Olympics Get Better Despite NBC

US FemaleOlympic Gymnastics team Jordyn Wieber, McKayla Maroney, Kyla Ross, Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas
US FemaleOlympic Gymnastics team Jordyn Wieber, McKayla Maroney, Kyla Ross, Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas

Forget Obama.

Forget Romney and the horse he rode in on.

Forget Syria and the job reports, and the drought and the two hurricanes coming to a coastline near you. Forget Kristin Stewart, tsk tsk.

Instead:

Rule Brittania.

God Save the Queen.

Aren’t the Olympics a hoot?

Wasn’t it just last week that we (myself included) were trashing NBC for their coverage of the opening ceremonies in London?

Well, I’ll take some of it back, just for the way they covered the Heptathlon, the women’s athletes version of the Decathalon in which the athletes vie in seven events -- high jump, javelin, 200 meter dash, 800 meter run, hurdles, shot put and long jump-- for the title of best woman athlete in the world.

We caught Bob Costas and company covering Great Britain’s Jessica Ennis, the nation’s darling competing before 70-to-80 screaming, delirious Brits on Saturday, already leading going into the last event, the 800-meter run.

She could have finished second or third and still won, but what she did was even more exciting. Leading most of the race, she was passed late by two runners but suddenly surged in what seemed to from nowhere and won going away.

The stadium erupted. It was the kind of noise I last heard at Nathan’s when John Riggins burst open for a game-winning touchdown against Miami to give the Redskins their first of three Super Bowl championships.

It was loud. The usually much more reserved Brits jumped up and down, cried, patted each other on the back and high fived.

The British—who did know how to put on an Olympics and then some—had a lot to celebrate about, especially over the weekend, when they started piling up gold medals in cycling, rowing, distance running and finally, on Sunday, in the redemption of the great Scots tennis hope Andy Murray pulverizing Roger Federer in straight sets to win men’s tennis singles event.

These Olympics have provided all sorts of fun in spite of rain, wind and badminton. It was terrific to see, for instance, Serena Williams regain a kind of teenage delight in winning, dancing for joy, and joining in the joy with her sister Venus in the doubles, picking up two gold medals.

It was interesting to see the transformations of Michael Phelps, at once both senior superstar and elder statesmen, as he got better and better, ending up with the most individual gold medals in Olympic history but also marching towards history and into retirement.

Even watching Billy Bush—a man who would be struck dumb if ever the letter “I” was removed from the alphabet—interview America’s fabulous gymnasts was a reminder that these incredible girls were just that—girls still squealing about Justin Bieber, as was the dominant swimmer Missy Franklin.

There were courageous firsts everywhere—the woman from Afghanistan competing, running and following her father’s admonition “to run”, and the blade runner. Kudos for the men’s basketball team for prevailing over Lithuania after being pushed to the edge by the old back door, pick and roll as practiced in the Ivy League.

If there is a gold medal for putting on a great show, let the Londoners share it with all the athletes here, except the ones ordered to tank their badminton games.

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Wed, 26 Nov 2014 06:05:51 -0500

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