August 24, 2008

The Cougar Lounge - Four More Years

"I can't set a precedent for our institution that people can just come and go as they please."

- New South Dakota State head volleyball coach Nana Allison-Brewer, who was miffed that star outside hitter Annie Adams decided to transfer to Wazzu to follow head coach Andrew Palileo. Yeah - we can't be having this "people just doing as they please" stuff - next thing you know, people will be thinking this is a free country.

"We would never put an event on tape delay. When we put 'live' on the screen, we mean 'live right now'. We don't mean live three hours ago."

- ESPN executive VP of content John Skipper lambasting NBC for - once again - dissing the West Coast and also showing tape-delayed Olympics coverage while putting up a "Live" bug in the corner of the screen when it was only live for the East Coast. ESPN is considering bidding on the 2014 and 2016 Games next year and if Skipper is true to his words - they have the Lounge's vote.

"Baseball has the great advantage over cricket of being over sooner."

- Famous Irish playwright, George Bernard Shaw, who is correct - Team USA's game against Cuba last week in the Olympics was definitely over very soon - but a Cuba-USA cricket match would be interesting.

"I've heard our strategy described as spreading peanut butter across the myriad opportunities that continue to evolve in the online world. The result: a thin layer of investment spread across everything we do, and thus we focus on nothing in particular…I hate peanut butter. We all should."

- Yahoo senior vice president of communications and avowed peanut butter hater, Brad Garlinghouse, in a memo from two years ago. Don't be a hater, Brad, then the terrorists will win. Love the peanut butter, embrace the jelly, woo the bread - it's all good.

The end is near. There are, of course, two interpretations of that phrase this week - the end of summer and the end of the Olympics - but we are leaning towards the latter because now NBC is beginning to go all BCS-Taliban on us. It started out nice for NBC and their Olympics coverage as they gave many sports much coverage opportunities, especially on the internet - a massive improvement from 2006 in Turin, when they treated the internet like the proverbial red-headed stepchild. But it may be that NBC was only giving lip service to this massive coverage, because no sooner than one week into the coverage - right about the time people on the West Coast [you remember that area of the country from your geography books, right NBC?] wanted to see some track and field results and coverage instead of overly-redundant gymnastics and non-live ancillary coverage - they were back to their old Olympics tricks of either pretending event coverage was "Live" by inserting a bug into the corners of screens or tape-delaying coverage on the West Coast until times that were more convenient for the East Coast. Beach volleyball - one of the undisputed "hits" of the Games and where the USA took both men's and women's golds - which part of the country is that sport most popular again, NBC? Is it the part where Notre Dame is? Because then you can construct an exclusive contract with that school and televise all the Notre Dame beach volleyball games too!

So, once again, instead of providing live coverage of, say, track and field, we got taped coverage of diving and NBC slunk back to their previous ornery position of "we can do what we want because we know best" instead of giving American audiences what they want - live coverage of events. It was no wonder that in the first few days of the Olympics, people - searching for live event results because that is what they are most interested in - surged traffic on Yahoo's Olympics page past NBC's official site, even though Yahoo had only news and results to offer. Is that a clear enough message for you at NBC-Dunder Mifflin headquarters?

Now we move on to that actual coverage. The Lounge clientele took their Goldilocks and the Three Bears coverage poll and determined the sports which received far too much coverage, those which did not receive enough and those which were just right. The results are in and they break down thusly;

Sports Receiving Far Too Much Porridge/Coverage: Gymnastics and diving. Perhaps swimming - but they had a good reason there.

Sports Receiving Far Too Little Porridge/Coverage: Archery, canoe/kayak and modern pentathlon - but we are okay with that - and think the modern pentathlon should go the way of the dodo and take trampoline with it.

Sports Receiving Just The Right Amount Of Porridge/Coverage: Everything else - although the live coverage of track and field preliminary rounds and finals could have been vastly improved.

In addition, one of the best human interest portions of every Olympics is when some little plucky country or plucky individual from a plucky country achieves plucky country history by either winning that country's first medal or first gold medal or some other similar achievement. Even if no medal is won, there is sometimes another achievement that is newsworthy to note - such as securing a meat bonus as four Belarussians did. Virtually none of these moments - which are much better than seeing another two hours of gymnastics or diving - were given the coverage they were due. Afghanistan, Mauritius, Sudan and Togo won their first-ever medals in the Olympics while Bahrain and Panama collected their first gold medals ever and numerous athletes did not win medals but set national records in their events in Beijing.

As for Team USA, although they did win the overall medal count and did collect the same number of gold medals as they did in Athens four years ago, it was a rollercoaster Olympics for them. Basketball, beach volleyball, fencing, gymnastics, women's soccer, swimming, portions of track and field, volleyball and water polo were all on the good part of the rollercoaster. But baseball, boxing, cycling, men's soccer, softball, tennis and portions of track and field were off the rails. Track and field, in particular, was schizophrenic. In both men's and women's short-distance sprinting events, they were obliterated by the Jamaica train but in any event that was contested at the 400-meter distance, the Americans owned it - winning 10 of the 14 available medals at that distance on the track.

