Ok, as I did back in 2008 for the Summer Olympics, I will hand out medals for NBC’s on-air talent for the Winter Olympics in Vancouver and also grade the overall coverage. As in 2008, I’ll give gold, silver and bronze medals. For those that didn’t deserve a medal, I handed out a carton of Chinese cigarettes for the host, Communist China. This year, I’ll hand out the infamous Twitter hashtag, NBC FAIL.
Bob Costas, Primetime – As usual, Costas shined throughout the 17 days. Whether it’s hosting the Opening Ceremony, conducting interviews or being traffic cop, there’s no one better at the role. Since 1988, he’s been involved in NBC’s Olympic coverage and he’s become the best studio host. Whether he talks with athletes or NBC’s analysts, Bob is rock solid. There are times when he sounds elitist or pompous, but that’s usually away from the anchor desk and not on NBC. At the Olympics, Bob is in his element.
Bill Patrick, Hockey – Because of his work on the NHL on Versus, Bill was a very good fit to be host of most of the hockey games on CNBC or MSNBC. Bill did not make an appearance on NBC until the very last day of coverage when Al Michaels had to leave to cover the Closing Ceremony and Bill came in. To be honest, when there was a rare hockey game on NBC, Bill should have been there as well. But Al did the hockey studio segments for the four games that were on NBC.
Mary Carillo, Late Night – This is not related to her primetime segments that focused on polar bears or kissing moose. That’s coming later. When Mary was hosting the Late Night show, she was fine and even at times, delightful. As far as her primetime features are concerned, that’s a totally different story and category.
Al Michaels, Daytime/Weekend – The studio is not Al’s forte. He looked uncomfortable. There were times when he looked at the wrong camera. This was the spot that was supposed to go to Jim Lampley, but NBC Sports Emperor Dick Ebersol decided to lure Al back to the Olympics. He would have been better served by calling an event rather than being in the studio where Al would have to read off the teleprompter. This was an experiment that did not work.
The only time where Al shined was during the Closing Ceremony when he was teamed with Bob Costas. Suddenly, Al showed brilliance, but again, this was during an event where Al could ad lib, unlike in the studio. In London, Al and Bob should work both the Opening and Closing Ceremonies.
Fred Roggin, Curling – Fred has a lazy eye and it’s very distracting. He never looked straight into the camera and it makes for very uncomfortable viewing. It’s a fail all around.
Jimmy Roberts - He’s one of the best writers on television. Whether he does an essay on Joannie Rochette or looks at what hockey means to Canada, Jimmy is usually right on. I love his reports and he’s one of the best interviewers on TV as well. His segments are always fascinating.
Mary Carillo, Primetime features – In Communist China, NBC sent Mary into the countryside to do puff pieces on pandas, offbeat Beijing food, etc. NBC liked them so much, they decided to let Mary loose on Canada. The results were features on polar bears, kissing moose, and pretending to be a part of the Canadian Royal Mounted Police. These were painful to watch. Mary’s a great reporter on Real Sports, but these features on the Olympics are horrible.
Cris Collinsworth – His “Aw, shucks” reports gushing on athletes or sports gave the viewer no indication why he was even in Vancouver in the first place. I couldn’t stand watching his features nor were they worthy of my time. Big fail.
Dan Patrick - He was a reporter at the Opening Ceremony. Did a bang up job at the women’s and men’s moguls, but then went back to his radio show and also underwent hernia surgery. I would have loved to have seen more work from him. I believe Cris Collinsworth took his role at Alpine Skiing and speedskating. More of Dan Patrick and less of Cris Collinsworth would have been better for the entire country.
Andrew Catalon, Curling – Andrew called every single match, men’s and women’s and did them very well. In the Communist China games, Andrew had to call handball off a monitor from New York. This year, he was in Vancouver and set the scene very well from a very raucous venue. Did some very good work. Plucked from NBC’s Albany affiliate, I hope to see more from Andrew down the road.
Mike Emrick, Hockey – What can you say about one of the best play-by-play men in hockey today? There were times when he had to call two games a day. He expertly called the women’s and men’s hockey tournaments. Doc picked up trends, knew when to get excited and knew when to be quiet. His call of both USA-Canada men’s games and the women’s gold medal games were among his best work.
Tom Hammond, Figure Skating - The man is steady. Not much controversy coming out of the figure skating venue, but his calls of the men’s competition when Evan Lysacek won the gold medal was classic. In addition, when Joannie Rochette skated her short program just two days after her mother died, Tom showed great restraint and allowed the pictures do the talking. Very good play-by-play man.
Dan Hicks, Long Track Speedskating – Dan does good work at the Olympics whether it be at swimming or speedskating. He may not call the NFL or other mainstream sports, but he’s very good at the PGA Tour and doing Olympic sports for NBC. He’s established a very good niche for himself at the National Broadcasting Company’s sports division.
