Five-ring Circus


My suggestions for improving the Olympic TV experience.

Check out Slate’s complete coverage of the 2010 Winter Olympics.

German bobsledders Claudia Schramm and Janine Tischer

Has my Olympics fever broken or was last night’s broadcast kinda dull?

Women’s aerials was on, but, as I’ve already whined, halfpipe snowboarding is far awesomer than this, its old-school cousin. Lovely Lydia Lassila ain’t got nothing on illuminated Torah Bright, and the aerialista suffered for having to follow the snobo babe. That said, the fact that Lassila and her peers were jumping in dense fog did add some interest. Maybe the sport’s governing bodies should consider mandating smoke machines at all future events.

The gorgeous ladies of bobsled were likewise victims of the fortnight’s calendar. In terms of the overall schedule, there was a problem with rising action in the sliding sports, an anti-climax: Who can get truly psyched about bobsled after thrilling to the skeleton and the luge? Where a bobsledder hurtles along the track in something resembling an actual vehicle, her colleagues race down on what are basically aerodynamic cafeteria trays. Maybe the sport’s governing bodies should consider mandating that multiple cameras be mounted on each bobsled—bob-cams, one of which would use night-vision technology to reveal the brakeman’s contorted face.

On CNBC, Finland beat the Czech Republic at men’s hockey, an exciting contest, or so I have read. I’ve never been able to get into a hockey match without being surrounded by at least 1,000 belligerent drunks, and I didn’t want to disturb my downstairs neighbors on a school night.

Thus did I come to face an important question: Was there anything good airing anywhere else?

The Diary of Anne Frank was on TCM, but sometimes not even Nathan Zuckerman is in the mood for that. Channel 13 was revisiting Ken Burns’ Civil War, but I know how that one ends. Turning to MTV, I tried to demean myself with a bit of Real World XXIII: Washington, D.C.but encountered opposition from the wife, who wondered, “Why? Why?WHY? Do we have to?” I flipped to TNT just long enough to confirm that Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby holds up beautifully. Alas, I missed the scene that speedskater Shani Davis evoked when, interviewed on Today earlier in the week, he remembered himself as a tyke “fascinated by trying to go fast.”

Ah, yes—there was more short track last night. Oh, hey—the furious butt-shoving vortex of the women’s 3000-meter relay gave pleasure! Mm, ugh—an interview made it clear that the most overexposed athlete of the Vancouver Games is Apolo Anton Ohno, whose smirk and soul patch have fused into one insufferable unit. His personal charm is to be located under a heap of sunglasses and unmatched mittens in some local lost-and-found.

I don’t remember whether Ohno delivered his most recent feather-stroking self-assessment to Bob Costas or to Cris Collinsworth, both of whom have been dressing like they’re members of “a prep-school singing group,” to use Costas’ own words. With the sole exception of last Monday, when he donned a mock turtleneck and radiated an unfortunate golf-club hepcat vibe, Costas has been looking good, maybe too good. In sync with the U.S. team’s Ralph Lauren gear, he’s gone deeply preppy with a lot of flannels and a few paisley prints and a couple of narrowly striped shirts that, as he knows damn well, distractingly strobe on the screen. There’s a fine line between natty and fancy, between dapper dude and total fop, and handmade loafers do not necessarily help a man to walk it. So I have one more question this afternoon: When all is said and done and Ukraine and the United States and Uzbekistan have marched in the closing ceremony and Costas’ assistant checks him out of his hotel, how much of NBC’s money will have been spent on the laundry-pressing of pocket squares?

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