Pieces of Puff

It’s almost too easy to criticise Channel Nine’s Winter Olympic coverage. All you have to do is point out that Vancouver Live would have been more aptly named Vancouver Puff-Pieces on Delay…until two Aussies had the gall to win medals, when it should have been changed to Vancouver Repeats: Torah and Dale Begg-Smith.

Of course, this final title is also reflective of the way that the station expects us to relate to our two “Aussie Heroes”. Firstly, the drop-dead-gorgeous girl-next-door from Cooma is to be known by her first name, seemingly joining such female Aussie luminaries as Kylie, Delta, Nicole and Schapelle. Meanwhile, the less-media-friendly-Canadian-born-Aussie bloke is always to be known by his full, hyphenated name.

But leaving all of the easy pot-shots at the structuring of the coverage aside, one couldn’t help but wonder what Eddie Maguire was thinking at times during Vancouver Gold each evening.

To wit:

It was the night after DB-S won silver in the men’s moguls, we’d just seen the replay once again, and Maguire was eagerly interviewing the silver medallist himself. Actually, “interviewing” is too strong a word…”baiting” or “desperately attempting to rile”, perhaps?

During the previous segment, Alissa Camplin was brought in by Channel Nine to directly compare the runs of DB-S and the Canadian Gold Medallist Alexandre Bilodeau. She was brilliant. She carefully and precisely explained the Moguls scoring system and went on to show that DB-S was ahead in the judges’ marks right to the end, however Bilodeau won because 25% of the final score is awarded purely on speed, and the Canadian was much quicker down the mountain than the Aussie.

But still, Maguire tried his best to ask anything he could to obtain a rise from DB-S. Was he robbed? Did he think he’d won after his opponent’s first jump? Did he think he’d won after his opponent’s run? Could it have been a home-town decision to give the Canadian the win and the Aussie second-place?

DB-S, of course, did what he seems to do on the rare occasion we see him in the Aussie media: he handled such questions with simplistic, eye-rolling contempt. He stated that he can’t control the other skiers or the judges’ scores, only his own skiing, which he did and it was enough for second place. End of story.

As Maguire kept prying for a response, DB-S continued to look entirely disinterested and those of us at home wondered if the Collingwood President was genuinely thicker than we’d previously thought. Camplin had literally just explained to Australia that the judges were pretty accurate, in her educated opinion, and it was DB-S’s speed that had lost it for him.

But Maguire continued on, clearly missing the irony that if Begg-Smith had indeed bit and said that he was robbed by poor judging, all he would be doing was completely contradicting Channel Nine’s expert commentator’s detailed analysis of the event.

Maguire seems to want to be seen as a good-Aussie-bloke during the coverage – someone who we could relate to as if he was watching with us on the couch at home with a stubbie in his hand. If he’s not trying to convince us that the Aussie was robbed, he’s cracking jokes about the fact that a US figure skater would look right at home on Brokeback Mountain, not that there’s anything wrong with that.

While this prominent example was sure to have encouraged any Collingwood footballer who is currently in the closet to nestle into his dark barricade just a little more deeply, it also showed that Maguire and his superiors seem more out of touch with The Great Aussie Norm than ever before. For when the figure skating is on, Norm isn’t sitting on his couch and questioning the sexuality of the skaters. Indeed, as far as Norm’s concerned, not one of the skaters is a Real Man. Rather, Norm is sitting on his couch wondering why the hell Channel Nine are showing Figure Skating rather than a Real Sport such as…I dunno…anything else at the Winter Games. Surely Maguire didn’t think that a bit of blokey-commentary during the Figure Skating was going to ensure that Norm wouldn’t flick over to One HD to watch replays of whichever football code was being shown?!?

And going back for a moment, you’re certainly implying that there is something wrong with that, Mr Maguire. You do remember what happened to Jack Twist in the end, right?

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2 Responses to Pieces of Puff

  1. Russell says:

    Loving the blog, Mr Olsen!!

    Did you see the unspeakable Eddie M’s crawling interview with Johnny Weir? It was embarrassing on a number of levels. Firstly, because it was so obviously forced upon him by the network as some kind of fumbling attempt to make up for the controversy caused by his initial buffoonery. What really fascinated me, though, was how subtly and cleverly Johnny W responded to Eddie’s barely concealed discomfort at how to talk with an openly gay man. JW kept drawing hapless Eddie back to the fact that he was an elite athlete and “three time Olympian”, and proudly described himself as someone who was a “sportsman” first and foremost. Poor Eddie just didn’t know where to go with this…you could almost hear the cogs turning in his brain…”Actually, that’s right! He’s gay, but he’s a SPORTSMAN! Not only that, but a really, really good sportsman! Struggling to compute…Do not know how to pigeonhole and therefore how to talk to this person….”. The awkwardness was agonising. There was no question who was the polished media performer in that scenario, and it certainly wasn’t the tv presenter!!

  2. Liz says:

    Oops – that was me, not Russell!!!

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