Diarrhea of the Mouth

My Dad always used to say about the Monday Night Football broadcast team - whether it was Howard Cosell and Don Meredith or Frank Gifford and the always-inane Dan Fouts - that they had diarrhea of the mouth.

I think NBC has discovered the all-time greatest, most chronic cases and put them together in a booth in Beijing. Of course, they did this in Sydney and Athens, too. I'm talking about the Olympic Gymnastics commentators, Al Trautwig, Tim Dagget and Elfi Schlegel ("Elfi?" Seriously?). This may be the worst team assembled to cover any sport in the history of televised sports.

Dagget and Schlegel are the analysts, both former gymnasts. Where they consistently and utterly fail as broadcasters is that it doesn't seem to occur to them that 95% of the population of the United States actually watches and cares about gymnastics only once every four years at best. They never offer any real insight, or really explain what's going on. I'd like to know what I'm supposed to be looking for as I watch the routines. The only real idea I have about whether a given gymnast has done well or not is the always-crucial sticking of the landing. All we ever get from Dagget and Elfi is, "Now here comes a big move...oh! Incredible!" or "Now, that was a mistake, and that's going to cost him!" Unless the mistake is completely obvious to the untrained observer, there's no way to know what the mistake was. Dagget and Elfi know, and the judges know, and the gymnasts know...but us laymen out here in TV land, we have no clue. All we know is that whatever happened, according to Dagget and Elfi, it was a mistake, and it's going to cost him. Great. Rather than educating or explaining, they assume that we're on the same level of knowledge as them. When I watch football, I don't need the commentators to explain what "holding" is or what makes an illegal forward pass or why the team is celebrating because they just carried the ball into the end zone. But I've spent four months of every year since I was 10 watching football. I've probably seen hundreds of football games in my life. I spend two weeks every four years being moderately interested in gymnastics, and having someone explain the rules to me at those times would be nice.

Of course, Dagget and Elfi are Al Goddamn Michaels compared to Big Al Trautwig. The guy just can't stand more than a nanosecond of silence. Anytime Dagget and Elfi aren't saying, "Oh, that was amazing! You can see why he's considered one of the greats!", Trautwig is just babbling, filling the silences without any consideration of the meaning or intelligence of his comments. No filter between brain and mouth. Just babbling. Not really commenting on anything, not making any real conversation with anyone, not saying anything meaningful, just filling the silence. Babbling.

Last night, as the final Chinese gymnast was dismounting the high bar and the celebration of China's gold medal was beginning, Trautwig burst out with, "There's a new China Syndrome and it's China Gold!" Uh...wait, what? Al, what in the name of JESUS H. TAPDANCING CHRIST does that even mean? Were you just trying desperately to come up with a familiar phrase with the word "China" in it? And you came up with "China Syndrome?" An American phrase referring to a severe meltdown at a nuclear power plant? "There's a new China Syndrome and it's China Gold!" You couldn't just say, "The crowd is going crazy as the Chinese team celebrates their gold medal triumph"? Not the most exciting turn of phrase, to be sure, but it has the virtues of making sense and actually meaning something, so it would be a start.

I know that ever since 1980, Olympic broadcasters have been trying to come up with something as memorable and iconic as Michaels' "Do you believe in miracles? YES!" But Al, "There's a new China Syndrome and it's China Gold!" ain't it.