Wednesday, July 6, 2016

V 6 N. 47 Comments on Olympic Trials/ Coverage in the US

We're putting this issue out, because lots of people seem to be forming strong opinions about the coverage of the US Olympic Trials on TV.  We're all feeling short changed in getting what we want and have paid for via US cable and hoping there will be a way to have some options when viewing the Rio Olympics next month.  You can express your views at the bottom of this page by writing in on "Comments".  It will come to us and we will put it on at the bottom of this page once we take a look at it and screen for appropriate content.    My comments which start this posting were spurred on by a series of conversations that came from Gary Corbitt's mailing list.   Initially Hal Higdon remarked on the lack of women in the track and field broadcasting team.  That in turn led to several other ideas, so here goes with my first response, followed by others that started coming in on my list of personal contacts.  George Brose

Network coverage of track and field.

This is an issue that will probably never be resolved to the satisfaction of everyone.

First, to try to find a set of commentators who are knowledgeable of all the track and field events is a daunting task.   I think most  of us on this mailing list tend not to care that much about background stories of athletes and their failures at Little League and turning to track or cross country and are not very interested no matter how hard the networks try to sell this stuff.  But the unknowledgeable public does find it  interesting , and they are the vast majority of people who wander into watching track and field.  So to keep their attention  and to sell toilet paper and Viagra you better put that fluff into your program, even if we die hard track fans have to sit and endure the mindless interests of the masses.  Is there nothing that would interest the two groups of watchers  equally?

Second,  it must be bloody difficult to make a thoughtful, insightful commentary of an ongoing race that is  over in a matter of seconds or minutes.  If you recall,  Dick Bank had to butt into the commentary in the 1964 Olympicsto tell Bud Palmer to "Look at Mills! Look at Mills!"  And that intervention cost Bank his job with ABC.  The 10,000 meters this week in Eugene  was not an easy assignment as it got spread out fairly quickly and turned into a fartlek workout for Galen Rupp. (Bruce Kritzler's assessment of the race)   I would have preferred to have had a mike on Salazar during that race.  There were six or seven little races going on around the track simultaneously between people who had absolutely no chance of making the team.  Not an interesting story.   Perhaps of more interest is what were the Kenyans running for the US Army doing on the track.  Obviously they have become US citizens to be there, how about some more details.  Welcome to the US, guys.  Karibuni.   

  Games like football and basketball have lots of pauses for commentators to catch up to the action. Replays are lifesavers to these 'guys' (more on guys later).  Their assistants can keep stat sheets flowing to them to add 'knowledgeable' commentary.  Sure they do a bit of homework before the game, but football commentators have a team of spotters keeping them abreast of whatever is going on.  Lately,  even marathon coverage has gotten to be pretty marginal due to taking the comments out of the hands of experienced former runners who have a way with their minds and words.  No matter how much competitive experience one has, it doesn 't make them a good commentator either.  When that rare one does come along they often get replaced by a silver tongued devil of a faceman.  Smart, ugly people have had  almost no chance since Howard Cosell retired.  Howard depended on his words and wit, even when he didn't know that much about boxing,  and  because he could interact with Ali on any level and be entertaining.    Maybe the key word is 'entertaining'.  Entertain the masses, not the experts.  The few experts don't have that much buying power.  That's why the networks are forced into providing entertainment.  But it might also be a service to the viewing public to do some educating on the merits of the sport.  Then the public would have a better understanding of what they are watching.   Additionally there are probably some very good and competent people out there who can do the job, but they already have good jobs elsewhere and just don't want to put up with the B S and hucksterism that is the lifeblood of big media.

Third,  please stop interviewing winners immediately after their events when oxygen has not yet gotten back to their brains at normal levels.  This is neither informative nor entertaining fare.  Unfortunately Lewis Johnson has to go out there and try to talk to those folks with little or no feedback about what just went on in the event or for any time to have made sufficient analysis.  It's not fair to the interviewer or the athlete.   And please spare me the overwrought , over emotional orgasmic responses of some of the athletes.  I don't know if they are having a religious experience or what.  But I'm sure even Jesus is embarrassed.  And I wonder if Allah were to be praised in the same manner, would the networks allow it?  If the program is running on a delay as it often is, then the post race interview can be held 10-15 minutes after the event when the athlete and the interviewer can be better prepared to say something of value.  If you go to one of these events you can see that the athletes can and are interviewed in the press tent or just off the track for 30-40 minutes after the event is over.   

