The Winter Olympics will begin a little more than two weeks from now and they will run for 17 days. NBC - and three of its other cable networks -
will show 416 hours of programming. Note, I did not say 416 hours of events because much of it will be upclose-and-personal-feelgood nonsense.
Whatever. Here's the interesting part. NBC will have Olympic programming on these networks for an average of 24.47 hours per day. That will be a
real challenge for me; it will make it very difficult for me to ignore all of it.
Since we are drawing close to the Winter Olympics, there is a need to concoct events related to the games that will make it into the news. After all,
without news items to keep the games front and center in the minds of the public, most Americans would do naturally what I am going to do purposefully
- - ignore these silly things. And what better way to get things related to the Olympic Games into the news than to resurrect the scandal story that
brought so much attention to the Games just four years ago. The timing of this 'news' is ever so serendipitous...
Does the name Marie-Reine Le Gougne ring any bells? I had to dig deeply into my memory to recall that she was the infamous 'French skating judge' who
was at the core of the scoring scandal that fixed the pairs competition last time around. Well, as if on cue, Ms. Le Gougne appeared in public so
that she might make a comment on the new way that the International Skating Union will score events and assign marks to skaters. I had missed
completely that the International Skating Union had made that irrelevant move and my guess is that the ISU realized that I was not alone in that state
of blissful ignorance. So up pops Ms. Le Gougne to announce that the International Skating Union did this in her honor. She said that people came up
to her at some meet in Europe and thanked her because the new scoring system is so wonderful and it was because of her that the changes were made.
You may recall that she and the French Skating Federation director were involved in the fiasco four years ago. She said he pressured her into her
vote; he said she was delusional and had been undergoing psychiatric therapy for years. Now, she claims that the new scoring system - whatever it is
- was done in her honor and because of her noble action. She neglects to say that her noble action was to participate in fixing what purports to be a
sporting event of some consequence. Isn't it convenient how those statements bring the Winter Games to mind and make you recall all the furor
surrounding the last set of Winter Games and it all happens just as this set of Winter Games is about to open? I'm telling you that the pro rasslin'
promoters have nothing on the Winter Games organizers.
David Thomas of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram said that Le Gougne's assertion that she was responsible for this new - and supposedly outstanding -
scoring system would be sort of like '...Cain taking credit for the 'Thou shalt not kill' commandment.' He certainly got that right!
Looking ahead to the joyous day when these games are over and we need not pay any attention to them for four more years, Greg Cote noted in the Miami
Herald that the closing ceremonies will feature Frederico Fellini-inspired clowns. Here is what Cote had to say about that:
'Picture symbolism, imagery, sexual overtones and allusions to moral corruption implicit in a big red nose and size-35 shoes.
'Cannot confirm early reports the Fellini/clowns segment will be entitled, 'La Dolce Bozo'....'
But even pulling the stake out of the heart of the skating scandal was not enough; more staged publicity was necessary. So UN Secretary-General Kofi
Annan sprang into action and hopped a plane to visit Jacques Rogge, the IOC president. With these two goofs in the same town, there was more crapola
in the streets than when the circus visits; nonetheless, it did get stuff into the newspapers. Kofi Annan called on all parties involved in armed
hostilities worldwide to respect an 'Olympic Truce' during the Winter Games. Such a truce would provide the parties time to reflect on what they are
doing and then to 'proudly think of other options.' Yessir, that ought to solve that little problem we have down in Darfur and the small
misunderstanding that exists over a Palestinian homeland. This all plays into the phony and self-aggrandizing image that the IOC likes to propagate
that the Olympics is a force driving toward 'World Peace'.
All of that 'force for peace' nonsense came into perspective recently when the Olympic torch was making its way through Italy to Turin. Four
protesters intercepted the relay and briefly captured the torch, which they gave back after making it clear that their protest was part of the
'anti-globalization movement'. How those ends might have been furthered by a momentary interruption in the bearing of a torch to an athletic
convocation was obviously left as an exercise for the reader...
Since I brought up Kofi Annan's name here, I do have two observations to make about him:
1. How come he finds loads of time to visit people for photo ops in comfy and cultured cities but doesn't have a lot of time to haul his butt out to
places like Darfur where there are things going on that are truly inimical to what the UN is supposed to stand for?
2. When Kofi Annan is no longer Secretary-General of the UN, do you think he has a great future as a barrista at Starbucks?
I don't know if you have paid any attention to the promos on ESPN and ESPN2 about the new programming line-up on ESPN2. First of all, they will fill
lots of morning airtime on ESPN2 by televising the Mike and Mike radio program from ESPN Radio. I have no quarrel with that program; it is
entertaining and informative. But let's be realistic here and acknowledge that the fact that the incremental production costs for those four hours of
programming on ESPN2 being just about zero is a driving force for this decision. Praise the Lord; Cold Pizza will be cut back to a bare minimum. But
it is in the early evening where the big changes happen.
ESPN Hollywood will be going off the air. I know that will be a cruel blow to the eleven people who watched this drivel faithfully every night at
6:00 on ESPN2. It's been on the air for about 6 months and it has stunk in spades for that entire time; getting it off the air is like getting that
rotting raccoon carcass out from under your front porch. That time slot will be filled with Best of Mike and Mike. That's right; they'll rerun the
simulcast of a radio program that aired earlier in the day and that will probably get far better ratings. The ratings can't be much worse. Oh if you
don't think this is compelling TV, just hold on because ESPN2 has changed its programming in the late afternoon/early evening hours more often than a
porn star changes positions. And even ESPN will run out of World Series of Poker reruns from 2002, 2003, 2004 ...
And Stephen A. Smith's interview program, Quite Frankly, will move to 11:00PM. Some see this as a demotion for the program; I think that sports
television in the late evening is a better time for the audience it draws than the early evening. We'll see how this program fares. I do not watch
Quite Frankly every evening, but when I have tuned in, the programs are generally very informative if not overly entertaining.
Finally, here's an observation from Mike Bianchi in the Orlando Sentinel regarding the Winter Games. You know I agree with this one:
'You like potato and I like potahto. You like tomato and I like tomahto. You like Turin and I like Torino. Let's call the whole thing off.'
But don't get me wrong, I love sports... ... ...