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SYDNEY 2000 / SUMMER OLYMPIC GAMES | HOWARD ROSENBERG

Respect May Be Delayed for a Bit

Award-winning critic finally gets to write about sports, but with NBC's Olympic attitude, it's so hard to keep up.

September 18, 2000|HOWARD ROSENBERG

So what is the big deal about NBC and its cable minions of MSNBC and CNBC tape-delaying the Olympics? Why must Americans be so impatient? A little time lapse creates perspective.

Take Sunday, for example. I found the 1998 luge final quite exciting.

Just joshing.

I know what you're thinking. Who is this fancypants, and what is he doing tainting the sports pages with his effete jibberish? Well, let me just tell you, despite the critic's title and all those artsy years in Calendar, I'm a man's man. I am writing here instead of in my own section because my editors agree with me that it's imperative I share my vast knowledge of sports with the widest possible audience, readers who appreciate expertise and in-depth analysis when they see it. Calendar readers don't know luge from shmuge.

As for NBC's coverage, I get cold effete just thinking about it.

See what I mean? That Calendar crowd would never get that joke. But here, in my milieu, among my people, I'm sure it was a big hit.

Yes, it's true, that about 500 of you did e-mail me your constructive thoughts about rearranging my body parts after I publicly came out for the Indiana Pacers against the Lakers during the NBA finals. But I know those death threats were in jest. I mean, where could you even find a guillotine these days? And how could Tony Soprano whack me when he's not even real?

Besides, I was younger and callower then. Now, as this new environment soaks in by osmosis, I see the big picture.

And another thing, I can't tell you how refreshing it is to be writing in a section of the paper whose subjects often speak of themselves in the third person, giving themselves, as deity, the respect they deserve.

Howard Rosenberg likes that. Just don't disrespect him for it.

Back to NBC, which has never shown much appreciation for the integrity of Olympic events. On Saturday morning, I was watching an entertaining, pretty competitive basketball game between the U.S. and smooth-passing Korean women on MSNBC, which was entirely prerecorded. Instead of stopping the tape when going to commercials, though, MSNBC shrewdly kept it running, artificially shortening the game. That was very thoughtful, because some viewers might have been getting tired.

If NBC were covering "La Traviata" at the wondrous Sydney Opera House, it would interrupt Violetta's magnificent demise with a human interest feature on consumption just as she started to croak. This is a network that would interrupt Bobby Knight for a commercial just as he was getting his hands around someone's neck.

Now I'm not one to automatically slam NBC as, ahem, some of my colleagues in the sports section have been doing. However, I did have just a few quibbles with Friday's telecast of the opening ceremony, specifically the Parade of Nations.

Given NBC's jingoistic tradition when covering international sports events, I was a bit surprised that, with all the digital technology at hand, it didn't go ahead and erase all those other people marching in their Halloween costumes and show only our noble U.S. athletes, rerunning them again and again and again, making it the Parade of Nation. Who cares about foreign lands? We know from U.S. newscasts that the only things that happen there are Olympics, wars and bloody coups.

I mean, Micronesia? The Cayman Islands? Djibouti? Do they even know Shaq there?

And look, Howard Rosenberg is as sentimental as the next fellow, but did NBC not miss a promotional bet by failing to superimpose on the heads of those torch-bearing Aussie women the mugs of some of its own more-deserving stars? Will, Grace and Tom Brokaw carrying the Olympic torch? Michael Richards lighting the big flame to start it all? How classy would that have been?

Howard Rosenberg says very classy.

Plus, a commercial break only every six minutes? How unfair was that? I'd just be getting into one of those ads starring a U.S. Olympian who had triumphed over adversity, and then it was abruptly back to Gabon or Nepal.

It's hard to ignore Australia as the host nation. Yet the good thing, knowing NBC's xenophobic tendencies during its previous Olympic telecasts, was that we'd likely hear hardly a word about the rest of these countries during the remainder of the Sydney Games.

Meanwhile, it's a small thing, but I also don't think NBC is saying enough on the air about its own coverage. I mean, telling viewers only every couple of minutes how complete it is? Why, we could forget. I'm already starting to forget.

Oops, gotta run now. I don't want to miss the freestyle wrestling from Atlanta.

*

Howard Rosenberg's column appears Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. He can be contacted via e-mail at howard.rosenberg@latimes.com.

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