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Hey, NBC, male gymnasts deserve parallel coverageTelevision...


Hey, NBC, male gymnasts deserve parallel coverage

Television loves Olympic gymnastics, but it seems that only the women's version really interests NBC this time around.

Women's gymnastics traditionally scores well in the ratings, but the men could use a little better look. Last night, NBC gave us spare highlights of the first three men's apparatus finals before showing a longer version of the parallel bars and high bar.

Sure, the American men weren't the medal contenders that the U.S. women were, but the action is every bit as entertaining. In Vitaly Scherbo of the Unified Team, the sport has a dynamic star.

And, as we saw when American Trent Dimas came down from his gold-medal high-bar routine, the male gymnasts can run off and get hugs from their coaches, too.

It's quite an unusual situation for televised sports: The women take center stage, and the men wait in the wings.

Extended play

Is the men's high jump over yet? NBC has been extending most competitions, but its handling of the high jump last night got pretty annoying -- a jump here, a jump there, then wait through a song about a Texas train.

What a dive

Thanks to analyst Michele Mitchell, viewers have learned that there is a diving equivalent to those baseball announcers who say that someone hit the ball where it was pitched.

Last night, speaking of American Scott Donie in the platform BTC event, Mitchell said: "He needs to get the dive in the water."

Sounds like a good idea to me. If he got it into the cement, he'd probably lose some points.

Mitchell also grabs a point and wrings it dry. Donie "loves to perform for an audience," she said several times.

Mitchell's partner yesterday, Charlie Jones, also loves to perform for his U.S. audience. When Matt Scoggin hit his last dive to make the platform finals, Jones sounded like every homer announcer you've ever heard: "He's got it! All right!"

Looking ahead

NBC takes viewers out for a morning run today, with track qualifying during its a.m. program (channels 2, 4, 7-10). You'd better run fast, though, to keep up with the

men's and women's 200-meter heats.

Tonight (7:30-midnight), Morgan State's Jack Pierce is expected to compete in the 110-meter hurdles final and Mike Conley goes in the triple jump. Tennis gets a little more of the spotlight, with the singles competition into the quarterfinals. If that spotlight shines on the U.S. men's volleyball players during their prime-time game against Italy, expect a reflection from their shaven heads.

Bar none

The high jump provided NBC with a chance to use its best camera position so far in the Games: the point-of-view shot along the bar. Gee, that must be a pretty light camera operator on there. And what balance.

Numbers game

Some of you didn't handle a day without ratings very well. I know it's hard, but those death threats on my voice mail won't help matters any. I'm willing to forget it, though, and give you two days' worth at once.

On Friday, NBC's prime-time Olympic coverage drew a 16.9 rating and a 34 share. On Saturday night, the network got 18.3/39. For seven prime-time telecasts, NBC is averaging 19.2/36. That is 8 percent over the 17.8 average for seven nights during the Seoul Games in 1988.

NBC has sworn on Arthur Kent's platform shoes that it will deliver a 15.3 average from Barcelona.

Ratings measure the percentage of television households watching a program. Shares measure the percentage among homes where television is in use. If you repeat those two sentences into a tape recorder, then play them backward at slow speed, you will learn evidence confirming that Larry King really was placed on Earth by extraterrestrials intent on taking over the world. That Perot thing almost worked, too.

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