which brings me to last night and U.S. women’s gymnastics team captain Alicia Sacramone. She fell while mounting the balance beam and ended up butt down on her final floor routine. It was one small misstep (of many, team wide) that put a gold medal out of reach but delivered the silver. Post event in a live interview, the NBC commentator, a women, went for the emotional jugular, each question more leading and pointed than the last, the kind of questions you ask passive-aggressively during an argument to gauge a reaction. Sacramone chewed her lower lip, face slowly blushing to amber, swallowing deeply, trying to convey strength in a moment of personal disappointment, rightfully proud of her team’s accomplishment and beating herself up a bit. The interviewer stayed insistent, bemoaning the mistakes instead of celebrating any success, a bit like a hovering mother disappointed in her child's performance. A punch to the gut would have got it over with more quickly.

Move to an interview with the full team, girls rallying around their leader and showing true grace, encouraging watchers to realize “We WON a silver” while Sacramone stood behind the tiny pack, most of the lower half of her face blocked. With each prodding and prying, “She really let you guys down, huh?” question, her eyes darted upward and around the emptying stadium, as if wishing she could transport herself out of the situation and go have a good, long cry.

"No one else made mistakes, so it's kind of my fault," Sacramone said, still trying to blink back the tears from her red-rimmed eyes. "I think everybody knows you always have good days and bad days. I just wish today was a good day."

Still, at the end of it, not an entirely bad one.


Scott Lackey said...

yes.yes.yes...what is wrong with these commentators. beyond this interview...jumping on every little mistake in hysterical hushed tones. who annointed them god-judges. it's annoying in the extreme.

JodieKash said...

Welcome to me head, Scott Lackey ;)

Lucy said...

I may be completely wrong but it seems that America is so accustomed to winning gold that anything less is a bit of a shock to the ego. Here in the UK, we are so accustomed to not winning medals that when we do we go over the top as we have with the girl who won Gold in the swimming.

Lisa said...

That makes me so sad. That poor girl. She has been more devoted to her craft than most people can imagine. So sad.

O' Tim said...

Television news/sports reporting is hardly journalism anymore. As a former inkslinger often running in the same pack I was frequently appalled by the micro-snippet sound bite attitude of the TV press. One time in a courtroom a salty old school reporter gave me the advice to watch them and do the exact opposite.

Cody Bones said...

As the father of both boys and girls may I make the accusation that THERE IS NO FREAKIN WAY THOSE CHINESE GIRLS ARE OLDER THAN 16. One of them still had her baby teeth, and a gap in her mouth. Ridiculous. I have a 13 year old daughter who is slight of frame and petite, and next to those girls she looks like Pamela Anderson. Still, this has been great TV, and I love that I can lay in bed at night and watch gymnastics and swimming, and actually be interested, so Kudos to NBC and their empty headed anchors (and what's with Bob Costa's hair?).

Aries327 said...

Yeah, the newscasters are a-holes. I love how every guy they interview who has been on Phelps' relay team gets asked about how it feels to be on his team and they turn it into an interview about Phelps. It's so inappropriate.

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