Bob Papa, Bobsled, Luge, Skeleton - Bob is fast becoming an excellent all-around broadcaster whether it be calling the New York Football Giants, NFL Network, boxing and this year, doing the Sliding Sports at the Winter Olympics. Bob was understated and pronounced every name without a hitch. I suspect that NBC could put him at rowing and Bob would call it well.
Ted Robinson, Short Track – In Day 2 of the Olympics when there was a spill, Ted had the right words. He’s done short track for three Olympics now and been there for the falls, disqualifications and controversies. Ted has also been in each of Apolo Ohno’s appearnaces in the Olympics. Ted has the right tone for the races. Great job.
Tim Ryan, Alpine Skiing – The man’s an old pro. It was mentioned that Tim is in his 70′s, but there’s no slippage. He’s called skiing at the Olympics dating back to 1992 with CBS and does it very well.
Kenny Albert, Hockey - Kenny is one notch below the top NHL announcers and while he does a bang up job doing Rangers games for MSG, he’s still not as good as Doc Emrick or Jim Hughson. But he was very steady in both the men’s and women’s tournaments. Very solid.
Todd Harris, Freestyle Skiing – Todd was decent in his calls. Didn’t get too high or too low.
Al Trautwig, Cross Country & Biathlon – Al had some major slippage in the 2008 Olympics with his gymnastics calls, but on cross country, he was more restrained and allowed the pictures to tell the story. He rises up from the Carton of Chinese Cigarettes.
Pat Parnell, Snowboarding – I wasn’t particularly enthralled with his work, but it wasn’t enough to get an “NBC FAIL”.
Matt Vasgersian, Ski Jumping – See Pat Parnell.
Sandra Bezic, Figure Skating – Sandra does have a tendency to gasp quite a bit, but she knows the skaters and being a choreographer, she has excellent knowledge of the moves and requirements of the skating. She and Scott Hamilton did their best to explain what the judges were looking for and how the skaters have adjusted to the new scoring system. Plus, I’m enamored with her. Seriously, Sandra doesn’t hold back and is honest about routines. I’d love to see her work in Sochi for whichever network has the rights.
Dick Button, Figure Skating - Another fixture in the Olympics, Dick should be on TV for as long as he’s physically capable. He’ll be 81 in July and the man looks better than men half his age. Another analyst who’s honest and is willing to talk about the sport he loves. Dick has great chemistry whether it be with Al Michaels with whom he worked at the 1984 Olympics or Bob Costas. Dick Button is a national treasure.
Christin Cooper, Alpine Skiing - Coop has a tendency to yell and scream, but it shows her enthusiasm. She’s worked with Tim Ryan on skiing dating back to the 1992 Olympics on CBS and continues to be one of the premier analysts on the sport. I wish NBC would allow her to work on both men’s and women’s skiing as she does on Universal Sports. She can spot mistakes and knows how it will affect time.
Don Duguid, Curling – One of the gems of the Olympics, Don was absolutely great during the Games. He knows the sport extremely well. Don used the Telestrator to show where the stones should go and expertly explained strategy. He was one of the reasons why Curling caught on with the viewing public this year.
Andy Gabel, Short Track Speedskating – Great job by Andy to talk about how unpredictable the sport can be. But I did not like how he seemed to brush off contact between the South Korean relay team and the Chinese in the 5,000 meter women’s relay. But overall, Andy was an excellent analyst.
Cammi Granato, Women’s Hockey - There were times Cammi looked shaky at the beginning of the Games, but then grew more comfortable in her role as studio analyst for the women’s tournament. In addition, she is familiar with the players and gave good insight on their background. I wouldn’t mind seeing more of Cammi.
Dan Jansen, Long Track Speedskating – Dan was very good in spotting trends and explaining which split times would translate to gold medals. The man explains his sport extremely well.
Duncan Kennedy, Luge – We saw Duncan a lot early in the Games especially after the death of Nodar Kumaritashvili from Georgia. Duncan also talked about some of the athletes he had coached. One of the analysts who really shined during the Olympics.
John Morgan, Bobsled - He’s worked for three networks for the Olympics and still remains on top of his sport. John is great at spotting mistakes that cost teams valuable time, plus he was outspoken about the track that led to many crashes. The horror in John’s voice was evident as teams continued to crash at the 50-50 curve and he spoke out about increasing safety.
Jonny Moseley, Freestyle Skiing – I had high hopes for Jonny and they were met as Jonny did tremendously in explaining moguls, snowcross and aerials. He never spoke down to the viewers and did a great job talking about the scoring system in moguls. For a first time Olympic analyst, Jonny was definitely a Rookie of the Year.
Ed Olczyk, Men’s Hockey - Edzo was very good in working with Doc Emrick throughout the men’s tournament. One of the better NHL analysts, Ed was good in spotting trends on the ice and first guessing such as shot location and back checking. Sure, his “tremendously tremendous” statement in the first USA-Canada game wasn’t great, but when you call 14 games in a span of 10 days, one or two slip ups are bound to occur. Overall, Ed was very tremendously tremendous.
