NBC's coverage of the uneven bars finals from the London Olympics played out almost like a silent movie.
There were the stunned looks on Team USA's gymnasts' faces as Gabby Douglas, who won the women's all-around competition, faltered. Instead of the wide smile that has become her trademark during the games, Douglas wore a look of sad resignation after her routine. And you could almost hear the villain's music every time Russia's Aliya Mustafina appeared on the screen with what looked like a smug little smile.
No matter what the reality is, it's pretty clear what story the NBC editors want to tell about 17-year-old Mustafina and her competitiveness with America's newest sweetheart, 16-year-old Douglas.
“This is happening while Gabby Douglas is still finishing her routine,” Al Trautwig says, with a tinge of indignation, over footage of Mustafina's coaches' mild celebration after Douglas makes a gaffe in her routine. A missed handstand drew a high penalty, meaning Mustafina was guaranteed gold, while Douglas finished last among the eight competitors.
Sure, it's not exactly great sportsmanship to cheer a competitor's mistake, but the Russians' reactions could have easily been recognition that they had won the event. We actually don't know what they were doing. And, in any case, it's not like Douglas could see their reactions or that they were hooting and hollering to draw attention to the misstep the way, say, Yankees' fans would cheer a Red Sox player's blunder.
There's already plenty of drama in the competition, NBC. No need to manufacture more and, FYI, the Cold War ended a while ago.
For her part, Douglas was nothing if not generous after the competition. “There's so much talent on bars,” she said. “I'm so happy just to even perform out here.”
Douglas also talked about how she's “kind of been caged” in the Olympic Village so she's protected from the media onslaught that has come since her gold-medal win. She explained how the crush of interest has worn on her, but doesn't use it as an excuse.
“Your mind just gets so tired,” she said, before adding, “You have to learn how to deal with it.”