Friday, August 19, 2016

As The Olympics Near Their End

TigerBlog interrupts the Olympics to talk about the passing of John McLaughlin.

Did you ever see "The McLaughlin Group?" John McLaughlin, who passed away earlier this week at the age of 89, was the moderator of the show. He was famous for saying "Bye, Bye" in a deep, elongated way at the end of each show, and for saying "Issue No. 1" or "Issue No. 2" and so on - always with great excitement - prior to each segment.

The format would have two commentators from the left and two others from the right, and McLaughlin would be in the middle as the moderator. It remains TigerBlog's favorite political show ever - and TigerBlog loves to watch political shows.

TB didn't know that McLaughlin at one time had been a Jesuit priest. If anything, the way he would whip his panelists into a frenzy was quite non-clergy-like.

TigerBlog was introduced to the show by MotherBlog, who loved a good political spat each weekend. She and TB would watch together sometimes, or watch separately and then check in by phone, but there weren't too many weekends that would go by without some conversation - and mostly disagreement - about "The McLaughlin Group" and the issues that were discussed.

When TB saw McLaughlin had died, it took him back to all those times he had entertained him and his mother. And clearly many others - if entertain is the right word - as last week's show was the first in 34 years that the moderator had missed.

And now, back to the Olympics, though TB will stay on the subject of commentators to start.

For many Olympics sports, there isn't regular TV coverage any other time. As such, the scramble is to find a color commentator who knows the game, and so usually the result is a recent former player with limited broadcasting experience - and it shows.

You know who is a great announcer? Ato Boldon, who is one of the track and field color commentators.

Boldon won four Olympic medals - a silver and three bronze - as a sprinter for Trinidad and Tobago. He brings that background to the Games, and he does an outstanding job of blending the mechanics of racing with what it's like to be a competitor on that stage. He stays calm almost all the time, so that when he does get excited, you know it's something important, as opposed to swimming color commentator Rowdy Gaines, who gets excited on every race.

Boldon was at his best yesterday. He started in the morning, when the leadoff runner for the Dominican Republic's relay team false-started, DQing the whole team. TigerBlog immediately wondered what the other three runners were thinking, and Boldon then basically said that if that had happened to him, there would be some fisticuffs in the locker room. The way he said it was perfect.

Then he showed the other side of his work with his call of Usain Bolt's win in the 200. Boldon laid out the ground work for the event, talked about why Bolt was so good and then got excited without having to scream or make it seem forced when Bolt won. 

The track coverage has been excellent. Dan Hicks sets the stage and then gets out of the way, letting either his color commentators - including Princeton alum Craig Masback, who is also very good - say their piece or letting the moment speak for itself.

The Olympics are winding down now.

Hey, the biggest sporting event of the weekend isn't even in Rio. It's in Kennesaw, Ga., where the Ohio Machine will play the Denver Outlaws in the Major League Lacrosse championship game. Ohio's Tom Schreiber, a three-time first-team All-America at Princeton, was named the MLL Most Valuable Player yesterday.

For now, though, it's still about the Olympics.

It was a tough night for assistant cross country coach Robby Andrews, who would have reached the 1,500 final had he not been DQd for stepping out of the track as he tried to pass on the inside in the final 50 meters. Did he get bumped? Did he do the bumping?

What really stinks for Andrews is that so many athletes have been given a second chance by falling - including a runner in Andrews' 1,500 semifinal - but Andrews was just bounced for getting tangled up and having to step across the line. Had he sprawled across the infield, he might still be running.

Today is a huge day for Princeton, as Diana Matheson plays for her second straight bronze medal and Ashleigh Johnson goes for gold.

Matheson will play for the Canadian women's soccer team against host Brazil in the bronze medal game at noon. It was Matheson who scored the goal four years ago against France to give the Canadians a 1-0 win in the bronze medal game in London, and now she's back playing for another one.

Her role has diminished a bit as she is now in her 30s, and it's possible this is her final game in either the Olympics or World Cup. She is, though, one of the best international players Canada has ever produced - not to mention one of the main reasons Princeton reached the 2004 NCAA Final Four in women's soccer.

As for Johnson, she and the U.S. team go for water polo gold at 2:30 against Italy. Both teams are 5-0 in these Olympic Games.

Johnson has become an international force as the U.S. goalie, and she will go from this back to being Princeton's goalie for her senior year. Should the U.S. women beat Italy, TigerBlog believes that Johnson would join rower Caroline Lind as Princeton women who have won gold medals (something Lind has done twice).

By the time TigerBlog sits down to write again, the Olympics will be over. TigerBlog has watched a ton of the coverage, rooting for the Princeton athletes, of course, and some others.

There have been some great storylines and great performances. There have been those who had the highest of highs and others who become nothing but a punchline. For instance, it's hard to imagine the Games could have gone much better for Katie Ledecky or much worse for Ryan Lochte.

TB will miss having all the different events to watch.

Of course, there's still today. Matheson at noon. Johnson at 2:30. One with a medal from four years ago, trying to match that. The other knowing she has her first medal and wanting to make it gold.

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