Jeremy Roenick, Men’s Hockey (Studio Analyst) – NBC needs to find a full-time role for JR in the NHL. The perfect foil for Mike Milbury, JR was not afraid to state his opinion. Roenick challenged Milbury, but did not step over him during their two segments during each intermission. In his first foray into TV analysis, Roenick was refreshing and a natural. If NBC or Versus don’t hire him, NHL Network should. He’s that good.
Todd Brooker, Alpine Skiing - Todd was decent in the men’s events. A little too much gushing over Bode Miller, but he was also honest about Bode’s shortcomings in 2006.
Scott Hamilton, Figure Skating - Usually Scott is in the gold medal range, but he screamed a bit too much for my tastes during these Olympics. He was in tears during Joannie Rochette’s routines, but I think we all were. Scott and Sandra Bezic form a very good team and play off one another very well. He’ll most likely work the 2014 Olympics and do it very well.
Jeff Hasting, Ski Jumping – Jeff knows ski jumping. He explained which jumps would get high scores and which would not.
Colleen Jones, Curling - Tended to talk over Don Duguid and was a bit forceful at times. But she could tell what shots were going to work and which would not. Can’t give her the gold for talking over Don.
Joe Micheletti, Men’s Hockey - Not one of my favorite NHL analysts, he worked with Kenny Albert and did rather decently. Not in the league of Eddie Olcyzk, but a guy who understands international hockey.
Tracy Wilson, Figure Skating - During many of the routines, Tracy talked a bit too much, but she was trying to explain the scoring system. There were times to talk and times not to talk. Tracy seemed to overexplain at times, but I still love Tracy.
Lea Ann Parsley, Skeleton - Did a decent job in explaining this sport.
Chad Salmela, Cross Country/Biathlon - Chad’s screaming during Johnny Spillane’s winning of the silver medal, the USA’s first in the Nordic Combined was way over the top. I don’t mind Screamin’ Gus Johnson and announcers who get emotional in a big moment, but Chad interrupted Al Trautwig in a big way. It was too much. But when he didn’t scream, Chad did well in explaining biathlon. However, I can’t give Chad higher than a Bronze.
Mike Milbury, Men’s Hockey – Mike is supposed to be outrageous and be NBC’s version of Don Cherry. Him describing Russia’s play against Canada as “Eurotrash” was not great, but it was what NBC wanted. I don’t think he’s an upper echelon analyst or in the Don Cherry stratosphere. He’s ok, but I think Jeremy Roenick has already surpassed him.
AJ Mleczko, Women’s Hockey - AJ talked too much and interrupted Doc Emrick way too many times for my tastes. She knows the sport, but AJ has to learn to take a breath every once in a while.
Todd Richards, Snowboarding - Did ok, but not great.
Pierre McGuire, Men’s Hockey - Not my cup of tea. He talks too much, he thinks he’s Mr. Know-It-All. Interrupted Ed Olcyzk. My favorite moment during a goal review, McGuire said, “No goal, Edzo,” to which Olcyzk replied, “We know.” Shut up, Pierre.
Andrea Kremer, Long Track Speedskating
Tina Dixon, Freestyle Skiing/Snowboarding
Lewis Johnson, Bobsled/Luge/Skeleton
Andrea Joyce, Figure Skating/Short Track Speedskating
Steve Porino, Alpine Skiing
Elfi Schlegel, Curling
Now to NBC’s coverage. You know my complaints. You know how I feel about tape delaying events. In an era of internet streaming and social networking, it’s really a crime not to have at least live coverage of events on NBC’s website. NBC has the right to hold sports for primetime, but just allow the hardcore fan to watch them live as they occur. While I do think figure skating can lend itself to the delays (although it was live in Vancouver), it would be nice if other events like the downhill or bobsled were available on NBCOlympics.com.
Only curling and hockey were made available live online and that’s not enough. In addition, the delays to the West Coast were ridiculous. Fans out west deserve live coverage and it took complaints for NBC to relent and put the USA-Finland and USA-Canada men’s hockey games live in all time zones. NBC boasted about being live across the country, but it should have been in the first place.
Even in primetime, there were events NBC could have shown live, but the network chose to hold them to add production elements or just show medal contenders. It was back to the Atlanta Olympics where NBC would air just glamor events live and then wait until late night to show other nighttime sports. I would be on either NBCOlympics.com or CTVOlympics.com to follow real-time results and see that NBC would be airing a Mary Carillo feature on polar bears. Frustrating.
For the delays, NBC gets a huge NBC FAIL.
For the look of the games, there really isn’t anyone better at covering the Olympics than NBC. Events in HD were sharp, replays for the most part were done well. Plus, for certain events, the world feed was just as good as anything NBC could produce. For its overall production, I give NBC a Silver Medal.
That wraps up the Olympics coverage in earnest on Fang’s Bites.