Tag Archives: ESPN

‘9.79*’, Part 2

These eight runners ran one of the most famous races in Olympic history.

(Continued from Part 1)

Back in 1988 I remember the shock and disgust I felt when learning of Ben Johnson’s positive test for steroids, and how I felt vindicated when Carl Lewis was bumped up from silver to gold.  Ben Johnson represented the most evil and dishonest aspect of Olympic sports.  Now I find myself hating him less and sympathizing with him more.  Yes, Ben Johnson took performance-enhancing drugs during his amateur competitive career.  Yet according to test results and the testimony of several of Johnson’s contemporaries, so did four of the other competitors from the 1988 race–Including Carl Lewis.  (And I’m not even going to address the allegations that Johnson was framed in his failure to pass post-race drug test.)

I grew up revering Carl Lewis, the heir apparent to Jesse Owens.  As I’ve grown older, I’ve

“9.79*” offers us a never-before-seen perspective of Ben Johnson.

had my eyes opened to the widespread use of performance-enhancing drugs and the real Carl Lewis, whose enormous ego and motives are sickening.  Those who read this blog know what an idealist I am when it comes to the Olympics.  Yes, there’s even some naiveté there as well, because I can’t comfortably accept the idea that we should just enjoy the performance and to hell with trying to maintain the purity of sport.  When I asked Gordon about this and about the impact of 1988 on sports, he offered an interesting comment.  “I believe that the vast majority of times [in races] were not done clean and have never been done clean….1988 was certainly a wake-up call.”  He’s right, but it’s still a bitter pill for me to swallow.

After I watched “9.79*” I didn’t sleep well that evening.  Am I more upset about the injustice of Ben Johnson being the patsy, the fall guy?  Or is it the child in me who feels betrayed by those she once idolized?  After watching I felt angry, betrayed, and sad.   Carl Lewis wasn’t Ben Johnson’s victim.  If anything, it was the other way around.  Nor were Linford Christie, Dennis Mitchell, Ray Stewart, of Desai Williams.  As for Robson da Silva and Calvin Smith, the only two of those eight runners that never tested positive for drugs, they were victims.  But so were we, the fans.  Especially those of us who are hopelessly idealistic and believe in the purity of sport.  When I posed this question to Dan Gordon, he was hesitant to say who—if anyone—is the victim.  Here again, he’s determined to remain objective.  “ ‘9.79*’ asks a lot of questions, [but doesn’t] provide answers,”  he reminded me.

As the interview concluded, Gordon relayed a conversation with a university professor on the issue of doping in sports.  “He said, ‘Remember that it’s just entertainment.’  Well, I’m not sure I’m ready to do that.”

Neither am I.

Faster, Higher, Stronger.



Filed under Athletics/Track & Field, Book/Movie Reviews

“9.79*” Is a Win, Start to Finish

“9.79*” first aired October 9 on ESPN. The film will be re-broadcast October 20 and 21 on ESPN Classic.

Each generation seems to experience its own sporting scandal.  My generation is no different, and for this Olympic fanatic, the one which still haunts me is Ben Johnson and the 1988 Olympics.  In fact, after watching “9.79*,” ESPN’s latest film in its “30 for 30” series, I think my heart is even heavier.  I walked away from this film with new questions, unexpected sympathy, and anger over multiple injustices.  BAFTA-nominated filmmaker Daniel Gordon has done his job and done it well.

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NBC Again Victorious With Coverage Rights Through 2020 Games

Money talks.

Five hours ago the IOC announced that NBC had yet again secured coverage rights for the Olympic Games through 2020.  The Peacock network (owned by Comcast) somehow  managed to fend off both Fox and ESPN (Disney Group) with an entire bid of roughly $4.38 billion.

Tis a sad day for this fanatic.  All the months of hoping, praying, and crossing fingers did nothing to help secure a change in Olympic television coverage.  Unless I move, I will still be subjected to NBC’s paltry coverage, much of which isn’t live, and much of which is poor in quality with smarmy commentators and ignorant analysts.

It’s obvious that quantity–not quality–is most important to Jacques Rogge and the IOC.  So much for striving for a swifter, higher, and stronger quality of Olympics television coverage.

