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Friday, February 24, 2006

Olympics Junkie

Edit: Click here to read an article about the curling team that appeared in last Wednesday's USA Today.

Sadly enough, the one thing that has occupied my life for the last two weeks – the 2006 winter Olympics – will be coming to end on Sunday. I suppose it’s for the better, since I have two major essays that are due in the next couple weeks, but, still, I must admit, I am a big Olympics junkie. Though I tend to prefer the winter sports more, no matter if they’re the summer games or the winter games, I absolutely love watching the Olympics on television.

So, even though I don’t want to make this another “why I love getting the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation)” post, I have to say that, when I found out that Grand Forks’ cable system has the CBC, I was very excited precisely because I knew that the CBC (until the Vancouver games in 2010) has the rights to show the Olympics in Canada. It’s not that “the networks of NBC” do a poor job covering the Olympics – in fact, I think that utilizing the sister networks of CNBC, MSNBC, USA, and, during the summer games, Bravo to cover the more obscure sports has been an excellent success. I would imagine that many Olympics enthusiasts like myself absolutely love the hours of extra coverage that these secondary networks provide.

Still, my main qualm with NBC’s Olympic coverage is how ratings and, therefore, profit-driven the primetime coverage is. The primetime Olympics coverage is packaged just like any other ordinary TV show that lives and dies by its ratings. As a result, in order to get as many people to tune in as possible, it seems like NBC turns the Olympics during primetime into too much of an entertainment spectacle rather than the sports spectacle that they should be. Furthermore, in order to keep the advertisers happy by bringing in viewers, NBC has a strict rule of not showing any of the most popular sports (snowboarding, speed skating, bobsleigh [in the winter] and swimming, track & field, gymnastics [in the summer]) live when the Olympics occur in a place with a large time difference compared to the United States. CBC, however, as a partly-public entity, does not need to worry as much about ratings or advertisers. As a result, it has striven to show as many events as possible live as they happen in Turin. Over the last two weeks, I’ve become quite accustomed to getting up a little earlier than usual, as Turin is 7 hours ahead of the central time zone, to catch the live Olympics coverage on CBC. I’ve been able to watch quite a few events that didn’t end up getting shown by NBC until up to 12 hours until they actually happened.

Something to keep in mind is that CBC also runs a primetime show that recaps all of the major happenings of the past day. Unlike NBC, however, which presents the primetime coverage in a “plausibly live" format, CBC lets its viewers know that it is only repeating coverage so that people who couldn’t see it when it happened live (between 3 AM-1 PM CST) have the chance to see it again.

Plus, it’s always good to see something as international as the Olympics from a different perspective. As I’ve picked up from my viewing of CBC since last August, there are some differences between living in a country of 298 million and one of 32 million.

Nevertheless, curling is one of those Olympic sports that even NBC is willing to air live. Actually, there’s no reason not to – MSNBC and CNBC consistently get higher ratings with live curling that they ever would with regular programming. Even so, I became hooked on this sport this year ever since getting up in the morning and seeing the live coverage. After reading all of the rules and regulations of play, I became even more interested in the sport that probably gets the least amount of coverage out of all at the winter games.

My interest in curling peaked once I found out that all 8 people in the men’s and women’s U.S. Olympic curling team are relative “locals.” Both teams play for Bemidji’s curling club, and all but one of the 8 players grew up in northern Minnesota towns like Bemidji, Cass Lake, Duluth, Chisholm, and Virginia. As The Brainerd Dispatch has reported, the skip – or captain – of the men’s team also owns Dave’s Pizza in both Bemidji and Baxter. Even more, one of the other curlers on the men’s team is a current mechanical engineering student here at UND.

I took full advantage of the fact that my roommate is down in Mankato running this weekend to go to bed early on Thursday so that I could get up at 6 AM to watch – live on both MSNBC and CBC – the men’s curling bronze metal game between the United States and Great Britain. Happily enough, the United States ended up winning the bronze by a score of 8 to 6. Here’s an article from the Associated Press that I found on nbcolympics.com:

U.S. men win curling bronze medal

PINEROLO, Italy (AP) – “Pizza Pete” Fenson is bringing home a slice of the Olympics - the first U.S. curling medal ever.