Fourth,   I have to confess I've become a fan of the Grand Tours in cycling purely through the television coverage, and not NBC  coverage.  I live in Canada and something called Sports Network 1 has excellent programming of the Tour de France currently in progress.  Their commentators have tremendous experience in racing and commentating.  Admittedly I don't always understand their British and Aussie accents but when that fails , the camera work overcomes anything I miss.   Dopers or no dopers these cyclists are incredible balls out athletes. I can't conceive of riding in a peleton at 30-50mph and risking serious injury in addition to concentrating for 4-5 hours and then sprinting my butt off the last 6 miles or 600 yards.   Enough, just had to say it.

Now for the guys at the mike portion.   Like any other discipline good women have had to work hard to break into this field, and they are still breaking in, and it must be aggravating as hell to stand on the sidelines at an NFL or NCAA game and interview a coach for 30 seconds on 'his' way to the dressing room at half time or a star player after a win or a loss.  The best have moved beyond the game, like Robin Roberts.  I don't know if any others have moved up the broadcast food chain, perhaps so, perhaps not.    If you come across the border, you will find that women co-host and even host on their own a lot of sports commentary programs that cover a multitude of events.  They are knowledgeable, fast with their quips, stunningly dressed, and damn good looking.   I'm afraid only the men can get away with being ugly and still being employed.  And if they are ugly, they better have a lively mouth and brain.  In the Alpha male sports like NHL hockey and CFL football in Canada, the women are still not in the booth, they are down on the sidelines.    In Canadian track programming, there is only one woman on the team and she is not in the booth.   I'd have to start watching more tv to say whether women's sports get a more balanced team of commentators.  Just don't know that one.   So even here in the more liberal environs of Canada, women are still somewhat under the Ginger Rogers burden of doing everything Fred Astaire could do,  doing it backwards, and wearing high heels.

Oiselle Must Take Down Pictures of Kate Grace with their Products  From Orange County Register, July 6, 2016

WTF!   This picture may now be deemed illegal.  Kate Grace who is seen wearing Oiselle clothing recently won a competition in Eugene, Oregon.  We cannot name this meet and the name of the product  (Oiselle) on the same page or the name of the sanctioning bodies in the same breath.  We recognize that this picture was not taken at that particular meeting in Eugene, so perhaps we are not violating those orders, but we will respect any cease and desist orders that we receive from those unamed sanctioning bodies.  


Wow!  What a report.  This will take some time to respond but I do like the topic.
1.   Background stories are often interesting and since nobody knows everything about these people, they do tend to personalize the event.  For instance, hearing that Peyton Manning had a father and a brother who were/are NFL quarterbacks puts some perspective and interest into him.  Most people already know that but not the case with T&F.  However, I must say that some of the background reports are drivel, not worth hearing.  I think the problem is with the content and interest of the reports rather than to have or not to have these reports.  Once we put a face on T&F, it becomes personal to the TV viewer.  They need to have Bruce Kritzler make some suggestions about whom to report on and what questions to ask.

2.   Good comments on the play by play.  I notice that Ato Bolden is often wrong yet he is convincing, especially to the untrained listener.  He often has to contradict himself several times within a race.  Who really remembers that he said last Olympics that college athletes have no chance whatsoever to join the Olympic team, but now he is building them up inasmuch as many have the fastest times?  The 10K coverage reminded me of FloTrack where they put one camera on the leader and follow him for 28 minutes, not even commenting on anyone else.  That was a disgrace of an event for the OT but the coverage was not much better.  I would like to have known why two Kenyans were wearing ARMY uniforms and went 2-3.  I would also have enjoyed knowing why so many dropped out although it could have been due to the heat.  As in soccer, American TV has resorted to English commentators to give the audio some credibility with their accent and way of phrasing things.  This one usually "calls the event" rather than engage in all of the horseplay characteristic of too many American announcers.  Love him or hate him, Howard Cosell, did wonders for many sports.  He was decisive and knowledgeable.  I think that he and John Madden have been among the best US commentators because they were also teachers.  Madden was just more likeable.  I do believe that by talking at the level of the expert viewer, the novice viewer can learn as well.  Just to explain T&F in a simplistic way is much too easy and not very informative.  It deserves so much more.

