Synopsis: While reporting on the women’s super-G event at the 2018 Winter Olympics, NBC’s Dan Hicks proclaimed that Austria’s Anna Veith had won the gold medal. All of the favorites had completed their runs by then, but half of the skiers still hadn’t raced yet. Within minutes of the announcement, Czech skier Ester Ledecká came out of nowhere to edge Veith by 1/100th of a second. Ledecká’s shocking upset will be remembered for years to come. However, I choose to highlight the premature declaration by Hicks as a T10B Bad Call.
BAD CALL: DAN HICKS PROCLAIMS ANNA VEITH AS GOLD MEDALIST
Me: Hello. My name is Buster, and I am an Olympics junkie.
You: Hello, Buster.
As it turns out, I’m also an insomniac so my addiction hits another gear when the games occur halfway across the world. I absolutely relish being able to wake up in the middle of the night and watch live coverage of sports that seemingly exist for only two weeks every four years. Based on my distorted priorities, I resemble an entomologist whose life gets put on hold after patiently waiting several years for a specific brood of cicadas to hatch. Fortunately, I only have to wait two years between life cycles.
The 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang have been no exception. To prove the level of my addiction, I watched a YouTube video about the correct way to pronounce the host city. Apparently, NBC has been butchering the last half of the name by saying CHANG (rhymes with rang) instead of CH-AH-NG (like the sound the doctor asks you to say). In addition, I know that the PyeongChang Organizing Committee decided to capitalize the C in the city name to reduce confusion with North Korean capital of Pyongyang.
KATIE COURIC – OFFENDING THE DUTCH
Based on the Twitter accounts of NBC’s on-air talent, that’s not the only mistake they’ve made. To start, Katie Courie felt the need to apologize for stereotyping people from The Netherlands. When providing a rationale for the dominance of Dutch speed skaters during the Parade of Nations, she made the following disparaging remark.
[The Netherlands] has lots of canals that can freeze in the winter. So for as long as those canals have existed, the Dutch have skated on them to get from place to place, to race each other and also to have fun.
When [a small percentage of] viewers responded negatively, Couric offered the following apology.
Congrats #Netherlands on your 🥇count so far! My apologies for being on thin ice for my comments re: skating on canals. I was trying to salute your historical passion for the sport but it didn’t come out that way! I’d ❤️ to visit again & celebrate your success! 🇳🇱 https://t.co/NvYi7LwB2V
— Katie Couric (@katiecouric) February 12, 2018
I have two issues with the apology. First, the initial statement isn’t offensive. Second, it’s absolutely true. While global warming means that the canals don’t freeze every winter, the Dutch go cockoo for Cocoa Puffs whenever they do.
While watching a Dutch sweep in the women’s 3000M, my wife asked me why speed skaters from The Netherlands do so well. I initially responded by saying that skating is ingrained in the culture so it attracts the best athletes. As further support, I referenced Couric’s comment that people there skate as a form of transportation. My wife scoffed after sensing more than a hint of sarcasm. However, not wanting to end it there, I showed her the following picture.
RUSH HOUR IN THE NETHERLANDS
I’ll let you decide. The people in the photo are skating to:
- Get from place to place.
- Race each other.
- Have fun.
Perhaps, Couric should have just Tweeted this photo instead of apologizing unnecessarily.
As an aside, how bad must things be at 30 Rock for executives to invite Couric back in the booth? The network clearly needs to distance itself from the image of Matt Lauer hitting a secret button under his desk so he could lock the door when preying on female employees. As NBC’s $18-million-a-year champion of sexual harassment survivors, Megyn Kelly presumably should have been able to fill the void. Unfortunately, the newest addition to the Peacock family has the abrasiveness of steel wool so she’s been left behind. But I digress.
JOHNNY WEIR – OFFENDING THE OVERLY SENSITIVE
Unlike Couric, NBC’s tandem of Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir speak openly without apologizing unnecessarily.
During the team figure skating competition, Weir offered the following analysis of the current U.S. men’s champion.
