Sports Medley: NBC’s
Olympics Coverage 22 Aug 16
by Tony Medley
Back Jim McKay:
The men’s volleyball announcers were the pits. In a U.S.-Mexico match in
the second set, there was a Mexico challenge on an alleged net
violation. Depending on the outcome, it would have been 6-2 or 5-3. All
the time during the challenge the announcers were talking about how
Mexico got into the tournament, completely ignoring the challenge and
not showing any replay or even telling what the challenge was about.
When Mexico won the challenge they did not mention that the score
reverted to 5-3. As if that weren’t bad enough, the entire crew then
missed another point talking about all the Nittany Lions playing on the
team, showing closeups of those players without showing the point!
NBC’s audience is in America. Maybe NBC doesn’t realize this, but
America is not on the metric system. However, when showing numbers, like
in the high jump, NBC’s graphics were in meters, not feet and inches. To
most American viewers, metric measurements are not comprehensible. Back
in the day, we had the 7 foot high jump barrier (conquered by Charlie
Dumas in the 1956 Olympic Trials at the Los Angeles Coliseum) and the 60
foot shot-put barrier (conquered by Parry O’Brien at the Coliseum in
1954). If converted to meters, the 7 foot barrier would have been
2.1336, and the 60 foot shot-put barrier would have been 18.288, which
are, let’s face it, meaningless numbers to Americans.
even worse. In covering field events like the pole vault and high jump,
they didn’t show each try, which is where the tension is. All they
showed were winning jumps and maybe final tries. Where’s the interest in
that? That’s like showing the last ten meters of the 100 meter dash.
But, hey, they showed every foot run in the 26 mile marathon.
Why do volleyball players celebrate after every winning point as
if they’ve won the lottery?
Finally, there was a realistic celebration by someone winning a
tournament. Instead of the phony, contrived, falling to the ground that
has become de rigueur in most Grand Slams, when Bethanie Mattek-Sands
won the mixed doubles Gold Medal, she jumped into the arms of her
partner, Jack Sock, and hugged him and then just kept jumping up and
down in pure delight. This was a realistic, human reaction of joy.
Tennis needs more of that and less of the manufactured, artificial
reaction of players falling to the ground after they win, which has
never been a natural way to express happiness.
Tennis should dump the “let” serve rule where if the serve hits the net,
the serve is replayed (the late Bud Collins, the Commentator Laureate
of tennis, labeled every let court judge, who sat with his fingers
on the net to see if the ball nicked it, “Fingers Fortescue”). There is
no such thing as a “let” in volleyball and it works out fine. If the
serve hits the net, they just continue to play the point. In tennis if
the serve hits the net, then tennis players should just have to live
with it and take it as part of the game, as do volleyball players. If a
ball hits the net during a tennis rally, they don’t stop the point and
replay it. Why should it be any different if the serve hits the net?
More on Wilt
Chamberlain’s prowess as a volleyball player:
ESPN has been touting Wilt’s volleyball prowess for years. Here’s what
Jeff Merron wrote for ESPN’s Page 2 in 2004, “After he retired from
basketball, the Dipper transformed himself into a world-class volleyball
my last week’s column was published pooh-pooing an ESPN talking head
recently claiming on ESPN’s Mike & Mike in the Morning that Wilt
was “the greatest volleyball player in history,” I received an email
from a 3 time Volleyball All American who was on the 1959 American
volleyball team that won the Gold Medal in the Pan Am Games who also
played on John Wooden’s first UCLA basketball teams. He wrote, “You're
right on the money with Wilt. He had suction cups for hands. He couldn't
pass or bump the ball with any consistency.” The bottom line is that
Wilt was tall and could jump and spike but other than that he was
neither “the best” nor even “world class,” as ESPN continues to claim.
Who knows better, a bunch of sportswriters and sportscasters who were
born after Wilt retired and never saw him play, or the people who played
with and against him?