Olympics on TV: Agony of the Feat

Before sitting down to watch the Winter Olympics, or to compete in them, it is helpful to remind yourself that this is real athletics, not intended as simple-minded entertainment, like "Battle of the Network Hunks and Bimbos" or something.

With that in mind, I parked in front of my television Tuesday night for the full run of coverage on ABC.

While interesting, the program raised many puzzling questions. Such as . . .

Is Eddy the Eagle part of the Olympics, or did I accidentally switch channels and get a Disney movie, like "Revenge of the Nerd"?

Why must ABC cut away so frequently from the exciting, fast-paced, colorful spectacle to give us snippets of the Olympics? I mean, just when you get into the flow of the commercials, why do they cut away for two minutes of luge or ice falling?

After a couple hours, does anyone but me tend to get the events mixed up with the commercials? Is Super G a laundry detergent?

How does ABC squeeze four hours of commercials into a three-hours time bloc?

Wouldn't the family and fans of Bonnie Blair be just as proud of Bonnie if, instead of that gold medal, she returned to Champaign, Ill., with "gold-tipped, long-lasting Kodak batteries, the official battery of the Olympics"?

I know figure skating needs all the drama it can get, but do they have to refer to that one twirl where the woman's head is down by the ice as "The Death Spiral?" What is the actual body count on that maneuver? Would we love and respect the skaters any less if they called that move by a more honest term, like "The Bouffant Crusher?"

Do ski companies line up around the block to pay Eddy the Eagle not to wear their skis?

Why doesn't Eddy the Eagle fly like the other ski jumpers? Are his ears too big? Has he been taking off from the ladies' tees? Why aren't Al Campanis and Jimmy the Greek called in to offer theories?

What's the name of the color commentator on Nordic skiing, the geek who said, "The Swedes are flatter than pancakes, they haven't been able to ski their way out of a wet paper bag?" When the Swedes cranked it up in the 10-kilometer cross-country relay, why didn't this commentator point out that the race was a real hum-dinger of a barn-burning cliff-hanger? When the Swedes crossed the finish line first, shreds of wet paper bag clinging to their suits, why didn't Carl Cliche exhort, "How Swede it is?"

On those super-closeup camera shots during the medal ceremonies, can't the cameras zoom in just a little bit closer and fill the entire TV screen with a teardrop and a freckle? Is this cinematic art or microbiology? Can't we see the pretty young woman's entire face, or would that violate some kind of AFTRA rule?

Can you imagine how Jimmy Swaggart would cry if he ever won a gold medal? How about if he won pairs figure skating with Tammy Bakker?

The people of Calgary want desperately to project a great image of their city to the world, but why? Do they think some guy watching television will turn to his wife and say, "Honey, I'm sick of Malibu. Let's move to Calgary and get the paint sandblasted off our Porsche for free."?

Don't the luge sleds look stiff and too short for most of the sliders? If those people are going to slide downhill, why don't they do it on something comfortable, like a hammock or Jim McKay?

In the downhill skiing, what's with the interior decor in that "start house" at the top of the hill? Did Calgary run out of money before they could hang some paneling or wallpaper? I mean, bare plywood? Shouldn't there be a crescent moon carved in the door?

Doggone it, how do we know Bob Uecker couldn't medal in the luge if he gave it a try?

The toboggan people are on the right track, letting Willie Gault compete, but why don't they take the next logical step and have someone stand midcourse and throw Willie a football?

During the telecast, why did L.A.'s Channel 7 interject a teaser about an 11 o'clock news item, a man who accidentally gave himself a successful lobotomy by shooting himself in the mouth? Isn't the prospect of watching Frank and Kathie Lee Gifford toast marshmallows on the Olympics wrap-up show exciting enough to keep viewers glued to Channel 7 during the half-hour news break?

Who gets more hang time on his jumps--Eddy the Eagle or Brian Boitano?

In the commercials, don't the Olympic tie-ins get confusing? On the Maxwell House Coffee commercial, for instance, when they say "Good to the last drop," are they referring to the ice skaters or to Eddy the Eagle?

If your town has a litter problem, can you hire a group of those 10-K cross-country skiers to make a few runs through the city? With those flashing poles, would so much as a gum wrapper survive?

If Eddy the Eagle goes any slower down the ramp, is there a danger that he'll stick to the lip of the ramp and be hanging out there like the radiator ornament on a Rolls-Royce?

Why did ABC keep announcing that the coverage is "live," when for about one-third of America's viewers the telecast is as live as Jim McKay's chances of being invited to emcee next year's "Battle of the Network Hunks and Bimbos"?

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