NEW YORK (AP) — NBC set up Friday as duel night between the United States and Jamaica in the sprint relays, and what started out well ended up in heartbreak for the Americans.
The American women were working on a second chance in the 4x100-meter relay. Bumped off course in a heat Thursday, they were given another opportunity to qualify by running against a clock. They succeeded, but heard whispers that they didn't deserve that chance.
"I think they will come out with a lot of attitude," NBC analyst Ato Boldon predicted.
He was right, and the U.S. team defended its gold medal with relative ease. Jamaica came in second.
Before the men took the track, NBC aired a creative and prescient prepared report, handing the four American sprinters tablets to see video of flubs that had ruined previous races.
"Unfortunately, we've come to be defined by failure," said the team's coach, Dennis Mitchell.
As they will again. Viewers knew it wasn't meant to be when the U.S. began the final lap essentially even with Jamaican superstar Usain Bolt, the world's fastest man who was attempting to win his ninth gold medal. Nobody would catch him. Japan snuck in for the silver medal and the U.S. thought it earned bronze, but even that slipped from their grasp when they were disqualified for a faulty pass of the baton.
HOLD ON: The admonition not to call a race over before it actually is should be the first thing track announcers learn, but NBC's Tim Hutchings apparently wasn't listening that day. About five minutes before the women's 5,000-meter race ended and with Ethiopia's Almaz Ayana way ahead, Hutchings referenced the pack of runners behind her and said, "it's a difficult mindset to adopt, to realize that the gold medal is gone and you're racing for silver." Not so fast. Ayana faded and Kenyan teammates Vivian Cheruiyot and Hilla Onsando Obiri passed her.
CLUELESS: Now that we've reached the point of memorizing most of the Olympic commercials, we feel safe offering our nomination for the most annoying. It's those General Electric ads with the clueless younger brother visiting his sister at work. They're painfully unfunny, and we're at a loss to see how it makes viewers think good thoughts about the company.
ARLO TIME: Done right, there's something lyrical about calling a soccer game, isn't there? "It's a corner kick for Sweden in the dying embers of the game," said NBC's Arlo White as the minutes ticked away in Germany's 2-1 gold medal victory over Sweden in women's Olympic soccer on Friday. Sweet.
VOLLEYBALL: Nice camera work in the US-Italy men's volleyball match showing three Americans laying themselves out simultaneously for the ball. "It looked like some kind of coordinated diving exercise," NBC analyst Kevin Barnett said.
RATINGS: Bolt's gold-medal run on Thursday lifted NBC's ratings in the dying embers of the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. The Nielsen company said 21.7 million people watched the telecast. Adding in cable and streaming viewers, and NBC had 22.9 million people watching during the time slot. NBC had an identical number of viewers — 22.9 million — four years ago on the same night in London.
Follow David Bauder at twitter.com/dbauder. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/david-bauder