Instead of memories, CBS brought us to tears |

Instead of memories, CBS brought us to tears

by Steve Yingling

Best coverage of figure skating practice I’ve ever seen.

Sure would be nice if they stayed away from Salt Lake City.

Anyone who spent the past two weeks watching CBS’s coverage of the Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, must have come away feeling shortchanged.

From CBS’s annoying day-late taped coverage to ignoring America’s nonmedalists to its infatuation with figuring skating, the network blew an excellent opportunity to cultivate Winter Olympics fans for the future.

Most irritating about CBS’s coverage was its propensity to focus on the U.S. and European stars and its ignorance of the other Americans who worked just as hard to qualify for the Winter Games.

CBS may not realize it, but a lot of American families shed tears when their Olympians weren’t shown during the nightly three hours of prime time coverage.

Kellie Ford was close to tears last Tuesday as she lamented about not seeing her daughter, Jonna Mendes, once during her three Olympic events.

Since many families couldn’t afford to attend the Winter Games, it was up to CBS to make them feel like they were in Nagano.

“It blows me away that nobody cares, especially in Alpine skiing where’s there’s not interest during the normal season, but during the Olympic season that’s when the interest kicks in,” Mendes said. “I was so bummed that CBS didn’t think we were worthy enough to be shown.”

Because of Mendes’ late appointment to the Olympic Team, there wasn’t sufficient time to affordably send her family to Nagano.

“It would have cost $40,000 to send my mom, dad, brother and sister out here. It would have cost so much money they would have been paying it back for the rest of their lives,” Mendes said.

Although well-deserving of being spotlighted by CBS, Tara Lipinski, Picabo Street and Tommy Moe didn’t have any trouble being seen daily by their missing parents back home. A creative Mendes discovered how to attract TNT cameras – by dancing at the finish line – but CBS kept their distance.

“Oh man, I’m going to have to win for them to show me. My whole family will be there next time, so I don’t care,” Mendes said.

Thankfully, TNT showed part of Mendes’ 17th-place downhill run and her first combined slalom performance.

Particularly offensive to viewers was knowing the results before CBS showed them “live.” Because of CBS’s loyalty to the Eastern market, some Alpine events that could have been shown live in the Western region were aired the next day.

While some of CBS’s athlete profiles were interesting, many were not. Watching Lipinski play with her pals on the roof of her home made me believe they were forcing us to believe that the 15-year-old was just a normal kid away from the ice. Some of this wasted time could have been used to show the other Americans perform, even if they fell down or finished last. Americans do finish last sometimes, don’t they?

Even the Winter Games’ premier event, hockey, was reduced to after-midnight taped coverage by CBS. CBS could have shown the games live at 8 or 9 p.m. but decided to test everyone’s staying-up power by televising the game until 3 a.m. I wonder how many people overslept and were late for work on those mornings?

Worse yet, CBS failed to show the U.S.’s greatest Olympic accomplishment, winning the women’s hockey gold medal, live and in its entirety. CBS showed segments of the U.S.’s 3-1 win over Canada during its morning show and must have felt so badly or fielded so many complaints that it replayed the tape on Sunday. And the women were model U.S. representatives. All four of the U.S. men’s hockey games were shown from beginning to end. The only thing CBS didn’t show us was them trashing their rooms.

* * *

It will be interesting to see what the NHL does to the destructive members of the U.S. men’s hockey team who broke some chairs in their Olympic Village rooms.

What an embarrassment and lack of sportsmanship. The offenders should be banned from the Olympic Games forever and should apologize to the American public.

* * *

Can anyone tell me why Canada didn’t use the world’s all-time greatest hockey player, Wayne Gretzky, in the five-player shootout with the Czech Republic last Thursday? Sure he’s 37, but if anybody has the skill and savvy to beat Dominik “The Dominator” Hasek, it’s the “Great One.”

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