The American men won the bronze by beating Britain 8-6 on Friday in the consolation game, jumping to an early lead and then clinching the victory with a simple draw to the middle of the target in the final end. That put the United States on the medal stand along with more traditional curling powers Finland which won the Torino silver, and Canada, which won its first curling gold.

Fenson, a Minnesota pizzeria owner, broke into a smile and gave a salute with his broom as his last shot settled into the scoring area. But the victory was especially emotional for teammate Shawn Rojeski ; it was the second anniversary of his mother's death.

"I knew it was going to be an extremely difficult day for me today," Rojeski said. "This team is extremely satisfied with the way they played today - and for myself, it's that much of a better moment, for sure."

In addition to being shut out at the three previous Olympics where curling was a medal sport, the American men hadn't medaled at the world championships since 1978.

"Everybody was not expecting us to do well here," Rojeski said. "But we were pretty confident coming in that we could be contenders. We were definitely OK with coming in here and not being the No. 1 favorites."

Britain was shut out of a medal one Olympics after Scottish housewife Rhona Martin threw the "Stone of Destiny" to win the gold medal in Salt Lake City. David Murdoch 's team is also from Scotland, which is considered the birthplace of curling.

"It's massively disappointing," Murdoch said.

With the Americans holding the big last-rock advantage known as the hammer for the final end, or inning, they played defensively and kept the British from building any protection. Murdoch had one rock in the target area, and he put his last rock out front as a guard.

But Fenson had an open draw around the right to get inside of Murdoch's rock and give the U.S. the bronze. The Americans took control with three points in the third end and made it 6-2 with a pair of points in the sixth. But the British rallied with three points in the seventh end when Murdoch knocked out an American rock and left his in the scoring zone, along with two others.

Britain's best chance to win came in the ninth, when it held the big last-rock advantage known as the hammer. But it could only manage one point - essentially holding serve.

The hammer went over to the Americans in the 10th end, and they used it to set up the winning shot. "As soon as that shot stopped," Fenson said of Britain's last rock in the ninth, "I knew I would be drawing for the win. The guys just had to keep it open so I would have a path."

Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved.


Anyway, in conclusion, the main purpose of this post was to make you aware of the fact that northern Minnesota now has some Olympic medallists in a sport where no American had been able to capture a medal before. If you ask me, that’s pretty exciting.

6 Comments:

Anonymous katja said...

¡WOOHOO!! ¡¡GO MINNESOTA!!

I would never've known that if you hadn't posted it on your blog. The Olympics coverage here is absolutly zero(wait when the Prince and Princess went to watch a Spanish skier, there was coverage, but that's all).

Talk about biased news.

Hey, how much do you know about what's happening with Bird Flu in europe. I've been looking at head lines on MSN and other stations, but I haven't seen anything relating it. I mean, it's in France, Germany, and they found some birds dead in Spain a few days ago...

Sat Feb 25, 04:30:00 PM CST  
Blogger Mitch said...

No Olympics coverage there? Sure, Spain isn't exactly a winter sports country, but it's surprising to hear that the coverage is zero.

Bird flu has pretty much been completely out of the news here for the last month. I doubt it will be that big of a deal until it crosses the Atlantic...

Sun Feb 26, 07:29:00 PM CST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are probably right Mitch..... right now old Europe is dealing with it....it will become an issue once it crosses the atlantic though! :-)
Hope you are good and your semester is going well! Greetings from the twincities, Sonja

Mon Feb 27, 07:47:00 PM CST  
Anonymous katja said...

The entire world will most likely have to hear about how it finally reached America... Especially since I don't think America's adiquatly prepared for it.... I guess we'll see when it cross the atlantic. It's only a matter of time.

Tue Feb 28, 10:33:00 AM CST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read with great interest your article on curling. I have had the honor of knowing Shawn Rojeski his whole life, and have curled against the Pizza Dude, Fenson before. I am proud of them, and they are close to UND. I too watched the bronze medal game.

Thu Mar 02, 12:55:00 PM CST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It was great to see the Pizza Dude and his merry band of curlers take the bronze.The U.S.A. women's team was so highly touted, yet the mens team weren't even mentioned as contenders. The women's team acted very immature, and that immaturity showed in their performence. They went home early with nothing to show for their efforts.
Then entire State of Minneosota should be proud of the Boys from Bemiji. Curling ROCKS..nyuck nyuck :)

Fri Mar 03, 08:25:00 PM CST  

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Mitch's Blog began on December 23, 2001