Finally, there was the miscellaneous grab bag - two Mike Tysonesque biting incidents in boxing, the Cuban taekwondo competitor kicks a judge and is banned for life from the sport, the Swedish wrestler drops his medal on the mat in disgust over an official decision, a Jamaican sprinter prancing and preening in sprint wins and, of course, the controversy surrounding the 12-year-olds calling themselves Chinese gymnasts which the gymnast parents blame on the internet [and which the government blames Tibet].

In the end, for International Olympic Committee chief Jacques Rogge and the rest of the IOC, the moral of the story is - never again reward an oppressive regime with an Olympics.

Because of the Olympics, almost overlooked - almost, but not quite - is the gigantic fact that the Banana Splits are back on television next week on the Cartoon Network. The Lounge is fond of Snorky's name, Drooper's attitude and Bingo's drumming ability on the old show which can be found on Boomerang but the revival will have some new elements which we are not too fond of and can be seen at the Banana Splits web site. Still, "Tra La La" is a catchy tune and how can anybody not like the Banana Buggy?

While we are on 1960s television shows, we feel it is our duty to inform everybody that the S.S. Minnow may once again be booking three hour tours to Gilligan's Island: Seems as though one of the owners of the QFC grocery store chain bought the boat used for the second season of the show and intends to use it on a promotional tour [presumably longer than three hours].

Then there is this little matter of Hasbro seeming to feel it is necessary to tinker with the classic elements of the Clue board game by changing the characters names. They call it updating, we call it sacrilege. Colonel Mustard is now a football player, Professor Plum is a video game designer and the house has a spa? If anyone happens to find Hasbro lying lifeless in the study - the Lounge did it with the lead pipe.

The Olympics are over for four more years [well, the summer version] and now college football season is mere days away and you know what that means, don't you? Right - time for a corporation to sponsor something and let you know about it. Since the 172 bowl games are already spoken for - that means it has to be something really, really good. So Chick-fil-A came up with the idea - or somebody employed there did - to sponsor the giant mascot heads that ESPN commentator Lee Corso plops on his head on College GameDay every Saturday morning. Brilliant.

"How did Wazzu not get a medal in the Olympics?" asks a befuddled Sloppy Joe.

That is a good question, Joe. Obviously there were great expectations of some Cougar athletes while not so great expectations of others. Nobody [in their right minds, possibly some of those in their "left" minds] expected American heptathlete Diana Pickler, Lithuanian swimmer Rugile Mileisyte and Canadian sprinter Anson Henry to win medals. Pickler and Mileisyte were each in their first-ever Olympics and Henry, while a seasoned international competitor, was in a heavily-stacked sprint field and did well to advance out of the first round. Equally as well was Mileisyte's effort to win her heat even though she did not advance to the semifinals and Pickler was injured in her first event, thus derailing her efforts. But the real questions making our puzzlers sore were what happened to discus star Ian Waltz and distance superstar Bernard Lagat - both were expected to have reasonable shots at medals and both came up empty-handed. Waltz was nowhere near his personal best on a meager first attempt and fouled out on his final two attempts while Lagat had Achilles tendon problems but refused to use that as an excuse. Whatever the case, the lack of a medal stops the Cougar Olympics medal-winning streak at two consecutive Games and while Waltz, Pickler and Mileisyte can likely attempt to come back for London in 2012 - that is a 50-50 proposition for Lagat and Henry. But by that time, there might be some kid named Jeshua Anderson to watch.

"I am beginning to get itchy for football," reports Billy Hill, The Headless Hoarse Man.

Well, we suggest you see a doctor for that itch, Billy. Meanwhile, we will try to decipher whether or not you mean football or futbol - as one season has already begun and the other one is just days away from beginning. In futbol, Wazzu won their first soccer match of the year over Montana and will be seeking yet another shot at the NCAA tournament that has been inexplicably denied them in recent years. Meanwhile, the football team will have their season opener against Oklahoma State on the road in Seattle this weekend and head coach Paul Wulff will be hoping that enough of his available players have been able to pick up the new systems instituted on both offense an defense. If so, Wazzu may be able to make a game of it against the Cowboys. If not, it could be a long day in the Emerald City. We will all find out how that turns out shortly.

With the Olympics over and done, it is now time to acknowledge thanks and Olympics sponsor does this with a campaign that has been running throughout the Olympics where athletes thank their mothers. The website for this is called Thanks Mom. We think this is a great idea except for one thing - they forgot half of the reproductive equation - there would be no superstar athlete without good old Dad and as we know from our Monty Python songbook - every sperm is sacred. So, in an effort to rectify this gross oversight and give dads everywhere the equal credit they deserve, the Lounge presents the Thanks Dad website - courtesy of our Aussie pals down under

Finally, the Lounge Scientists have determined that the men who won medals at the Olympics are probably a bit happier about their accomplishment than the women - or at least they will be in a few years. That is because a recent study discovered that while women are happier at the onset of their adult lives, men eventually become happier about their lives later on, specifically, by the time they reach the age of 48.

"Aspirations of men and women are similar later in life but women attain less," says Lounge Scientist #48, Anke Plagnol, a researcher at the University of Cambridge who collaborated on the study with a USC researcher and who reportedly is unhappy with the results.

Maybe that will change in four years, when the youth of the world has been called upon to assemble in London.

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