Just Stop Talking, Please: Olympic Track
I ran track in high school. I wasn’t fabulous of course, but I was varsity and did routinely place relatively well at invitational and state-wide events. I was a sprinter (100m, 200m, 4x100m, and 4x200m in every meet) and a long jumper. I tried hurdles, but there’s a broken one hanging on my wall, so that tells you how well that went. Naturally these are my favorite events to watch because I understand the technique that has to go into them.
But I hate the announcers.
I’m okay with announcers who know the sport and know what they’re talking about. It is very obvious to me when you have someone who’s just reading off facts they found on Wikipedia and talking out their butt. I’d rather they just be quiet. Tell me what lane everyone is going to be in, if there’s wind, maybe tell me what their PR is for this season, and then tell me who placed where when they’re done. In a relay you can tell me if a team missed a handoff. Don’t try to comment on their cornering ability (hint: everyone is a good cornerer when they’re in the outside lane, you don’t have to tell me that), and you certainly should stop talking about how well people are coming out of blocks. Every time you have said anything about how well someone came out of the blocks, you have been wrong.
Oh so wrong.
Not tripping does not mean it was a good start. Tripping is certainly a bad start, and eating pavement is a terrible start, but not tripping doesn’t automatically make it good.
If they come flying out of the blocks with a stance so wide that their first few steps are actually on the lines of the neighboring lanes and their feet are completely sideways, that is not a good start. With those bright yellow shoes it is easy to see. Yet every time I see a replay and go “oh man that start was terrible…did you see his feet?” you are right there commenting about how beautiful the start was. Were we not watching the same neon shoes?
A hurdler did not run a “fantastic” race if they nailed 3 hurdles to the ground. Winning the heat doesn’t mean fantastic, it just means “better than everyone else”. That’s all you really need to do, so you can say it’s fantastic that they came in that position, but you can’t use that adjective to describe the run. That’s why they don’t look happy at the end of the race. Fantastic is skimming a hurdle or two.
You do not need to tell us that for a team to win the relay they should use their fastest runner. NO WAY! I DIDN’T KNOW THAT! Seriously, is that a necessary statement? Of course they want to use their top 4 fastest runners. It’s basic math. You saying that is the equivalent of John Madden reminding us that if they don’t move the ball forward they’re not going to score any points.
0.1 seconds is not a huge lead. Yes it is a sizeable time chunk by the standards of the sport, especially in the sprint races. It is not a huge cushion when you’re talking about a runner who is in the lead and slows down before hitting the line in a qualifying heat. Don’t say “oh he had plenty of room, I’m not surprised he slowed down going into the finish” when he ends up finishing pretty much on top of the guy in the #2 spot. Plenty of room is when someone else could lay down in-between the two and make a snow angel. Usain Bolt in the 200m semifinal had a decent amount of room. The US women’s 4×100 qualifier had plenty of room. A 0.1s or less gap in the final times does not mean they had a big lead and could slow down. It means they’re cocky.
I could go on, but I’ve already induced a stroke thinking about this while listening to them do it more, so I’m going to call it quits here. At least it’s all over now…
I am of course biased to ripping announcers apart on track. Maybe swimmers say the same thing watching those events. I know there’s some stuff that gets said there that makes me go “really, was that really necessary?” Anyone have any thoughts? Do track announcers seem to dwell on the obvious and make more erroneous observations than announcers in other sports? Is there an event where the announcers make you want to hurt someone?