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February 17, 2014

Olympic Viewing: Sagging ratings, Costas to rescue

Highlights from television coverage of the Sochi Olympics:

STOP, ALREADY: Christin Cooper’s interview with Bode Miller after he tied for a bronze medal in the men’s super-G ski race was a shameful spectacle. Cooper repeated essentially the same question — a variation of ‘how does it feel?” — again and again and again until she not only drew tears, but a complete breakdown by Miller over the death of his younger brother within the past year. It was tone-deaf and cruel, and short-circuited the thoughtful, intelligent perspectives Miller had started to offer until he couldn’t talk anymore. It’s even more inexplicable that NBC felt the need to show it all; it wasn’t live.

RATINGS: After a quick start, NBC’s ratings for the Sochi Olympics are fading. Saturday night’s prime-time telecast was seen by 17.1 million viewers, the smallest audience so far and smaller than any night of the Vancouver Olympics in 2010. The Saturday telecast opened with the compelling story of the U.S.-Russia men’s hockey game, but things quickly went downhill, and there were few notable performances by Americans to keep home team fans interested. The comparable Saturday in Vancouver had 26.7 million viewers, and the Turin Games in 2006 had 19.7 million. The hockey game on the NBC Sports Network was seen by an average of 4.1 million people, swelling to 6.4 million during the shootout, strong numbers that indicated how word spread quickly about what was going on.

EYE ON COSTAS: Ol’ Red Eyes is coming back! NBC said that Bob Costas will return Monday night as host of the network’s prime-time telecast. Matt Lauer filled in one last time on Sunday. That means Costas will have missed seven days because of a stubborn infection that reddened first one of his eyes, then the other, and left him sensitive to light.

WEIR WARDROBE WATCH: Skating analyst Johnny Weir had a bright green jacket with white shirt, and a green and gold headband. Or maybe it was a tiara.

ICE DANCING: Weir is warming to his job, firing off some good lines during the ice dancing competition Sunday. “They sold that program like the rent is due tomorrow,” he said of one pair. “With ice dancing being the peacock of our sport, we need some plumage,” he said, urging Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates on.

BAD MEMORIES: Must not have been very enjoyable for Russian hockey federation boss Vladislav Tretiak to be interviewed by Al “Do You Believe in Miracles” Michaels on NBC. Four of the seven questions dealt with what had to be the worst day of Tretiak’s playing career, when the Soviet Union lost to the Americans at the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics and he was inexplicably pulled as goaltender after the first period. One of the other questions was about Saturday’s U.S.-Russia game, surely another fun topic. Tretiak handled the interview with grace, even crediting the 1980 U.S. team for doing a lot for U.S. hockey.

FREE FALLIN’: Wiped-out snowboarders were strewn all over the course on Sunday’s snowboard cross competition, including America’s hard-luck Lindsey Jacobellis. NBC’s Todd Richards said that “total chaos and unpredictability” is the essence of the sport. Is that really the case? Were the soft snow conditions created by the warm weather making things more difficult? Was it an unusually difficult course? Seems like those questions should have been considered.

HOCKEY HANGOVER: NBC’s hockey team was quick to call out the U.S. men for looking energy-deficient during part of the game against Slovenia on Sunday, probably a natural hangover from the previous day’s excitement. The announcers were a little less inviting to the nonhockey fanatics, with repeated references to a “natural” hat trick without explaining the phrase. We’ll assume it has nothing to do with hairstyles.

DESIGNERS NEEDED: The uniform designer for the U.S. speedskating team and the guy in charge of Norway’s skis certainly took a lot of pressure off the person who made that nonfunctioning snowflake in the Sochi opening ceremony.

CURLING: Was it just us, or were there some long, lingering closeups on competitors in the Russia-Sweden women’s curling match?


David Bauder can be reached at or on Twitter, @dbauder. His work can be found at


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