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Ebersol’s Departure Leaves Future Olympic Coverage in Question

With the news last week of Dick Ebersol’s departure from NBC, my friends know I’m not lamenting over this announcement.  Ebersol and his colleagues claimed him to be a pioneer and champion of the Olympics.  Yet I, along with many other die-hard Olympic fans, held him responsible for NBC’s paltry coverage, which paled in comparison to Canada’s coverage, especially the most recent 2010 Winter Olympic Games.  The news of Ebersol’s resignation excites me, yet leaves me (and other fanatics) worried and unsure of the future.  How will Ebersol’s absence affect future Olympic television coverage in the U.S.?

Ebersol’s departure leaves NBC and its parent Comcast in a difficult situation, as the network is currently waging a huge battle with ESPN over broadcasting rights for the 2014 and 2016.  Something tells me that without its crusader (Ebersol) on board, the odds are ever more in ESPN’s favor.  We will find out which network will emerge victorious when the IOC holds its television coverage auction June 6-7 in Lausanne, Switzerland.

As I wrote earlier this year, ESPN has a lot going for itself.  I’d prefer to see a joint bid by ABC and ESPN under the Walt Disney Group, as it would allow more coverage options, unless ESPN is already planning on using ABC stations for any coverage?  ESPN’s coverage of the 2010 FIFA World Cup was respectable.  They were committed to covering all games, even if the games did not involve the U.S., England, or Brazil.  My only criticism was their choice of anchors and commentators.  If they secured the broadcast rights to the Olympics, I’d hope they would choose wisely when selecting their team for coverage.  There’s nothing worse than mispronounced names and incorrect analysis.

I suppose I’ve always been tough on Ebersol.  Journalists have always written of Ebersol’s passion and love for the Olympics, and how he always worked diligently to secure more broadcast coverage for American fans.  But I have high standards.  I’ve seen how much more coverage residents in Canada and Europe receive. (I have my ways, and they shall remain secret.)  Americans receive far less superior Olympics coverage than sports fans in other countries.

Perhaps Ebersol improved American television coverage of the Olympics (when compared to the 1970’s and early 1980’s).  But this fanatic wants better, additional coverage, and perhaps his departure from NBC is signaling this needed change.  Maybe it’s time for a new network to try its hand at broadcasting the Olympics, and see how it does at striving for Swifter,  Higher, Stronger.

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ESPN’s “Marion Jones: Press Pause” Fails to Hit Stride

Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images

I was excited about this week’s documentary for ESPN’s “30 for 30” series.  Last night the network aired “Marion Jones: Press Pause,” which focuses on Olympian/fallen hero Marion Jones.  The potential for another moving and intriguing documentary was there, as it had these elements:

  • A respected director:   Oscar-nominee John Singleton
  • A superstar athlete and Olympic medalist for the subject matter:   Marion Jones
  • A controversial story involving superstar’s fall from grace:  Jones’ guilty plea and prison sentence for perjury, and the IOC stripping her of all Olympic medals for steroid use.

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ESPN’s “Once Brothers” Is Profound and Heart-Rending

“May joy and good fellowship reign, and in this manner, may the Olympic Torch pursue its way through ages, increasing friendly understanding among nations, for the good of a humanity always more enthusiastic, more courageous and more pure.” – Pierre de Coubertin

In honor of its 30th anniversary this year, ESPN is airing a series of 30 sports documentaries aptly titled, “30 for 30.” The documentaries, made by various filmmakers, have enabled ESPN the opportunity to achieve something new:  offer viewers sports-related documentaries with a sophisticated storytelling usually found only on networks such as HBO or CNN.

After recently watching the episode titled “Once Brothers,” I can’t really offer any profound commentary.  Several bloggers and columnists have already done so.  However, several days after watching the film, I realized that I was left feeling extremely maudlin and somewhat disheartened.

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Future Olympics Television Coverage: My Proposal

Here's to wishful thinking....

For anyone who is more than remotely interested in the Olympics, they are probably aware of the stink over NBC’s coverage of the 2010 Winter Olympics (or lack thereof).  For anyone who has read this blog, you know that I am one of the most critical voices of the network’s paltry coverage.  Multiple blogs have addressed it, folks on Twitter have Tweeted their lamentations/frustrations, and many (including yours truly) have sought shelter at Justin.tv, hoping to watch quality coverage from European TV or Canada’s CTV Sports.  Facebook has seen groups such as this one created (a group of which I’m a proud member) .   With all the complaining, NBC has yet to properly respond.  It’s as if the Queen, aka Dick Ebersol, is hiding in Scotland and we need Tony Blair (who is volunteering?) to step in and force a statement to be made to the people, and for swift reform to begin.  Immediately.

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