One of the aims of Michael Weisman, NBC Sports' executive producer, was to bring journalism--solid, objective reporting--to the coverage of the Seoul Olympics.
To help achieve this goal, Weisman hired several print journalists to work as reporters during the Games. Among these reporters, whom Weisman collectively calls NBC's "Seoul Searchers," is Wallace Matthews, boxing writer for Newsday, a New York newspaper.
On the third day of the Olympics, Matthews was asked to put his reporting skills to work, as NBC tried to unravel circumstances regarding the disqualification of U.S. boxer Anthony Hembrick and the ensuing U.S. protest.
U.S. boxing officials were confused, Hembrick was confused, and, for a brief period, so were viewers who had a hard time believing what they were seeing and hearing--a U.S. boxer losing a match because of tardiness.
South Korean Ha Jong-Ho was declared the winner of the first-round middleweight bout just as Hembrick and the U.S. coach, Ken Adams, arrived at the arena.
What happened? It was NBC's job, and Matthews' in particular, to find out. Viewers soon learned that: (a) the schedule of bouts had been misread, and (b) Hembrick may have been left behind at Olympic Village because of an overcrowded bus.
Matthews, an aggressive reporter, later made his way through a maze of people and approached Hembrick to ask him what happened. Said a sullen Hembrick: "It was a lot of things."
Matthews then pushed away a boxing official, saying, "Don't try to orchestrate this."
Was Matthews overstepping his bounds? Was his aggressiveness the kind that gives the media a bad name?
Host Bryant Gumbel, defending Matthews' actions, explained on the air that the reporter was credentialed to be where he was, and that viewers would want to know what Hembrick might have to say.
The key thing here is that NBC is practicing journalism in Seoul, providing a lot more than just sugar-coated hype.
At one time, Weisman considered hiring Sugar Ray Leonard as a boxing reporter. But instead of going for someone with marquee value, Weisman chose someone with journalistic skills. That decision has already paid off.
Matthews, in an interview with an attorney for the USA Amateur Boxing Federation, asked why Hembrick didn't take a cab. The attorney said there are no cabs available at the Olympic Village, so Matthews asked a better question: "Why cut it so close?"
The attorney admitted Hembrick and his coach shouldn't have.
Another of the Seoul Searchers, Armen Keteyian, hired as a swimming reporter, filed a report regarding complaints about the transportation at Olympic Village.
Keteyian, by the way, was the producer of an in-depth report on swimmer Angel Myers, who was disqualified from the Games for steroid use.
As for the protest filed by the United States over the disqualification of Hembrick, NBC went off the air Sunday night before a decision was made.
The hiring of print journalists may have been a good move by NBC, but one has to wonder what football announcer Bob Trumpy is doing on volleyball?
During the U.S. men's win over the Netherlands, Trumpy said, "The U.S. won the first match, Holland the second match. "
As just about everyone knows, he should have said: "The U.S. won the first game, Holland the second game. "
Trumpy later called the games sets, which is an acceptable term.
Also, Trumpy called match point championship point. No, this was just the preliminaries, not the championship match.
Another thing is that Trumpy keeps explaining that a team could score only when it serves. Since most Americans have played the game at some time, this is a lesson that doesn't need to be repeated so often.
Volleyball commentator Chris Marlowe, captain of the 1984 U.S. Olympic team, added some insight, but he couldn't cover up Trumpy's lack of knowledge.
Gumbel is becoming NBC's star. He is so quick, so smooth and so prepared. But, of course, he makes mistakes, too.
For example, in introducing a profile on the Netherlands' volleyball coach, Arie Selinger, Gumbel said Selinger is a German-born Jew. He is Polish-born.
Don Criqui had a miscall during the women's 100-meters swimming final when he said Dara Torres of the United States was battling for the bronze. Torres finished seventh.
But, as expected, he and John Naber, overall, are doing a good job on swimming. However, the camera work has left a lot to be desired. Sunday night, the camera angles were poor, there were too many closeups, and too much action was sacrificed for crowd shots.
Viewers saw something new Sunday night--the use of a split screen to show the U.S.-Netherlands men's volleyball match and the U.S.-Czechoslovakia women's basketball game simultaneously.
An NBC spokesman in Seoul said the split screen would only be used on a limited basis.
Later Sunday night, NBC was right on top of things when it showed the end of the basketball game, the end of the volleyball match and Greg Louganis diving off the 3-meter springboard in boom, boom, boom succession.
NBC, in order to show viewers what it's like to dive off the 10-meter platform, had to find someone willing to do it while wearing a small camera. So who volunteered? Dick Kimball, a coach for the U.S. women's team and the father of Bruce Kimball.
Kimball made seven jumps, two with a cable attached to the camera. "Usually, cable and water don't mix too well," said an NBC staffer. "Dick Kimball is a real daredevil."