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NBC enters medal round with fine matinee features


If you took all of the tape that NBC has used for features during the Olympics and laid it end to end, then rolled it into a ball and dumped it in the middle of the floor, it would look a lot like my kids' rooms.

The point being -- other than the kids' inheriting the sloppiness gene from dad -- that NBC has rolled out lots of features during the Barcelona Games. These pieces have been of varying quality, but NBC had two fine examples yesterday afternoon.

A segment on runners Jim Ryun and Kip Keino reintroduced us to two talented, driven athletes who occupied center stage in two Olympics.

Better yet, Keino was displayed not only as a champion who has been an inspiration to his fellow Kenyans, but also as a person who should be an inspiration to everyone. On his farm in Kenya, Keino and his wife are parents to 50 adopted children, many rescued from abominable circumstances.

Also, Deborah Roberts presented some enterprising reporting in trying to track down the silver medals that the 1972 U.S. men's basketball team refused. She found a former German Olympic official who pulled seven silver medals -- not a full complement -- from his basement. And there was some question as to whether the seven medals were from the basketball batch.

As mysteries go, this might not rank up there with the Bermuda Triangle, but it was well worth some of that tape.

Kids, now go clean your rooms.

Showing their stripes

Patriotism is the last resort of a scoundrel, the saying goes. Patriotism also is the first resort of millionaire sneaker salesmen.

As announcer Marv Albert pointed out -- and he is to be commended for not ignoring it -- several of the U.S. men's basketball players solved the problem of the offending Reebok logo on their sweat suits by draping American flags over their shoulders during the medals ceremony.

Meanwhile, sharing space on the medals stand with the Americans were the Croatians and Lithuanians (in those groovy Grateful Dead threads, man). Given the recent histories of the two countries, those two teams had much better reasons to be wearing their flags.

But what's hard-fought independence compared with 2 million reasons from a sneaker manufacturer?

L Too bad the stars and stripes doesn't include a Nike swoosh.

International vision

Yesterday afternoon, we got to see some action that had nothing to do with Americans. NBC showed several gold-medal boxing matches involving Cubans. Maybe it was just to give us a chance to root against them.

Life isn't fair

Somewhere in Barcelona, there must have been a sport in which the poor Americans weren't jobbed by the officials. I'm not sure where that sport was, though.

Yesterday, during coverage of Spain's water polo victory over the United States, we again heard complaints about the officials. They were being influenced by the home crowd, analyst Jim Kruse said.

Gee, it's amazing Americans won any medals at all.

Grapple dance

With the right camera techniques and music, just about any sport can be made balletic. Take yesterday afternoon's montage of freestyle wrestling, for example.

Using close-up shots and slow motion, backed by light jazz, NBC transformed wrestling into a muscled pas de deux.

Those NBC guys probably could make my flat-footed jumper into art. Well, maybe modern art. You know, the kind where you can't tell if it's hanging upside down.

Looking ahead

You've made it this far. You've shown incredible stamina. Now, just put on a finishing kick for the last telecasts of the Olympics.

NBC (channels 2, 4) has three shows today -- 8-11 a.m., noon-6 p.m. and 7-11 p.m. There is little actual competition today, so expect lots of highlights.

During the afternoon program, NBC has scheduled a set of gold-medal highlights. Tonight, in addition to the men's marathon and closing ceremonies, the network will have gymnastics highlights -- one last ratings grabber.

Numbers game

How many Nielsen families can dance on the head of a pin? If a ratings point falls in the forest and no one measures it, can it push "Quantum Leap" into the top 10?

Philosophers long have pondered such questions. Which might be why it's hard to get a job as a philosopher.

Anyway, ratings for NBC's Olympic programming on Friday were unavailable yesterday. The ratings people were said to be trying to find out if the Pope was Catholic.

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