The Vancouver Winter Olympics are over and I have to say that the big winner is not the Americans who broke the record for total medals or the Canadians who won fourteen golds including a couple in that chase-the-puck sport. No, the big winner was NBC which decided to show a bunch of sports where Americans were not expected, nor did they win, any medals.
NBC's flagship station showed almost all the cross country ski events and most of the biathlon events as well. The competition was excellent regardless of the country of origin of the protagonists. I hope this is a sign of things to come from NBC in future Olympics.
Undoubtedly, the most dominating performance at the Games was Shaun White in Half Pipe Snowboard. Even though this is a judged sport, there was absolutely no question who was the best athlete out there. White is at another level. There is a real possibility that he will be able to break the bond of earth's gravity by the time he competes at Sochi in 2014.
The breakthrough performance of the Games goes to the Men's Nordic Combined team which won four medals, one gold and three silvers, in three events. The USA's men's team typified what the Olympics are all about. Hopefully, the success of the team will inspire young competitors to enter the sport.
When it comes to judging, Apollo Anton Ono was robbed of a medal in the men's 500m. Ono got disqualified for putting a hand on the skater in front of him. The Canadian referee somehow "missed" the hand the Canadian skater put on the South Korean which won him the gold. If you have rules, they should apply to all the athletes not just the ones that aren't from the same country as the referee.
I was pleased to see Steve Holcomb and his four-man bobsled team take gold in that event. After a disappointing showing in the two-man competition he rebounded to dominate and win the gold going away. Redemption is always sweet. Doing it at the Olympics is even sweeter.
I am not going to comment on the opening or closing ceremonies. The pageantry that is the Olympics is better left for the viewer to watch and judge. I am just glad that the organizing committee choose Neil Young to sing instead of Celine Dion or Anne Murray. Good call.
I have to get one dig in at NBC. Jerry Seinfeld's new show, The Marriage Ref, stinks. It is not funny and the couples who are judged on the show have nothing compelling about them to generate any interest about their lives. Shame on NBC for using the Olympics to plug such a flawed concept.
Is anybody out there watching the Olympics? I have to give kudos to NBC. They seem to be showing a lot more actual sporting action during their coverage. And it is not just events where America is expected to do well. On President's Day NBC had pretty good coverage of the Men's 15k and Women's 10K cross country ski races where the best Americans were way outside of the medals.
How about the Nordic Combined? The Americans came with high hopes and they produced the goods. Johnny Spillane, Todd Lodwick and Bill Demong were right there in the thick of things all they way to the finish. It is so fulfilling when a group of hard working athletes on the same team make things happen. It was nothing short of great. The US Nordic Combined team is one of the favorites for the team gold medal. Here's hoping that they make that happen as well.
I was glad to see Bodie Miller get a medal in the downhill. When an athlete doesn't fit the mold the public and press are trying to force them into, lots of bad energy can come their way. I don't think people really get where Miller is coming from. He suffers from being totally misunderstood. I don't think his medal haul is over. I am hoping for the elusive gold medal for him in the combined.
Special mention goes to Seth Westcott who won his second gold medal in snowboard cross. My Olympic moment at the 2006 Torino Games was when, after he won gold there, he was asked why he switched from the half-pipe to snowboard cross. Westcott simple said, "no judges."
Which of course brings me to one of my other rants. It is still early in the Games, but does anyone want to place a wager on the sport where the first judging fiasco will occur? You won't get very long odds if you pick figure skating so put on your thinking caps and try to be creative.