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Bob Costas as the ugly American: NBC and the Olympics

Yesterday’s post was on the opening ceremony of the London Olympics. Here in the US, I was able to watch it (hours after the rest of the world) on NBC.

I hadn’t planned to write a post about the Olympics and the opening ceremony. In fact, I was vehemently against the idea when it was suggested to me. However, as the days have gone on, I’ve found my attitude softening.

They are two reasons for this.

Firstly, the Games have made me homesick. My usual cynicism is no match for the enthusiasm of my London friends, all of whom seem to be attending events (if Facebook is anything to go by) while I sit watching it in one of the dullest towns in California. The opening ceremony elicited in me a mixture of pride and embarrassment — and as such, perfectly encapsulated for me what it is to be British. The ceremony also irritated Rush Limbaugh — so clearly job well done on Danny Boyle‘s part there.

The second reason I’ve decided to backtrack on my decision to blog on the Games is I am enduring the NBC coverage. Those of you spending too much of your time on Twitter have probably already noticed that the channel has been receiving a fair amount of criticism for its decision to time-delay the opening ceremony, its cutting of the “memorial” wall tribute from the ceremony as they didn’t feel it relevant to a US audience (yeah, because NBC knows what’s relevant to a US audience), its role in the suspension of journalist Guy Adams from Twitter, and the really awful library-esque studio they’ve set up for Bob Costas. Each night Bob reminds me of the narrator from The Rocky Horror Show. Oh God, do you think he’s got pantyhose under that desk?

This is the second Summer games that I have watched in the US, so I am not surprised that NBC in its prime time slots edits the games more like a reality show, such as American Idol, than an actual sporting event. They are filmed inserts galore highlighting particular favored US Olympians giving us a look into their struggles and achievements, their family dynamics, and ideally some terrible (juicy) tragedy that has befallen them.

What has really irritated me, however, has been NBC’s commentary. I understand that Trevor Nelson had some role in the BBC commentary during the opening ceremony, so in the interest of fairness I imagine that was pretty dire, too; but it was disappointing to see Matt Lauer, Bob Costas and Meredith Vieira prove so adept in their roles as ugly Americans.

On behalf of those blessed without NBC, I re-watched the opening ceremony and parade of nations this morning. I give you the following comments from said broadcast:

On London mayor Boris Johnson

By the way if you think he’s been so busy, he couldn’t get a haircut — this is his haircut.

Actually, fair enough.

On British English

A billion — that’s with a ‘b’ — will watch at home on what they call “the telly” around here.

On the reveal of the giant baby

I don’t know whether that’s cute or creepy. — Matt Lauer

Coincidentally, I had the same thought on seeing Meredith Vieira.

On Tim Berners-Lee

If you haven’t heard of him — we haven’t either.

Yes, Meredith, let’s revel in our ignorance.

On various countries

Australia was famously settled as a penal colony in the late-1700s.

Belgium, as you know, is homeland to IOC President, Dr Jacques Rogge, who competed as a sailor for them three times in ’68, ’72 and ’76.

We’re meant to know that, but not about Tim Berners-Lee?

Central African Republic is made up of more than 80 ethnic groups and they each have their own language, which I’m guessing makes subtitles at the movies a major undertaking.

Jesus Christ, it’s like watching the games with your unfunny uncle.

And that leads me perfectly to Croatia: their flag-bearer Venio Losert is the goalkeeper of the handball team. This is a sport that just doesn’t have a great foothold in the United States, but if you’re looking for a way to get a medal in the Olympics it would be a good sport to take up.

Yup, the US doesn’t play it, so handball must be a piece of piss.

On Kim Jong-Il and golf

Bob Costas: Matt, as a golfer you’d know that North Korea’s greatest athletic achievement belonged to the Dear Leader Kim Jong-il, who, according to his official biography, carded 11 holes in one. Not over a lifetime, but over the first he ever played. I’m guessing the ones off the windmill and the clown’s nose were especially impressive.”

Matt Lauer: Sure, you joke. You’re not going to vacation there.

Bob Costas: Unlikely.

Feel free to contribute to my Kickstarter campaign to help raise funds to send Bob Costas to North Korea for his vacation.

On badminton coverage

Bob Costas: If you’re looking for badminton coverage, and who isn’t, you’ll find it on our cable networks and streaming live on throughout the games.

Matt Lauer: Let’s not make light, this is not your backyard, picnic variety badminton. This is tough stuff.

