JUMP CUT
A REVIEW OF CONTEMPORARY MEDIA

 

Notes

[1]. In addition to coverage on NBC’s broadcast network, NBC cable affiliates MSNBC and CNBC provided extensive coverage of second- and third-tier events. Business Week sports-business columnist Mark Hyman offers a representative critique:

The Olympics generate plenty of their own drama and pathos. But NBC is going for the big boo-hoo about every 15 minutes. While its against-the-odds profiles of athletes are sometimes smart and edgy, too often they’re overly dramatized. (Mark Hyman, “Olympics Coverage: The Agony of Delay,” Business Week October 2, 2000: 108).

[2]. Garry Whannel’s Fields in Vision: Television Sport and Cultural Transformation (London: Routledge, 1992) offers a thorough analysis of relations among media industries, athletes, and television viewers. Whannel’s book includes a detailed study of early-1980s print and television coverage of British track-and-field athletes, including middle-distance rivals Sebastian Coe and Steve Ovett, and the barefoot teenage South-African-turned-Briton Zola Budd. The anthology Out of Bounds: Sports, Media, and the Politics of Identity (Aaron Baker and Todd Boyd, eds.; Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1997) also provides compelling perspectives on popular television sports, gendered spectatorship, and race.

[3]. Television sports producers and viewers apparently find little interest in the classical foundation of the discus throw and other field events, as these typically receive only cursory coverage during televised track-and-field competitions.

[4]. In the Sydney Olympics, the possibility of injuries was tangible. Because of the intense strain on muscles in sprinting, even the fittest athletes may pull a muscle at any moment in a race. In the 2000 U.S. Olympic trials, held about two months before the Olympics, the top two competitors in the 200-meter final, Maurice Greene and world-record holder Michael Johnson, were both felled by pulled hamstring muscles before the halfway point of the race. For viewers, this happens so quickly that replays are virtually essential for comprehension. Because the 200 requires runners to lean into a curve for its first half, such injuries are more common than in the straightaway 100. Nevertheless, in the 2001 World Championships, Greene pulled a muscle in the closing meters of the 100 final. Television coverage showed a look of panic and agony crossing his face as he struggled to a narrow victory.

[5]. For a thorough and stimulating discussion of viewers’ kinesthetic responses to displays of motion and activity, see Aaron Anderson, “Violent Dances in Martial Arts Films,” Jump Cut online (<www.ejumpcut.org/aarona/>), and Anderson, “Action in Motion: Kinesia in Martial Arts Films,” Jump Cut 42 (1998).

[6]. Given Greene’s background, this is a substantial overstatement, if not an outright falsification. In the mid-1990s, Greene was a journeyman sprinter who had not competed at the NCAA Division I level, where most successful sprinters develop their skills and arouse sponsors’ interest. Apparently frustrated at his inability to reach world-class status, he eventually joined a group of sprinters coached by Smith. The commentary’s simplistic rhetoric suggests that Greene was a hard-luck case, rather than a talented and aspiring but sub-elite athlete.

[7]. NBC’s coverage of the 2000 Olympics ran well over 100 hours total, so a biographical segment on Greene may have appeared at a point missed by this viewer. In any case, such a segment did not appear adjacent to Greene’s most prominent performances, in the event’s semifinal and final races.


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