Day One: Al Trautwig, "Mr. Overdramatic"

Because gymnastics is a marquee event for NBC, I suppose we can't stop Al "Mr. Overdramatic" Trautwig, but we can try to contain him.

Trautwig is the NBC announcer most likely not to let the action do the talking during the Olympics, but rather to let the talking do the talking. Everything is amped up with Al, always shot through with the dramatic drama of human athletic performance and achievement and striving. Hey, could you tone it down, Al?

It's just the preliminaries of the semis or something or other of the men's competition and Al sounds as if he's narrating the Cuban Missile Crisis. Trautwig's live calls (at least I think they're live; once again, NBC isn't saying exactly what's what with the time difference) on the flipping and tumbling are hard enough to take, but NBC also made the mistake of having Al narrate one of its predictable up-close-and-personal features.

This one was about the pressure facing the Chinese men's gymnastics team to win the gold. Did NBC say there was pressure on the team? Oh, yes, about six or eight times (the word was even spelled out on the mat, just in case you didn't get it).

In case you still didn't get it, our man Al laid it on just a little thicker. "Pick your measure of pressure and multiply it by one point three billion," he said. Al was also the author of this gem: "If China spells history with one country with a capital H, it's with Japan." I won't try to understand that one; I'll just wait for the interpreter.

Loved it: NBC's camera and production work at the swimming pool is superb.

The lane-assignment graphic is old news -- at least one and possibly two Olympics old -- as is the moving green world-record pace bar. But combining it all with underwater shots and Rowdy Gaines's enthusiastic and knowledgeable commentary makes Michael Phelps's and Dara Torres's heroics all the more enjoyable.

NBC, incidentally, is clearly building up Phelps's tearful mom, Debbie, as a big sentimental character (what, Phelps's pursuit of eight gold medals isn't enough drama?). Okay so far, NBC, but don't press your luck.

And the early Olympic commercial to beat: GE's fire-breathing-dragon ad (CGI dragon ignites bales of straw laid on by Chinese peasant kids, creating steam heat for the family's hot tub). An absurd way to make some kind of point about alternative energy. And a wonderful and whimsical way, too. . .

By Paul Farhi  |  August 9, 2008; 11:07 PM ET
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The gymnastics wasn't live Saturday night, but NBC did make it clear--at the beginning of the show, Bob Costas threw it to gymnastics by saying, "Earlier in the day" or something like that.

Posted by: Fingerman | August 10, 2008 2:59 AM

Actually, they're airing the replay now and Costas said "Let's flash back to day one of gymnastics."

Posted by: Fingerman | August 10, 2008 3:08 AM

So true! Why do they even hire Al? And NBC, the other swimmers have families too. Hehe

Posted by: anon | August 14, 2008 3:37 PM

Lose Al Trautwig!!!!!! He's obnoxious with his inane commentary. We had our fill of him in the Tour and it hasn't gotten any better.

Posted by: Sue Anderson | August 14, 2008 10:24 PM

I think NBC coverage is unbelievable considering the 12 hour time difference. You have to commend Dick Ebersol and the rest of the NBC sports crew. I wish the Olympics were every year.

Posted by: JJ | August 15, 2008 3:55 PM

I completely agree with your reviewer... Trautwig is awful. He reminds me of the abysmal job done by John Tesh on gymnastics a number of years ago, who over-dramatized in much the same manner. All told, the gymnastics coverage is bad. With all the waiting for the judges scores, couldn't NBC use the time to replay something, either more analysis of the routine in question or something that was not covered already? Most of the other sports have been handled well (some great, like the swimming) but NBC really needs to remember that gymnastics is still a sport and not the Cuban Missile Crisis, to use your very-apt comparison.

Posted by: RRH | August 15, 2008 5:22 PM

Please, for the love of all that is good and holy, FIRE AL TRAUTWIG! His hyperbole of the mundane and ridiculous is the most embarassing and annoying commentary I've heard. OLN/vs. had the sense to can him after last year's Tour. Why did NBC have to subject us this clown?!

Posted by: lrw | August 15, 2008 8:43 PM

This person shows the worst of any announcer in the Olympics. His coverage of Gymnastics is always negative and he has no appreciation for the athletes hard work. For him to say that a 14.6 score for a USA male gymnasts "stinks" is amazing from a mnon athletic former Nets ball boy and NY Islanders stick boy. He has apparently spent his whole life sniffing but not wearing jocks and resents their talents. He and Elfie should be thrown off the NBC team and Daggett sent back to announcer school or maybe left in a room with the US Mens team>

Posted by: Ken | August 17, 2008 10:12 PM

I concur regarding the histrionics. It seems as if everything is a "battle for the ages," will be "talked about" or "argued over" "forever," or is "possibly, no, IS the best performance/player/moment ever." In the last one, I'm not talking about those setting world records (because those technically ARE the best ever). It's tiring; when I hear so much hyperbole, it means almost nothing when something truly amazing DOES happen.

Posted by: Lee Benson | August 19, 2008 3:27 AM

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