Bob Costas: No, that shuttle cock moves at “daunting” speeds!

Like those competing in handball, the badminton players should be thankful Bob Costas isn’t playing their easy-peasy sport. Bob can also bitch-slap Chuck Norris.

On various countries

Djibouti — now, there’s a few countries whose names simply make you smile. Djibouti would win the gold medal in that category. Maybe Cameroon taking the silver.

Don’t leave us in suspense, Matt. Who comes in bronze?

Germany is next. Long-time Olympic power, the medal count has slipped in recent years, so they’ve now returned to East German-style Olympic schools to better train their young athletes — but they’re quick to point out their talking about the positive aspects of such a program.

Thank God, for a moment I thought they’d brought the Stasi back.

Madagascar — a location associated with a few huge animated movies.

The Maldives are the lowest country on earth. A couple of medals here might boost them up a little bit.

A few medals will sort out the rising sea levels!

Next is Pakistan. While world leaders keep a wary eye on this country, of much less importance Pakistani athletes to keep an eye are likely to be found in field hockey.

Seamless, Bob. Absolutely seamless.

Winston Churchill once described the African nation of Uganda and its lush landscape as the pearl of Africa. Of course, Churchill never met Idi Amin.

On the speed of the Parade of Nations

Bob Costas: I don’t know if you can sense this, folks, but we’re having to edit through our notes. We have never seen a parade of nations move at a clip like this.

Matt Lauer: Just means we get to the United States and Great Britain a little earlier.

Bob: Tsch, we have to sit through all these other countries.

On athletes smiling

As all these Olympians enter, smiling and quickly, I think part of this is in deference to the 86-year-old Queen who made — along with James Bond — one of the great entrances in Olympic history earlier.

I mean, what other reasons are there for an athlete to be smiling at making the Olympics?

On London pubs and football

You’ll see signs in the windows of London pubs sometimes saying no football jerseys allowed because the mere sight of the wrong jersey can ignite a brawl. But nobody is in a brawling mood tonight.

That ending is worthy of Alan Partridge. Also, as someone who has drank in far more London pubs than Bob Costas and Matt Lauer, I have never seen such a sign.


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8 responses to “Bob Costas as the ugly American: NBC and the Olympics

  1. Michelle July 31, 2012 at 10:57 pm

    Not to mention Ukraine, a country the size of Texas, with 245 athletes participating in the games was not even shown walking in the stadium. They got about two seconds air of their flag bearer. If anything, the NBC coverage shows how far behind MSM is in our world today.

    BTW, just found your blog and love it! Will be following! 🙂

  2. awindram August 1, 2012 at 12:52 am

    Thanks for your kind comment Michelle. It’s very gratifying to read.

  3. giddayfromtheuk August 1, 2012 at 5:50 am

    What a bunch of plonkers! (The NBC, not TDN that is!)

    I have to say the coverage on the beeb has been fantastic – could always do with a little more Aussie focus but such are the trials of living in the Host City and Ian Thorpe is part of the commentary team.

  4. garricks August 1, 2012 at 7:29 pm

    The three of them made me want to crawl into a hole and pull the sod over myself. I’ve heard their commentary described as “like they were watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade.” Color commentary really should be banned.

  5. ML Awanohara August 4, 2012 at 3:13 pm

    For me the most offensive moment thus far occurred when Michael Phelps surpassed Larisa Latynina as the holder of the most Olympic medals, a position the Ukrainian gymnast had held for 48 years. I mean, how could we Yanks possibly let a member of the former Soviet Union, and a woman to boot, go for half-a-century without being deposed — and how fitting that she would be crushed by our Baltimore Bullet.

    As the New York Times put it in one of its most popular articles this week, poor Latynina has had the misfortune of being on the wrong side of history. It was the Romanian Nadia Comaneci who was named the greatest gymnast of the 20th century — by the end of which Latynina’s feat had been forgotten. Only to be revived again in the 21st century by Costas and crowd, who couldn’t resist basking in post-Cold War triumphalism.

    Latynina was in the crowd watching Phelps when he made history. Apparently, she joked with the press that it was time for a man to be able to do what a woman had done long ago, and that it was too bad Phelps was not Russian. Needless to say, she did not get interviewed by NBC.

    • ML Awanohara August 4, 2012 at 11:47 pm

      p.s. Just now, Bob Costas was commenting on Jessica Ennis winning the gold medal for Great Britain in the heptathlon “to the delight of this partisan crowd.” My, that’s the pot calling the kettle black!

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