That’s the worst short program I’ve ever seen from Nathan Chen…disastrous…now the bronze for Team USA is in jeopardy.
When [a small percentage of] viewers responded negatively, Weir posted the following Tweet.
Well said Johnny! Don’t worry Tara, you’re much appreciated too.
BODE MILLER – OFFENDING THE HUMORLESS
After participating in the last five Winter Games as a competitor, 6-time Olympic medalist Bode Miller joined NBC veteran Dan Hicks as an alpine skiing commentator in PyeongChang (remember, “CH-AH-NG”). Miller retired from the sport with a reputation for being an aggressive skier who never played it safe. Based on his short time in the booth, he seems to have the same style as an announcer.
During the women’s giant slalom event, Miller offered the following commentary regarding the recent struggles of Austria’s Anna Veith.
I want to point out she also got married. And it’s historically very challenging to race on the World Cup with a family or after being married. Not to blame the spouses, but I just want to toss that out there that it may be her husband’s fault.
I reached for the DVR remote immediately after Miller shared this thought because I wanted to make sure I heard him correctly. After listening a second time, I assumed he said it jokingly. Despite his intentions, I knew the Twitterverse would have a negative reaction. I just wondered whether Miller would apologize unnecessarily like Couric or explain it for what it what like Weir.
I didn’t have to wait too long for the answer. After a not-so-subtle prompt by Hicks several minutes later, Miller apologized for his “ill-advised attempt at a joke.” In order to avoid the wrath of some overly sensitive viewers, Bode said:
I was an athlete that competed after marriage, and I know how beneficial it is. I know the support team you need. On Valentine’s Day, I did not mean to throw spouses under the bus, and I’m going to be hearing it from my wife, I know.
Miller thought he needed to do more because he posted the following Tweet as well.
To be clear I was not seriously blaming Anna Veith's lack of results on her husband. It's a changing of priorities that is historically hard, male or female.
— Bode Miller (@MillerBode) February 15, 2018
Miller arguably straddled the fence with his response. Of note, he seems to be providing a legitimate critique (married people have different priorities) while claiming he said it as a joke. Well Bode, which is it? Regardless, the network likely made him apologize given that [a small percentage of] viewers lack a sense of humor.
DAN HICKS – BODE MILLER’S PARTNER IN CRIME
As previously mentioned, Bode Miller has partnered up with long-time NBC announcer Dan Hicks in the alpine skiing booth. If you’re unfamiliar with Hicks, he’s probably best known as Mr. Hannah Storm. In turn, Storm may be best known as a longtime ESPN SportsCenter host who won Tony Kornheiser’s lifetime fashion achievement award.
HANNAH STORM (A.K.A. MRS. DAN HICKS)
Alternatively, you might remember Hicks as the announcer of the super exciting 4x100M freestyle relay at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. According to his Wiki page, that’s the defining moment of his career.
As a quick background, that race proved to the biggest challenge in Michael Phelps’ road to a record-breaking 8 gold medals in a single Olympics. The following picture might help you remember the specific event.
GOOD CALL: “HE’S DONE IT. THE U.S. HAS DONE IT” (DAN HICKS)
Starting the final leg of the relay almost six tenths of a second behind France’s Alain Bernard, U.S. anchor Jason Lezak faced a presumably insurmountable deficit. With a little more than 25 meters remaining, the odds of a U.S. victory hadn’t improved much. In fact, Hicks suggested the U.S. might not even hang on to the silver medal. While inaccurate, his projection ultimately helped set the stage for the shocking finish.
Sitting alongside Hicks, former Olympian Rowdy Gaines provided the following commentary when describing the Americans’ improbable victory,
That might be the most incredible relay split I’ve ever seen in my entire life. 46 flat. Not only was that the fastest in history, it blew away the fastest in history!
Imagine if Hicks and Gaines had dialed it in for the final leg and simply gave the gold medal to the French team instead. Well, that’s basically what happened for the women’s super-G event in PyeongChang.