3.   In the age of instant breaking news, waiting more than 30 seconds for an interview seems to be too long.  However, those out-of-breath interviews are painful to watch and yield very little positive information.  I am certain that each athlete, viewing his own interview later that night, would usually say "what was I thinking?"  30-40 minutes might be too long, but 5 minutes might be a good compromise, giving a chance to switch to a field event without allowing the public to forget the previous event.  This happens from time to time and usually is much more satisfactory.  At the meet sight, the winners are interviewed on the PA system about 15 minutes later and most do pretty well.

4.   Thanks for the update on cycling.  They have some great coverage, made more difficult by moving bicycles.  Hats off to those guys.  I think they are a bit lax on EPO testing so those guys can cycle at 95% of max for hours at a time.  That would not be possible for the average person or even the amazingly well-trained person.

5.   You are quite correct on women broadcasters.  I did watch some of the NCAA and they had a very good female interviewer and reasonably good looking.  She did not have Bruce Kritzler information but she was very up to date, asked good questions, and had the luxury of conducting the interview a little bit later after the event.  One trouble with T&F is that the experts are usually known athletes who have spent their entire sporting life working on one small phase of the sport.  Consequently, they are really out-of-it when asked to comment on a different event.  For instance, Carol Lewis did not seem to know anything except the long jump.  With that in mind NBC would have to hire about 15 female announcers.  Actually, the same could be said for males.  Furthermore, when you get the former stars, they often fail to keep current and want to talk about how things were back in 2004 & 2008.  An heptathlete might be a good choice because of her breath of knowledge.  
6.   If you are still reading this, any suggestions for commentators you think would be good, taking into consideration everything?   Bill Schnier

Bill,   Two names for women broadcasters came in on the Gary Corbitt communications.  Those two were both former Olympians who are breaking into the field.   Leslie Maxie and Carrie Tollefson.  Their work can be seen on youtube by typing in their names on that site.  You can be the judge of their talents.     

One other thing you mentioned about the Kenyans running for the US Army.
First Kenyan I heard of entering the US Army  was as Kenyan Catholic priest we knew at U of Dayton.  It was  a bit of a shock when he told us about going in the army, but he could get citizenship in the US for one, and two he could make a good living as an army captain (priests come in at that rank) and support young brothers and sisters and family at home, much like Ruth the Kenyan on your team was doing here.  These guys in the trials probably would never have been selected to any Kenyan teams, but they can make a good living in the long term with the army and with a good retirement in twenty years.  They are not stupid.  I'd like to know more about the army program.  Do you know anything about it?

Earlier this season I viewed 2-3 Diamond League meets in Europe and Qatar?
The English announcers really knew their "stuff". Keep in mind that T & F is the #2 sport in Europe behind soccer. So our sport gets top flight announcing. However, I did have some trouble understanding their accents
But, I must add that doing an on going critique of our inferior US Announcing crews
 can just drain the joy out of watching the OT
and later on the Rio Games. 
I for one am just darn thankful that we are lucky enough to have so much coverage this Olympic year.
Those of you living in the northern tier of the US are fortunate to be able to get the Canadian coverage. CBC

I too have been very curious about the
Kenyans running for the US army n their bright yellow singlets

2-3in the 10K: 
2nd place: Shadrack Kipchirchir
3rd. Place: Leonard Koris
3000M SC Hillary Bor - 9th qualifier 8:34

Anybody know about the US army recruiting of these "new Americans"?

John Bork

Did anyone see the Boris Berian 800 m final?   The Working @ McDonald's story yet again.   No one else was in the race to my knowledge until the camera panned back.    One star and a bunch of also rans --- one of which beat the stopping down Berian to the line.  NBC wrapping it's new favorite in the flag.   And then there was the SRR 400 heat, the Galen Rupp 10,000 m final, but let's not forget about Tom Hammond now chronically misnaming competitors en-race, Dwight Stones knowing nothing outside the high jump and the now "corporatized", reading-from-prepared-scripts middle distance and long distance commentators, Larry Rosten and he who won't even be named.  NBC is doing us no favors heaping the sheer tonnage of repetitive ad dreck on top of their shoddy celebrity tied attempt @ coverage.   Every four years yet another arduous slough through all the garbage to see a few sweet races.   I'm nominating Phil Liggett of Le Tour commentating fame along w. Stuart Story and Tim Hutchins, two Brit commentators, alongside Steve Cram of the DL coverage team and clean house @ NBC: hell even throw the baby, Ato, out w the bath water.   Clean Sweep!   

