Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Wednesday Whining - The NBC terrible trio

I hadn’t planned to write anything on this topic in its own right, but given that my bitterness towards the NBC commentators seems to spill out onto every post, I thought I might as well get it out of my system in one, well organized shout. Nice and tidy.

So in that way of thinking, I have broken down my hatred of a thousand burning flames (that was a slight exaggeration) into some efficient sub-headed groups. An itemized bitch, if you will. So, the following are just a selection of reasons as to why I hate the NBC trio.


Reason 1: Tim doesn’t know how to use words.

So yes, again I chose to slightly exaggerate the problem for this subheading. But seriously, I wonder if Tim actually thinks at all before he speaks sometimes. The issue is, that in trying to speak interestingly and with intelligence, he makes silly blunders that sound awkward and enrage the viewer (me). I am all for not repeating the same words over and over again. It is bad practice in writing, and it is bad practice in TV (see what I did there). But, someone should tell Tim that this does not mean that any old verb or adjective will do. RELEVANCE is key, Tim. My key example here is from the 2009 VISA championships, with David Sender’s vault on day two.

Now, Tim, I am here to help with some definitions. The following is the Oxford English Dictionary definition for that choice verb “jettison”:



[with object]

throw or drop (something) from an aircraft or ship:six aircraft jettisoned their loads in the sea

abandon or discard (someone or something that is no longer wanted):the scheme was jettisoned


So as we can see, this verb deals exclusively with goods dropped from various avian or marine transportation, or on occasion a metaphoric term for something disposed of. Now let us think rationally about its application to vaulting in gymnastics. Or actually, let’s not, because no rational person would ever place these concepts together. Unless of course, Tim genuinely expected David to be dropped onto the vaulting table from a light aircraft, but then again that’s more of an Al Trautwig-like assumption (“guys do we think that will score well?”)

To conclude, if you want to spice up your commentary, develop a better vocabulary, not just a wider one.


Reason 2: they are incapable of reporting sport impartially

I won’t give the team too much blame here: we all have our favourites, and we all love to see a home athlete on top, but it is important in the role of commentator to not let this affect your outlook on the field too much. For example, when the trio talk about Aliya Mustafina, they spend about as much time talking her up as some bitchy, difficult little diva as they do talking about her skills (if I am perfectly honest I don’t like Mustafina either, BUT I don’t like her because of her untidy legs and chucked vaults – THOSE are the kinds of things a commentator should be speaking about). They did the same with Khorkina: “she loves to model, been in some magazines, some of dubious taste. Perhaps, but that has no bearing on her performance as a gymnast, so shut up. Oh and yes, Al, she is ready for her close up. We get the reference. Move on.

Tied in with this is the fact that they appear perfectly contented to speak over another gymnasts performance to carry on a conversation about one of their own. This is impolite, unprofessional and unnecessary.

To draw a parallel, at the 2011 Europeans the British commentary team were about to commentate on the high bar final featuring the great Epke Zonderland, who Mitch Fenner does some coaching for. They made reference to this and made a segment about impartiality.


Reason 3: Stupid comparisons

Again, this considers primarily good old Tim Daggett, and those oh so irritating gymnastics analogies he continues to reel off, particularly on the uneven bars.

We all know the drill: “she looks like a kid on a playground up there”, “looks like fun don’t it?!” etc etc.

Again, Tim, let me help you out a little here. I am one of four children and as of very recently, an uncle. Therefore I would say I am pretty qualified in terms of kids on playgrounds and what they look like. However, for those that maybe don’t, the drill tend to be as follows: little chubby cute child approaches the swing set/monkey bars etc, mounts after some considerable effort, giggles and has a nice time doing very little, occasionally says “look at me” and more often than not, falls off and does a lot of loud crying.

