With the closing ceremonies mercifully on the horizon, it's time to present medals of praise and scorn for NBC's coverage of the Atlanta Olympic Games in four classifications.
Bob Costas and Greg Gumbel: Anchoring anything as mammoth as the Olympics can be a thankless job (just ask Tim McCarver and Paula Zahn), but Costas and Gumbel were equally brilliant in their roles as host during the evening and during the day, respectively.
Track and field commentators: In the signature sport of the Games, NBC turned to four seasoned veterans (Tom Hammond, Craig Masback, Carol Lewis and Dwight Stones), who gave the best performances at any of the venues.
Cameras, microphones and angles: These Games looked and sounded beautiful and were the cornerstone of NBC's wonderful production. In particular, the Dive Cam, which followed divers down from the 10-meter platform and the robotic camera that picked up runners down the stretch, are revelations.
Dick Enberg: Only rarely were his nightly "Moments" overly wrought. Most nights, they were tastefully delivered looks into the souls of the participants.
Charlie Jones and Bob Ernst: These two were solid on their rowing assignment. Ernst was blunt and opinionated without being overbearing. And don't you want to hear Jones say "repechage" just one more time?
Jim Lampley and Hannah Storm: With the nearly nightly prime-time overruns, a lot of folks didn't get to see this late-night hosting duo, but trust us, they were good.
Dan Hicks and Cynthia Potter: After that first week on the swimming detail, you were ready to revoke Hicks' credentials, but he made a nice recovery in week two, thanks to his pairing with Potter, the diving specialist, who explained her craft better than just about any of the other analysts.
Chris Marlowe and Paul Sunderland: These two former volleyballers were perhaps a bit too insider, but they had a lot of fun, too, and so did the listener.
The 60-second wrap-up: Easily the best commercial of the Games, this nightly peek back at the previous 24 hours has traveled well from Seoul in 1988 to Barcelona four years ago and hopefully will make the trip to Sydney in 2000.
John Tesh: When do the aliens pick him up?
Summer Sanders: A gold medalist in Barcelona, she knows of what she speaks, except her voice and delivery were so annoying that you didn't want to hear it.
"Plausibly live": With the huge time-zone difference in Sydney, NBC will have an excuse for tape delays four years hence, but there was no excuse for the deceptions this year.
"Pretzel Boy": Hey, Jason Alexander: Isn't "Seinfeld" enough? In an Olympics of wretched excess, this commercial was easily the most crass.
Weepy features: Everyone has issues. We just didn't need to see them as a prelude to every competition. Sometimes, the Games just speak for themselves.
Passing the baton
Given its ceaseless cheerleading for Carl Lewis to land a spot on the men's 4 x 100-meter relay team, even down to a superfluous Lewis appearance at the men's tennis final, you had to figure that NBC would shift quickly into "We told you so" mode when the Americans failed to grab the gold.
But, to the network's credit, Hammond, and particularly Masback, were excellent at demonstrating particularly where the U.S. effort went wrong, emphasizing Tim Harden's second leg, where he switched hands on the baton, then gave a sloppy handoff to Mike Marsh.
Pub Date: 8/04/96