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Tom Jones’ Two Cents: Praise for NBC’s Olympics coverage

By Tom Jones
Published: February 25, 2018
Performers stand in formation on the circumference of the Olympic rings during the closing ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Sunday, Feb. 25, 2018. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel) OLY321

Times columnist Tom Jones looks back at the best and worst from a weekend – and in the just-concluded Olympics case, almost three weeks –  of televised sports.

Best coverage
The length of the Olympics is just about perfect.

It's 19 days of knowing exactly what you're watching on TV every night and it's a blast to see sports you don't typically watch: skiing, luge, speed skating and, of course, curling.

Then just when you get to the point where you're sick of seeing snow and ice, the closing ceremony comes along.

These Olympics offered some special memories. None better than the U.S. women beating Canada for the hockey gold — the signature moment of these Games.

Then there was the U.S. men winning gold in curling, watching the South Koreans dominate speed skating and everything about the figure skating, including the gold medal performance of Canadian ice dancers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir.

There were disappointments, too, such as Lindsey Vonn failing to win gold (although she is the greatest American alpine skier ever and as cool as it gets), a complete meltdown by the U.S. women in figure skating, and a puny medal haul by Team USA (23 overall, its lowest since 1998).

And throughout it all was the outstanding work by NBC, which gets an A for its coverage.

The coverage got off to a shaky start with some missteps in the opening ceremony and pretty much ignoring the creepy past of snowboarder Shaun White, but most of everything else after that was outstanding.

While it was odd not seeing Bob Costas, host Mike Tirico was solid and is expected to settle into that role as Olympic host for the next decade.

Meantime, the MVP of NBC's coverage was hockey announcer Kenny Albert. His work, especially on the gold medal games for the women and men, was flawless. Both games were dramatic and Albert's calls equaled the drama.

Other highlights included the work of the figure skating broadcast team of Terry Gannon, Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir; women's hockey analyst AJ Mleczko, and even skiing analyst Bode Miller. He took a lot of flak for his monotone delivery. And while downhill skiing should be called with a little more enthusiasm, Miller's knowledge of the sport and his ability to articulate it to the audience is really good. He just needs a couple of Red Bulls before turning on his microphone.

Think about what NBC had to do.

There were 102 events in 15 sports, many of them outside in winter weather, halfway across the world. There were nearly 3,000 athletes. There was rarely down time. Whenever you flipped the Olympics on your TV, there was something to watch. And because of its meticulous planning and near flawless execution, NBC's performance deserves a gold medal.

Best comeback
Tiger Woods is going to win another golf tournament. Write that down. He might not win a major, and he's never going to win four more majors to catch Jack Nicklaus' record of 18. But this past weekend at the Honda Classic, he was in contention until he got caught in PGA National's infamous Bear Trap on the back nine Sunday afternoon. For a guy who has barely played in the past couple of years to be only a few shots back midway through the final round (he ended up finishing 12th) shows he isn't finished.

Worst tournament
Congratulations to the Olympic Athletes from Russia for winning the gold medal in a men's hockey tournament that didn't have a thousand of the best hockey players on the planet. Seems as if people want to rave about how good the gold medal game was with OAR beating Germany in overtime. But a close game doesn't mean a good game. The goaltending was lousy in the final and play overall in the entire tournament was mediocre at best.

And don't even get me started on everyone being excited that Germany was a feel-good and surprising story. The only reason Germany was in the final was because the NHL wasn't there and the so-so players from Germany were better than the so-so players from the rest of the world.

Bottom line: the NHL should have been in the Olympics and the fact that they weren't made for an uninteresting tournament.

Most interesting broadcasts
MLB Network picked up the Boston Red Sox broadcast of Saturday's Rays-Red Sox spring game. Then Fox Sports Sun picked up the Minnesota Twins feed for Sunday's Rays-Twins game. It's always interesting to get outside perspective on local teams.

The Red Sox announcers spent some time talking about the Rays' offseason moves and, for the most,spoke in a negative tone. They painted a picture of franchise simply slashing payroll and how Rays veterans Chris Archer and Kevin Kiermaier were critical of the moves.

Meantime, the Twins announcers, including analyst Bert Blyleven, are among baseball's best and the most notable comments were how highly they spoke of pitchers Archer and Blake Snell.

Most perplexing case
This FBI-college basketball business is intriguing. And confusing.

In short, the FBI is investigating corruption in college basketball. Among its findings: many of the nation's top programs might have broken NCAA rules by funneling money to players through agents. Among the biggest casualties so far are Louisville, which was stripped of its 2013 national championship, and Arizona coach Sean Miller, whose job is in jeopardy because he allegedly was caught on a wire tap trying to see that a recruit received $100,000 to sign with Arizona.

Now, in no way am I defending Louisville, Miller or any of the other programs. Louisville clearly was an out-of-control program under fired coach Rick Pitino. And Miller might never coach college basketball again. But I'm confused as to why the FBI is involved. Doesn't it have better things to do than crack down on something that might be breaking NCAA rules, but is not necessarily illegal?

Maybe the good news in all of this is it will lead to real change and that change would be finally giving college athletes a piece of the pie. I've changed my stance on players being played. It's time to just make it legal. After all, they deserve more than a scholarship for making so much money for the NCAA and its programs.

Three things that popped into my head
1. Steven Stamkos is playing the best hockey of his career. He's not going to score 60 goals like he once did, but he's at the very top of his game on the ice, on the bench and in the Lightning locker room.
2. Speaking of the Lightning, Monday night's game between the Bolts and Maple Leafs might be a preview of a first-round playoff matchup. And we should all be cool with that because that would be a heck of a series.
3. Know who might be the dirtiest player in sports? Golden State's Zaza Pachulia. See what he did rolling on Russell Westbrook's legs Saturday night? And, of course, afterward he acts like he doesn't have a clue why people accuse him of being dirty. Call him the Brad Marchand of the NBA.