May/Walsh – We Still Don’t Hate You!

Hats off to the awesome May/Walsh beach volleyball duo.  With considerable effort it is still possible to admire their athletic accomplishment despite all of NBC’s efforts to make us hate them.  Coverage of their matches was relentless and unprecedented – it seemed as if every point of every match they played was televised – regardless of how lopsided the particular match (as indeed most of them were) may have been.  A familiar script was faithfully rattled off by the commentators for each and every match:

1. Misty’s insistence on being evaluated as a team when asked which of them was a better player.

2. The story of Misty spreading her Mom’s ashes at the Sydney Olympics, and her plans to do the same in Beijing.

3.  The whole scoop behind the black tape on Kerri Walsh’s shoulder.

4. Misty being the best defensive player in the world, and Kerry being the best offensive player.

5. The fact that Kerri turned 30 on August 15th, and the details of her birthday celebration.

6. The fact that winning this tournament would constitue Walsh’s 100th career win.

Their last match started to turn ugly in a predictable manner, from a commentary point of view.  Let serves (serves that hit the net and still go over,) when scored by their Chinese opponents were characterized as “lucky/snake bites” while, throughout the tournament, they were celebrated as examples of “making one’s own luck” when May/Walsh scored the same way.  When one of the Chinese players began to score with some consistency with a hit down the line, it was described as a “slimey” shot that Walsh needed to do a better job of anticipating.  When Wang of the Chinese team took a medical time out to have an elbow massaged, the commentators seized the moment to point out how this particular player was notorious for faking medical attention, while providing only laughable supporting evidence.

And did I mention that the coverage was relentless?  When I think about the number of sports that didn’t get any prime time coverage, it occurred to me that the May/Walsh coverage did constitute something of a “perfect storm” for the NBC agenda.  Hot chicks for which they had tons of stock footage that relished their time on camera and consistently hammered their competitors – what’s not to like?

I wonder if badminton would have received more coverage if the competitors wore thongs?  

And just when you thought my rant was finally over – Bob Costas, unfortunately for you the reader, comes to mind.  I have such a good time losing my mind over the likes of Costas, the quintessential high school basketball team student manager, when he presumes to alternately rub elbows with and scold those that are actually accomplished athletically.  Most recently his bashing of Usain Bolt for Bolt’s apparent premature celebration in the final meters of his 100 meter world record run really got my goat.  I loved Bolt’s performance as I saw it unfold because I knew it would drive the press nuts.  Already outraged that a non American for which they were caught completely flat footed (no sappy human interest package to grab off the shelf) would have the audacity to win so convincingly, the poor things had their noses rubbed in it with Bolt’s brilliant showboating.  

Bob, we really don’t need some hyper-salaried talking head preaching to someone who’s got the real goods.   We’ll trust you to cut to commercials on time, serve up the mindless banter during technical difficulties, and to fawn over pixie gymnasts – but weighing in on “sportsmanship” is way out of your league.

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