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Torino in the rear view mirror

Again today, there is an astoundingly spot-on piece of sportswriting in The New York Times. It's a page one story (deservedly so) about how these games have produced no major figures (in a marketing sense or in any other way) and may explain why many Americans may be having flashbacks to the Olympic Basketball "Dream Team" in Athens. For many, the losses don't hurt as much as the glaring lack of class and sportsmanship on the part of some of the (most prominently featured) American athletes. Click continued for excerpts from today's front page story by Karen Crouse.


With four days left, no American has won multiple gold medals, and the athletes that were hyped to the heavens have plunged -- literally, in the case of snowboarder Lindsey Jacobellis -- to earth.

...for Madison Avenue, the face of the United States that has emerged from these Games is an unattractive sell of bad manners and poor sports.

"It's probably the most hyped and most disappointing Olympic team we've had," Bob Williams, the president of Burns Entertainment & Sports Marketing, said Wednesday by telephone from Chicago.

The skier Bode Miller was weighed down by expectations and a few extra pounds. He did not win a medal in four events in the mountains at Sestriere -- 60 miles from here -- with one event remaining. After missing a gate in the combined, one of his best events, Miller said, "At least now I don't have to go all the way to Torino" to pick up the medal."

Jacobellis won no style points turning a sure victory in the inaugural women's Olympic snowboardcross into a silver medal when she tried to show off with a trick and crashed yards from the finish line.  She immediately returned to the United States, saying, "I'm excited to go back home and have a nice steak and a normal-sized bathroom."

Chad Hedrick's speedskating victory in the 5,000 meters has been overshadowed by his ungraciousness in defeat in the team pursuit, the 1,000 and the 1,500, and his open feud with teammate Shani Davis, the first black athlete to win an individual gold medal in the Winter Olympics. "I'm here to win," Hedrick said in dismissing his bronze medal in the 1,500. "It's all or nothing."

Davis provided a sharp contrast to Hedrick on Tuesday, congratulating the Italian speedskater who beat the two Americans in the 1,500. He then turned churlish during a post-race interview with NBC, the network televising the games. He kept his answers short and his gaze averted.

"This is certainly not the kind of interview you're used to hearing from an Olympic gold medalist," NBC's Dan Hicks remarked afterward to the studio host, Bob Costas.

"When there are incidents of misbehavior, it's more obvious and generates more attention because there are higher expectations and higher standards for an Olympian," said Darryl Seibel, a spokesman for the United States Olympic Committee. "We embrace those standards. We celebrate the fact that more is expected of them.  And if we need to do a better job of making sure our athletes understand those standards, we will."
(If you'd like to read the whole article, click here.)

THE ROAD AHEAD
Sad news arrived while we were having a planning meeting concerning our coverage of New Orleans: I looked at the MSNBC screen and learned that the U.S. had lost seven soldiers in two separate explosions in Iraq. When our travel schedule calms down and we are clear of a few major stories and upcoming anniversaries, among my vows for the future direction of our coverage would be to check in on what I think is the most remarkable daily sacrifice in this country: families with loved ones serving overseas. Second to the military service itself (only in terms of the danger and living conditions), it deserves our attention and respect (and coverage) on a more regular basis. On the NOLA front, we will of course be broadcasting from New Orleans next week for Mardi Gras, and to mark the six-month anniversary of the storm and the botched response to it.

Tonight's broadcast will have heavy coverage of the current situation in Iraq, the report out today on the Katrina lessons, the port cargo/security story that is not going away, and the confusion over the conflicting health evidence in the news. If you adhere to a particular medical theory, it's safe to say that if you're willing to wait long enough, a "major study" will come your way to prove your thesis.  We'll also take a look at Russia's hope tonight on ice, Irina Slutskaya.

Those of you unable to keep replaying the last presidential election will be interested in this AP item coming out today. And the Diageo/Hotline poll on HRC has some interesting numbers [she trails Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., by 10 points in a hypothetical match-up for the White House in 2008, and her favorable ratings have increased 4 points since last month (up 10 among Democrats and 6 points among Independents polled)].

Tomorrow night, with Mike Taibbi's help, we'll take a step back and take a good, hard look at the Olympic Games so far. Until then, we hope you'll join us tonight.