Watchdog Blog

Herb Strentz: Views from Olympus – Jim, Shawn, Charles, Michael, Troublemakers

Posted at 11:10 am, August 26th, 2008
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GOOD NBC COVERAGE: NBC-TV commentators and analysts did their homework. The informed commentary, particularly in track and field and gymnastics, was reminiscent of how the late Jim Duncan prepared for his stints as the “voice of the Drake Relays.” He knew what was supposed to happen in a race, what might happen and what might catch others by surprise. Duncan was one of the best track and field PA people in the nation, and a good part of the NBC coverage was up to his standards.

SHAWN JOHNSON, PUBLIC MENACE: Look for a lot of Olympics-induced injuries suffered by older Iowans, those in their 60s and above. Inspired by Ms. Johnson’s sure-footedness on the balance beam, we older folks will take to walking downstairs without using a handrail and going across the room without our walkers. Resulting injuries are a small price to pay for the gold-medal performance by Ms. Johnson.

LONDON ‘WELCOME,’ PUBLIC EMBARRASSMENT: Was there a tackier moment in the pre- and post-came ceremonies at the Bird’s Nest than the presence of the frumpy mayor of London and a double-decked bus that served only to emphasize how a new China might be roaring past the old world? Given the Beijing performance by the Brits, one dreads the ceremonial aspects of the 2012 Olympics.

GROUP HUGS, NEW OLYMPIC EVENT: Maybe they call it volleyball, but in the sand and on the hardwood it looked more like group-hug competition. Do the teams really have to join in group hugs after every single point? We’ll have eight-hour baseball games if the affection catches on.

OF COSTS AND COLISEUMS: Word was that China spent $40 billion on the Olympics, or about what the U.S. spends in five or six months of warfare in Iraq. An impressed NBC commentator said memories of these Olympics “will live forever.” Maybe so, but remember when Nero filled the Roman Coliseum with water and staged naval battles? Those were the days.

THE PERCEPTIVE CHARLES BARKLEY: Asked on ESPN if Michael Phelps wasn’t the greatest Olympian ever, former NBA star Barkley said his choices were still John Carlos and Tommy Smith for their black power protest on the medal stand in the 1968 Olympics. Carlos and Smith were pretty much ostracized for their action. But at the time I was at the University of Kentucky and recall that black players on the UK football team were not allowed to stay at the same hotel with white teammates when the Wildcats traveled to LSU. Not many were outraged by that.

LOOK OUT, GUINNESS! After the 29th Olympiad can there be any doubt but that the 1.5 billion Chinese can set any Guinness numbers record they want to? How many citizens do you think they could turn out to munch on corn dogs? [The Iowa State Fair was thrilled when it got 8,000 people for a simultaneous corn dog feast.]

YEAH, BUT WHY DIDN’T HE DIVE, TOO? Okay, Michael Phelps got his eight gold medals. Well-earned. Mercifully, Phelps gave credit to his mom, his own work ethic and his teammates, not to an all-manipulative deity.

WELL, YES, THERE WAS THAT, TOO: Meantime, two Chinese women, in their late 70s, are into their first month of a one-year re-education sentence. The “gracious” – the adjective of choice by NBC – Olympic hosts punished the women because they registered for time at a public protest venue. They wanted to complain about how they were unfairly compensated for homes seized by the Chinese government for urban development. Might be nice if London would honor the women in 2012.

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