Olympic Gasbags

Every four years I grimace at the thought of watching the women’s olympic gymnastics, yet for some reason I keep coming back.  This year it may well have been because it was such a relief from the incessent beach volleyball.  What gives me pause with regard to women’s gymnastics has nothing to do with the athletes, but the terribly transparent, agenda ridden coverage provided by NBC.

It’s normally clear at the outset which competitor they’re going to push – “pure bred” Mary Lou Retton clones… little apple pie types with big smiles and lots of energy.

The pattern goes something like this – if things are going well for them, it’s “Look at the pixie” and “That’s 100% heart” types of comments that are going to prevail.  If they start to lose ground to their competitors, then it immediately digresses to an analysis of the judges – i.e., who comes from what country.  If things contiue to degrade – and particularly if the difference in skill level is apparent to everyone except the “expert” American/Canadian commentators – then the victors are portrayed as tiny robotic, brainwashed products of an autocratic society, unnaturally desperate to win for fear of state sponsored retribution.

This time around was particularly interesting since the eventual American gold medal winner immigrated from Russia as a toddler, and is the daughter of a former Soviet gold medal winner.  For obvious reasons, she wasn’t the darling – but rather the scrappy West Des Moines high school student, who met the profile to a “T.” 

So between Bob Costas and Al Trautwig, the gold medal winner’s tearful response to winning the gold medal was “very American” – as if to politely counter her obviously soiled lineage.  The Chinese athlete that narrowly missed the silver medal was merely “the Chinese woman.”  And lastly, the darling from Des Moines that ended up with the silver medal was, literally in the words of Bob Costas, the “adorable Shawn Johnson.”

The three of them were all magnificent athletes, and I was struck by how much better these gymnasts are at what they do than the commentators are at what they do.  My suggestion to NBC is to stop beating around the bush – put numbers on the back of the gymnasts corresponding to the purity of their “apple pie pixie factor” DNA and have done with it.

Before retiring I shall perform a summersault in the middle of my living room floor as my salute to the gymnastic community.  I shall then void my bladder in salute to the commentators.

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