Facing network reruns, even actionless Games look good

Forgotten is the name of the comedian who, when asked how his wife was, replied, "Compared to what?"

An answer along similar lines is probably an appropriate and fair reply to what NBC has delivered from the Barcelona Olympics over the last 12 days.


Sure, there was too much folderol from weepy John Tesh at gymnastics, too much repetition and cheerleading from other commentators, too many commercial breaks and soft features and general disdain for what are commonly referred to as minor sports (whatever happened to soccer?).

On the other hand, check out the (network) alternatives: Repeats of "Wonder Years" and "Doogie," a John Ritter movie, a biography of Queen Elizabeth II. How many tapes of "Who's the Boss?" are in syndication anyway, 11 million?


This late in the Games, it's apparent NBC isn't going to give us more action than it has been rationing out with an eye-dropper to date. At least now we should be fully prepared to be wined, dined and waltzed around before the action is delivered.

Last night, for example, a person could have knocked off about 200 pages of "War and Peace" while waiting to view five finals from the track and field competition and other assorted goodies.

In the opening half-hour, actual competition amounted to just nine points in a volleyball game and quick peeks at three wrestling matches. Granted, 7:30 to 8 p.m. isn't included in prime time ratings, but this constitutes a very weak warmup.

On a day when U.S. athletes were posting a 17-2 record in freestyle wrestling, the net shipped along a package of the aforementioned peeks at three matches coupled with a long, tiresome piece on world champion John Smith, shot sometime last winter in Stillwater, Okla.

Then, even with prime time under way, we weren't accorded a glimpse of the running action for nearly another hour as volleyball moved in and Tina Turner serenaded Michael Jordan on video. Obviously, someone felt Mikey hasn't been getting his due in the exposure department lately.

It's damning with faint praise to point out anything's better than repeats and a dusty documentary, especially when we all know NBC could be providing a better show simply by showing more action and improving on the continuity of things shown.

* Let's hear it for Bruce Baumgartner. The heavyweight beat Andreas Schroeder, the German wrestler who "lifts 40 tons of weight a week and runs a mile straight up" in those Visa commercials. Unless I miss my guess, Bruce, who is assured of at least a silver medal, will be featured on an American Express commercial no later than this weekend.

* Perhaps the best indication of how the Games are beginning to stretch out can be seen from the fact the U.S. volleyballers, who shaved their heads in protest after having a victory over Japan taken away a while back, are getting close to needing haircuts again.


* NBC executives must cringe when forced to view CBS mainstay Candice Bergen doing cute commercials for Sprint on their network. Murphy Brown's "does anyone ever call dad?" line is a classic.

* She probably meant it as a compliment, but chances are coach Theresa Grentz hit upon the problem yesterday when she said of the U.S. women's basketball team "they're pros" after it had lost to the Unified Team, 79-73.

While the victors were living up to the name, playing a total team game, which basketball is supposed to be, Teresa Edwards & Co. paraded around as if this was a tryout session, not a medal-round game. In other words, bored pros.

To their credit, announcers Marv Albert and Mike Fratello said the team looked lethargic and almost uninterested right from the start and did not react well to what the UT was doing for an aggregation that has been accused of being the best women's team ever.

The game, even as disjointed as it was coming to us during the morning show yesterday, looked like a replay of the then-Soviet men's team barging past the U.S. on the way to the gold medal in Seoul four years ago. The fact the Unified women's coach is the brother of the Soviet mastermind who beat John Thompson's pressing defense may have had something to do with it.

For once, the disappointing 7-10 a.m. show had something it could sink its teeth into, but it blew it badly, sticking to the by


now vacuous and strained dialogue of co-hosts Dick Enberg and Katie Couric.

* Hey, where does the International Olympic Committee get off ** sending Russian weightlifter Ibragim Samadov home from the Games because he refused his medal at an awards ceremony? Nowhere in the Olympic Charter does it say a guy has to accept a medal.

It has happened before. Remember the U.S. basketball squad refusing to take the stand and letting the IOC know what it could do with its silver medal after the multi-faceted end of the 1972 final?

* The plain fact is, a Moroccan, who was being lapped, became involved and "helped" a countryman win the 10,000-meter race Monday and the original ruling to disqualify the winner should have stuck. Of course, the whole sordid mess could and should have been avoided had the International Amateur Athletic Federation set some rules with regard to lapped runners, oh, 50 years ago. It's simple, guys, lapped runners immediately move out to the third lane.

* Anchor Bob Costas' best lines of late include the suggestion to hyperventilating tennis reporter Bud Collins that he "must try the decaf," and the note that tickets to watch U.S. "volleybalders" are so scarce, "fans have to deal with scalpers."

* Gotcha! Viewers who didn't know the results of the 400-meter --, run earlier in the day, probably thought Steve Lewis won the race during the "plausibly live" prime-time show when a feature on Lewis preceded the event final. Wrong. Quincy Watts took it in 43.50, Lewis getting the silver.


* Last night's historical offering, compliments of Faith Daniels, featured the life and times of ol' Chris, Christopher Columbus. Time permitting, the net has plans for blurbs on other Spanish explorers Pizarro, De Gama, de Leon and Caesar Romero as "Captain from Castille."

* One wonders how hard up we are for competitors when we send Jim Doehring to Barcelona to represent us in the shot put. Almost forgotten is the fact that in addition to drawing a suspension for testing positive for testosterone some time back, Doehring pleaded guilty to conspiring to possess and distribute amphetamines, a federal offense.