Sweetness And LightSweetness And Light The Score On Sports With Frank Deford

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

By just about every measure, Team USA has exceeded expectations at these Winter Games. And even though some results are known long before the nightly TV broadcasts, viewers are still tuning in by the millions. Commentator Frank Deford says thats given NBC an unexpected victory.

FRANK DEFORD: The Winter Olympics are basically a TV show and thus NBC, which has become the New Jersey Nets of networks, actually won the games' most important gold medal one night last week, podiumed - as we unfortunately, actually say now - when it whipped "American Idol" in the ratings. What was so revealing about this victory was that the featured attraction was Lindsey Vonn's victory in the downhill - which, of course, had happened hours beforehand and was thus in this Internet world, already known to most viewers.

Evidently, we would now rather revel in an assured triumph than suffer through a live competition with a problematic outcome. Perhaps this suggests that at this time when there is so little good news in America, when we do not enjoy the everyday success we used to rather expect, when we are so at loggerheads as a people, that there is something comforting about us coming together to watch a beautiful young woman, struggling with injury, secure in our knowledge that she will raise Old Glory on high.

Every now and then, sports truly might reflect some greater meaning. Of course, like us Americans, the Winter Games have themselves changed so much. It wasn't that long ago that they bivouacked in precious little Alpine villages, where we all but expected everyone to arrive in reindeer sleighs and then yodel. Now, they've moved to ordinary big cities, which just happen to have some mountains down the road apiece. Folks were troubled when the temperatures in Vancouver crept into the 50s. The 2014 Games are in Sochi, Russia. Know what the temperature was there one day last week? Seventy-three.

Why, we might as well hold the indoor games in some place most convenient for TV - New York, say, or Hollywood, with the mountain stuff on location out in Aspen or Crested Butte. This business of jamming everything into one place just because the Greeks kept things in Olympia seems so outdated today. Whatever -these next few nights are probably the swan song for NBC's winter bacchanalia. ESPN, with all its cable riches, and its Disney network partner ABC, will undoubtedly win the contract for Sochi - and Rio too, for the summer of '16. But if NBC does lose the Olympics, we lose Bob Costas as the interlocutor. ESPN hasn't anybody even near his ability to do this unique thing that he does so well, night after night. You'll have no idea how good Costas is 'til you see somebody else try to do it.

(Soundbite of music)

MONTAGNE: Commentator Frank Deford joins us on Wednesdays, and this is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Im Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And Im Steve Inskeep.

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Sweetness And LightSweetness And Light The Score On Sports With Frank Deford