What chance of that ?!    None.   Richard Mach

 The cult of celebrity taken to its most extreme degree would mean we'd be looking at the Ashton Eaton OT.    Or the SRR swan song.   Or continuous nonstop reruns of the hideous excessive coverage of the sobbing crumbling Montano.  This is corporately driven "no think" designed to tell everyone they must continue to strive to the highest of heights because anything less means you are nothing but a loser.  That is what came to me on the line on a snowy post-T'giving morning in a half inch of snow with Dale Storey jogging by the assembled masses on the starting line of the NCAA X-C Championships in E. Lansing bare footed!   Fall of '61.    Who is going to come in second?   If Tom Hammond, their always sycophantic mouthpiece, could absolutely deliver this to his corporate masters, he'd have us all obiediant little Prussians working for less than a living wage, gobbling up Walmart's cheap plastic crap and ready to lay down our sons and daughters lives for Our Country -- namely for their disguised absolutely selfish corporate interests.  I say this as a highly decorated former Naval officer.   The whole thing is rigged, has been and will be. George, it's nothing less than nauseating to have to listen to this unoriginal balderdash masquerading as content on NBC.  And especially having to watch Ato Bolden be ground under the Network heel and with his obiescence become just like the others -- mindless, blabbering talking heads.   The Suits 10, the viewing public -- a big fat Zero!  

I couldn't disagree more with Buck's  put-a-nice-face-on-it-and-be-happy with NBC's crumbs "solution" to this chronic, non-stop ubiquitous, never-ending, low-rent coverage of The Games and our OTs.  Richard Mach

The WCAP (World Class Athletic Program) is what the three Kenyan distance runners are part of. Dan Browne, former West Point & Olympian is coach of the distance runners, based in Portland. All had good collegiate careers (Kipkirchir-OK St, Korir - Iona, Bor-Alabama). Think they go through basic training and specialized training, then go to Portland for full time athletics. They can be called up to active duty in time of war. It is also a shortcut to gaining citizenship (serving in military). Seems like most of these Kenyan kids who come here to run, like it, and want to stay.
There were 3 Air Force Academy pole vaulters who are part of WCAP (Simmons, Bell, Uhle-Olentangy, OH). A female discus thrower named Paige Blackburn sat beside us during women's discus final (she didn't make final). She is from Alaska, an Air Force Academy grad, part of the WCAP, based in Gainesville, FL, coached by Steve Lemke, UF throws coach. She said her next assignment is in (classified) , but hopes to be back in Gainesville in a couple of years.
Bruce Kritzler

Are you familiar with Tunnel Bear? It is a virtual private network, or VPN. Don't ask me to explain what that is. In the spring of 2012 my wife and I cut our cable cord. NBC had promised extensive Olympic coverage through television and the Internet so I felt comfortable.

The London Olympics rolled around and I felt I was ready to see a lot of coverage. During the first week gymnastics and swimming were the main presentations. Of course, on TV they had a lot of their up close and personals with a plethora  of commercials. So I went to my computer to watch the Internet version and alas, I was asked for my cable provider. Since I had none, I felt I would be limited to watching only the NBC TV version of the track and field portion which was to start the next week. Thank goodness for a good wife!

Mary Ann did a little investigation. That is when she found Tunnel Bear. I signed up for about $50 for a year's subscription. With the VPN the Internet thinks that you are from another country. In a sense you tunnel through to another nation. Canada and the UK are two choices. I would select the UK.

Then, I would go to my browser and key in In my mind they do a much superior presentation of track and field. Their commentators are former athletes and very knowledgeable. They're not afraid to talk about PEDs or other topics of interest and present events in their entirety. In my estimation, their version of showing athletics is much superior.

Over the past four years I have enjoyed watching not only the London Olympics but also Diamond League meets, World Cross Country Championships  and other British events. My personal internal timeclock was knocked out of whack last year, due to time zone changes, as I watched virtually every heat and final of the Beijing World Championships.

If you're not familiar with Tunnel Bear, I strongly suggest your considering it. I have to re-up again this year so I am not currently watching it. I am at the US Olympic Trials. Subscribing to it may not help to better view our own Trials but I suspect that the European Track and Field Championships may currently have BBC coverage.

I hope this helps for some of you.
Bob Roncker

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