25 February 2006

NBC, you make me wonder

I was going to watch some more of the Olympics while matching up socks this afternoon, but in lieu of actually covering the competition, they were airing a piece on an Italian Olympian from decades ago.

Nothing else was on, so I figured I'd see how my Italian comprehension was during some of the interviews.

Eugenio Monti was an Italian bobsledder who is known largely for a great act of sportsmanship during the 1964 Winter Olympics. He lent a bolt from his bobsled to a competing team that went on to win the gold medal while he and his teammate got the bronze.

He was a fair-minded guy at the top of his sport. He would graciously share his knowledge with other competitors even though it might (and sometimes did) mean they would beat him.

It was an uplifting story of good sportsmanship, fair play, and perseverance that paid off when Monti finally won gold in 1968 when he was 40.

He had a family and continued building his ski business. Then he was old, divorced, alone, suffering from Parkinson's, unable to do what he could before, and he killed himself.

The 45 minute documentary ended, and to drive the disheartening end home, the Olympic anchorman stressed how no athlete now would ever dream of helping another if it might lead to their own loss. Sportsmanship is a thing of the past.

With the money and endorsements at stake for today's athletes, I don't disagree, but I feel like the network missed the point. The Olympics should be a source of inspiration, not a tragic reminder of how much better things once were. And if they can't manage that, then they should just show more of the sports.

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  1. that's so depressing. way to be uplifting NBC. it makes me sad. . .

  2. Yeah. Mostly I felt suckered. They pitched it as the good sport underdog story before it started... all I really wanted was to watch some nordic skiing or biathlon.

  3. On the upside, I can tell you that even though Norway had its worst Olympic since Lake Placid, at least one of the Norw trainers was given a knighthood or something by a country (which, escapes me at the moment..) because this country's cross country skier broke his ski pole and was instantly given a new one by this Norw guy.

    Once, in 1982 (sic!), a Norw and a Russian - competing for first in cross country - fell over each other, both broke their poles, but only the Norw was given a new one. (Yes, he won..) "The World" (or so it felt) was furious with "us"...

    So since then, Norw trainers, assistants, audience, even, have always carried lots of spare poles..

    So, maybe it wasn't good sportsmanship after all, maybe this year's "hero" was just scared he might be told off..?

  4. Hard to say. Actually the Italian press totally ripped this guy back in '64 for his good deed when he lost the gold. There's always someone who's not going to be happy it seems.

  5. As easy as it would be for them to change the outlook, it will never happen sadly. Media outlets are far too cynical for their own good. Tragedy sells better than hope.

  6. I'm not sure that I buy tragedy selling more than hope. Disaster makes for more intriguing news in the media's eyes, but if hope didn't sell, Extreme Home Makeover wouldn't be such a huge hit.

  7. I saw that documentary, too, which was weirdly engrossing. They kept on talking about his heroism, so I expected that he saved the lives of some people on an ice floe, or something like that. After a half hour, they finally revealed that he gave the other team a bolt! At first, I thought, big deal! But I guess it is true that nobody would do that now, and it was sort of depressing to hear.

  8. Neil: Exactly! It's an even sadder state of affairs that just lending someone a bolt became such a big deal. To Monti's credit, he didn't consider it noteworthy when he started getting all the fuss.