After Some Titanic Blunders, the Winner Is ...
By Leonard Shapiro
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, February 15, 1998; Page C13
The first full week of the Winter Olympics is history, and that's good news for CBS Sports, if only because it can't get much worse going into the final seven days.
Almost daily cancellations of marquee Alpine events because of bad weather, only two gold medals won so far by U.S. athletes and relatively weak ratings have provided sumo-like body slams to the network's grand plans.
And so, inspired by last week's Oscar nominations, we've got a few candidates of our own to single out, for better, and often, for worse, with a few miscellaneous categories, as well.
Best Performance by an Anchor: TNT's Jim Lampley, who's on the air weekdays from 1 to 6 p.m. (3 a.m. to 8 a.m. Nagano time) working live on a set so chilly you often see his breath. He's smooth, opinionated, adjusts on the fly and has a droll sense of humor. In short, he's the direct opposite of CBS prime time anchor Jim Nantz, who's been stiff and far too scripted.
Best Performance in a Supporting Role: CBS's late-night team of Al Trautwig and Michele Tafoya, for insomniacs who can make it that far past midnight. Andrea Joyce, after a poor start in the opening ceremonies, has been far better on weekend afternoon coverage.
Best Performance by a Venue Reporter: Trautwig, again, for his work in packaging Nordic skiing. His piece on Bjorn Dahlie's victory in the 10-kilometer cross-country, with the Norwegian star waiting around at the finish to congratulate last place Philip Boit of Kenya, was a masterpiece.
Best Line by a Venue Host: TNT's Alpine announcer Greg Lewis on futile efforts by hundreds of volunteers to groom the downhill course after a massive snowfall: "It's like trying to mow Central Park with a pair of scissors." Runner-up, CBS's Mary Carillo to a downhill official: "Do you think this event will happen in our lifetime?"
Worst Line by a Venue Analyst: Jim Rippey of CBS on snowboarding: "Yeah buddy!! He's starting to chatter!!! Come on buddy!!!! Whooooo yeah buddy!!!!!" A close second by Scott Hamilton, any time a figure skater, messes up: "Oooooooooh, no."
Worst Question Asked by a Venue Reporter: It's a tie, with multiple winners-losers all around Nagano: "How does it feel?," first uttered during Opening Ceremonies by Kennedy, a refugee from MTV who's allegedly a snowboarding expert.
Best Picture: Not even close. Hermann Maier's incredible airborne disaster in the men's downhill, first seen live and repeated ad nauseam almost day and night since.
Best Reaction: TNT having its cameras focused on Maier's girlfriend as she watched in horror on the big-screen TV at the finish as her man crashed higher up the mountain.
Worst Picture: Was it really necessary for CBS to focus cameras and point microphones at Dutch speedskater Erben Wennemars after his crash in the men's 500-meter race, as he lay on the ground backstage, writhing and screaming in pain and medical personnel tried to get his dislocated shoulder back in place?
Best Goose Bump Moment: Super-G gold medalist Picabo Street on a cell phone after her race to her mother back home in the United States. "Mom, I won," she said. "I miss you, I wish you were here. I'm going to win more than one."
Best Move: CBS News ordering its reporters not to wear the Nike swoosh on their CBS jackets.
Worst Move: CBS Sports allowing its on-air announcers to keep wearing the Nike swoosh.
Best Morning Show: There's only one CBS's "This Morning," with co-anchors Mark McEwen and Jane Robelot. You get results (with a warning to turn down the sound if you don't want to know), the first live interviews with medal winners and Martha Stewart, too. On second thought. ...
Best Venue Teams: Gary Thorne and Dan Jansen on CBS speedskating, Sean McDonough and John Davidson on CBS ice hockey (hardly ever seen in prime time, a pity), TNT's Mike Emrick and Joe Micheletti on hockey.
>Worst Homer: Bonny Warner on luge, who openly roots for Americans. In doubles coverage, she giddily reported several mistakes made by the German team of Stefan Krausse and Jan Behrendt, implying they were in deep trouble. Of course, they won the gold.
Best Decision: No curling highlights in prime time. Aficionados can aim satellite at A1 for incomprehensible Canadian Broadcasting coverage.
Worst Decision: CBS holding Picabo Street gold medal tape for almost 24 hours.
Best Features: CBS's profile of bickering pairs skaters Ingo Steuer and Mandy Wotzel, with reporter Bill Geist saying "a day with them is like spending a day with the Kramdens."; CBS's Anthony Mason on abused Russian skater Elena Berezhnaya; Geist on the man who sculpts fake food for Nagano restaurants; CBS's Harry Smith on Norway speedskater Steinar Johanson's comeback from a near fatal cycling collision with a truck that nearly cost him an arm; TNT on Canadien octogenarian women hockey players who first took the ice 60 years ago and still play today.
Worst Animation: CBS's computerized Ergo-man skiing the downhill course. TNT gave viewers a far better look by strapping a camera on miked Hilary Lindh skiing the women's downhill course.
Oldies But Goodies: TNT having Chris Schenkel do voice overs on many of its feature stories and Jack Whitaker providing the occasional commentary.
Most Revolting Development: Jim McKay doing voice overs for McDonald's Olympic commercials.
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