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That authoritative voice you hear narrating Olympics coverage may belong to someone thousands of miles away from the event you’re watching. The AP’s David Bauder reports on the NBC analysts who are calling events from New York: While Elfi Schlegel and Ato Boldon breathe sweet London air, Marcelo Balboa is analyzing soccer matches from a cubicle, in part because “with the U.S. men’s team not qualifying for the games, NBC bet on less interest in the tournament.”
He misses most the opportunity to see the whole field and feel a crowd’s energy. The former player in him would like a better chance to see how a play is developing, yet he’s at the mercy of the video feeds. He also resists speculating on injuries when all he has is a camera view, waiting for an official report if a player goes down.
On the plus side, Balboa can easily call several matches a day because he doesn’t have to physically traverse London. Other sports whose announcing jobs aren’t being offshored: archery, team handball and badminton (no one could have foreseen how exciting that would turn out to be).
NBC swimming analyst Rowdy Gaines pooh-poohs speculation that Michael Phelps might make the broadcaster’s booth his next career stop.
“I think he’d be really good at it, but I don’t know if he has the patience,” says Gaines, who called 200 races in London last week and will call open-water swimming this week. “I’m not sure if he’s ready for 20-hour days and sleeping on an air mattress in the edit room.”
New York Times criticized for Lolo Jones story
New York Times reporter Jeré Longman appeared to be all wet Monday morning after Lolo Jones, subject of an unflattering story Sunday, posted the second-best time in the 100-meter hurdle qualifiers. Jones, Longman had written, has “almost no possibility of winning gold.”
Still, Jones has received far greater publicity than any other American track and field athlete competing in the London Games. This was based not on achievement but on her exotic beauty and on a sad and cynical marketing campaign. Essentially, Jones has decided she will be whatever anyone wants her to be — vixen, virgin, victim — to draw attention to herself and the many products she endorses.
In Deadspin, Isaac Rauch says Longman criticized Jones for a tweet he took out of context. Here’s the Times piece:
In recent days, Jones has been criticized for what many have called an insensitive Twitter remark in the wake of the mass shooting in a theater in Aurora, Colo. After the United States lost the gold medal to Italy in the team archery competition, Jones wrote, “When’s da Gun shooting competition?”
Jones’ tweet came eight days after the Aurora shooting, and its full text is: “USA Men’s Archery lost the gold medal to Italy but that’s ok, we are Americans… When’s da Gun shooting competition?” Rauch writes:
As for the “many” that have “criticized” Jones in recent days, the few outlets that even covered the damn thing (this New York Times piece is the fourth Google result) cite a very amorphous backlash to the tweet, and comment sections beneath the articles, fickle beasts though comment sections be, are very much united in support of Jones.
Slate’s Alyssa Rosenberg calls B.S. on Longman, too:
There are no free passes into the Olympics for pretty girls or hard cases. And it’s egregious of Longman not to mention that Jones had surgery for a painful spinal condition in August 2011, leaving her a short window to both recover and train to qualify for the Olympics.
This MediaWire blogger hereby sentences Longman to read Jennifer Vanasco’s CJR piece from late last week on how the news media tends to cover female Olympians.
Americans seek BBC’s live streams
Footage of Jones’ excellent hurdling Monday is available on NBC’s streaming site, and it might even make Monday night’s prime-time broadcast, no doubt following six hours of beach volleyball.
But that smorgasbord of sports availability is still not enough for some Americans, who are installing VPN software and hitting up the BBC’s website, disguising their computers as U.K. residents. Mitch Stoltz, a staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, says, “I think doing something like this in order to avoid paying for something is unethical. Doing something like this to get content that you as a person in the U.S. cannot get any other way is not necessarily unethical, it’s more practical.”
A month’s worth of service from Tunnelbear, a service that allows such IP subterfuge, costs $4.99. (Or so I hear.)
The Olympics have been great for the Beeb, which is facing cutbacks and a renegotiation of the annual fees Britons must pay to support the broadcaster.
Yet so far, the BBC’s ambitious — and technically tricky — Olympic plan has worked almost without a flaw. The broadcaster is screening 24 extra channels and 24 often simultaneous online streams, with the goal of offering the most comprehensive coverage ever of events at a Summer Games.
Nearly 20 million people watched Usain Bolt bend space and time Sunday on the BBC. Great Britain has about 60 million people.
Ratings have been good for the unfashionable NBC broadcasts, too: “It is clear the audiences are coming in droves and staying and returning night after night,” NBC Sports honcho Mark Lazarus said in a conference call last week. The outstanding ratings may even make money, Lazarus said.
The latest Pew research shows that 78 percent of adults surveyed are following the Olympics.
- 73 percent are watching Olympics coverage on TV
- 17 percent are following the Olympics online or digitally
- 12 percent are following the events on social networks like Facebook and Twitter
The majority — 76 percent — say NBC’s coverage has been excellent or good.