Now, let me spell out the key differences. Children do not do handstands. Nor do they do tkachevs, giengers, full turns, half turns, endos, onos, paks, mos, healys – you get the picture. Essentially what I am trying to point out is that, in fact, a child looks nothing like a gymnast. I would go as far as to say that the comparison is quite derogatory – these athletes have trained for years to do what they do, so don’t belittle what they are doing as childsplay. What I think Tim means is that they make it look easy and their skill allows them to make their routines look as if they are having fun and not expending huge amounts of energy. SO SAY THAT TIM.

Some key examples:

 Anna Pavlova - 2004 AA Uneven Bars

Nastia Liukin 2008 Visa Championships day 2 Uneven Bars
(I AM telling you Tim, it doesn't)

Reason 4: Al is creepy.

I am referring of course to Al’s classic faux pas whilst talking about Nastia Liukin at the 2008 olympics.

Now let me be clear, I am not in any way insinuating that Al actually is a creep or meant to be creepy, I am certain he was being completely innocent minded and did not mean to come across at all strange. However, I think it just indicates how this team should think more before they speak. There is always a danger of strange undertones when watching and commentating on gymnastics, given that the girls are young and leotards are leotards: so just don’t say things like this. Simple.

(Reason 5: Elfi annoys me. Childish yes, but hey, I was a teenager not long ago)



So there we are. NBC trio: think more, know your gymnastics, ditch the daft comparisons and recognize that there are other gymnasts outside the USA. Rant over!


  1. I like this post. It appears to me that Tim is the main problem. One of the things I dislike the most is that they never tell you what the freakin' move is called. "Now, she's going to do a difficult release move. Watch this!" Great! Tell me what it is and why it's so special. Is it more or less than the other release moves all the other gymnasts are doing? I feel like I learn from the BBC commentators which is why I like them. I've even started to pick up on gym words in other languages.

    They're also better at being impartial. It's tough since Britain isn't a powerhouse in the same way U.S., Romania, China, and Russia are, but they aren't condescending towards other gymnasts. They point out how the Brits are doing and are clearly rooting for them but it doesn't affect what they say about the Americans or Chinese. Sometimes, I do like the gossip and coaching tidbits but there's a way to say it.

    And the kid on a playground - I don't think its condescending but he does need a better vocabulary. There are only so many times you can hear the same thing. So many kids in so many playgrounds. Watch this! And I'm guessing he used "jettison" because he was tired of saying twisting or throwing. Yes, inappropriate but what are we gonna do :(

    What exactly did Al say about Nastia? He seems totally unnecessary to me. He just has the voice for the montages - keep it to that. He also asks the questions "So, what exactly does that mean? What is an E-score?" Which can be nice at the beginning to get things explained to the new viewers. I know you don't like Elfi but maybe she could talk more. She seems to have the information (even if it's not always positive). Tim just likes to hear himself.

    OK - longest comment ever haha.

  2. I definately agree with most of this, and of course a lot of it was exaggerated for effect....particularly things like the jettison comment haha, but it irritates me a lot because he is paid to speak over these things, it is his job, so he should know by know the kinds of things to say and have a good enough vocabulary to keep it interesting. Yesterday I actually realised it isn't the only time he has said it which makes it even worse..he used the word again at a meet in 2008, potentially the Pacific Rim or something.

    You are spot on about British commentary ;)

    and yes, absolutely right about not being taught anything, and that has always been the case I think. Other countries often have small tutorials on an apparatus or scoring system before each broadcast.

    Yeah I was being childish about Elfi...and you are right she is definately the lesser of the evils. I think she can just be a bit poisonous sometimes (example: Alexandra Shevshenko 2003 world team finals floor).

    About Nastia...I tried to find it on youtube but I couldn't but I will keep looking. It was during qualifications perhaps and Nastia was walming up and he said something like (when the camera was totally on her) "look how Nastia can just take that great, supply body and just, bend it". Not too bad but definately too creepy for a professional commentator!

    Really great to hear your opinions :)

  3. Tim's mondegreening annoys the heck out of me too. Maybe during the upcoming Olympic process, I will collect his mis-speaks and send a letter to NBC...