DAN HICKS: OFFENDING ANYONE WHO LOVES AN UPSET
Presumably eager to move on to the men’s figure skating final, NBC wanted to wrap up its coverage of the women’s super-G event. Even though 45 women were scheduled to race, Hicks prematurely announced the medal winners after fewer than half of the skiers had completed their runs. That group included the top 20 skiers based on World Cup rankings. Still, he presumably discounted any chance of an upset.
BAD CALL: “ANNA VEITH WINS ANOTHER GOLD” (DAN HICKS)
As the previous image graced the television screen, Hicks made the following proclamation.
Anna Veith wins another gold medal for Austria, the 4th straight in this event. Coming up, more men’s figure skating. Adam Rapon in the men’s free. In the meantime, we’ll check in with you again next for the Men’s GS tomorrow. Anna Veith still can’t believe it. She’s a gold medalist again.
In case you missed it, the skier prematurely given the gold medalist by Hicks was the exact one that his partner referenced when joking about the potential downside of marriage. I wonder which announcer’s comments will bother her more in the long term: the one who joked about her husband or the one who potentially jinxed her.
Within minutes of Hicks’ fake news being broadcast, NBC interrupted its men’s figure skating coverage to provide a “shocking” update. Specifically, the Czech Republic’s Ester Ledecká skied the race of her life to edge Veith by 0.01 seconds. Hicks and Miller seemingly had packed up their gear and needed to talk over a tape of Ledecká’s race.
Clearly in shock of her own, Ledecká stared at the scoreboard waiting for her time to be adjusted higher. Although a world champion snowboarder, she simply couldn’t believe she outraced the best skiers in the world. Too bad we couldn’t enjoy that moment with her.
MISSED CALL: “LEDECKÁ SHOCKS THE WORLD”
In retrospect, I wouldn’t have been so upset if Hicks simply had stated than Veith stood in first place before cutting over to another event. That way, NBC could have cut back to the super-G without spoiling the outcome of Ledecká’s incredible performance.
The announcer’s bogus move doesn’t change my appreciation for the PyeongChang Olympics. Still, I feel cheated out of the thrill of experiencing one of the most amazing upsets in sports history.
ONE WEEK LATER
As I sit and watch the 2018 PyeongChang closing ceremony, I realize that I should provide my own closing thoughts. After watching every type of skiing for 6+ hours per day for the last two weeks, it’s likely that I won’t watch anyone on skis for the next four years.
I thoroughly enjoyed Jessie Diggins’ gutsy finish to capture the USA’s first gold medal in cross country skiing.
JESSIE DIGGINS – GETTING HER SPARKLE ON
She has an infectious smile, which we’ll continue to see for several months on the cover of Wheaties boxes across America. Once they sell out, it’ll be years before most of us will see her smile again. As of the time of this update, Wheaties hasn’t announced their cover athletes. However, let’s call it a hunch.
Despite being overlooked by Dan Hicks (and many others), snowboarder Ester Ledecká won a gold medal in alpine skiing. One week later, she won a gold medal in snowboarding. In honor of her historic feat as a two-sport athlete, she earned the nickname Snow Jackson.
ESTER LEDECKÁ – HISTORIC DOUBLE GOLD
Given Lindsey Vonn’s presumed retirement (which I predict will last < 2 years), Mikaela Shiffrin should dominate women’s alpine skiing for years to come. Still, I don’t think I’ll see her race until Beijing in 2022.
Team Shuster made a dramatic run to win the USA’s first gold medal in curling. Still, I definitely won’t watch ice shuffleboard again until the next Olympics.
In contrast, I look forward to next four years of showdowns between Russian figure skaters Alina Zagitova and Evegenia Medvedeva. I only hope the Americans can keep up with the level of competition.
Effective immediately, I won’t have an excuse to wake up in the middle of the night. I guess I’ll just have to go back to falling asleep to recorded episodes of NOVA or How the Universe Works.