Women’s Olympics ice hockey team outshines NBC’s dismal coverage

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My interest in the Olympics has waned geometrically since NBC took over the telecasts from ABC. ABC’s Olympic coverage remains the gold standard. When NBC took over, live coverage ended. It also marked the start of NBC thumbing its nose at Track and Field. For instance, ABC would show each high jumper each time he or she jumped. NBC just shows, basically two or three final jumps, including the winning jump. Most other field events are covered with the same disdain.

But what really galled me was NBC’s coverage of women’s softball (which has been banned from the Olympics, although it might return). Women’s softball was my favorite Olympics sport. There are many reasons. One is that they play the game for the love of it; there is no pot of gold at the end of this rainbow. The second is that they are technically sound. They play the game much more fundamentally correct than major leaguers, who generally just mail it in (just watch Yasmani Grandal play catcher for the Dodgers). The U.S. dominated, but NBC usually played their games at 3am, ensuring that virtually nobody would see them.

That said, I find the Winter Olympics terminally uninvolving. Does anybody really care about sitting for hours watching curling? Bobsled? Luge? Cross-country skiing? Biathlon? Skeleton? I could go on and on and list virtually every “sport” involved in the Winter Olympics. The only events in which I’m interested are women’s figure skating and downhill skiing.

Even so, the women’s gold medal hockey game against Canada was one of the most exciting sporting events I’ve seen this century. Naturally NBC gave it the back of its hand, and only showed the end of the third period, the overtime, and the shootout. (NBC’s ratings were justifiably down approximately 16-17 percent over four years ago).

But, like women’s softball, these women play the game much better than their male counterparts, including those who play in the NHL. Their passing is crisper and far more accurate; their stick handling is better. Their enthusiasm and dedication to the game is akin to that shown by those who play women’s softball. And they don’t emulate the brutality of the men’s game that has been described as “going to see a fight and a hockey game broke out.”

One will rarely see a more outstanding example of stick handling than that shown by Jocelyn Lamoureux in scoring the winning goal. It was a shot that should go down in the history of hockey, regardless of the sex playing.

What are the Dodgers thinking? Of course, that is assuming facts not in evidence. Infielder Charlie Culbertson was their best player postseason 2017. Culbertson batted .455 in five playoff games against the Cubs, .600 in the World Series (3 for 5). In contrast, starting shortstop Corey Seager got only three more hits in 22 more at bats, going six for 27 against Houston. In addition, Culbertson played the best defensive shortstop I’ve ever seen played by a Dodger and I’ve been watching them for more than 60 years.

So what do they do? They trade Culbertson for the equivalent of a couple of batting practice baseballs but re-sign infielder Chase Utley to a two-year, $2 million contract.

Utley batted .000 in 15 at bats in the postseason last year and is 39 years old. Culbertson was paid $550,000 last year, is 11 years younger, hit the Division-clinching home run in 2016, and can play every infield position better than anybody on the Dodgers’ roster. Why trade Culbertson and not only keep the aging Utley, but pay him double what they’d have to pay Culbertson?

That’s as inexplicable as starting Yu Darvish in the 7th game of the World Series instead of Clayton Kershaw, universally acknowledged as the best pitcher in baseball, and then bringing Kershaw into the game after it was lost. But that’s the Dodgers.

Tony Medley is the author of three books including “UCLA Basketball: The Real Story,” the first book written on UCLA basketball. Visit TonyMedley.com.

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