U.S. Delivers Unsteady Performance in Turin
ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:
In Turin, Americans on skis and skates are meeting with mixed results. In the Nordic events and in hockey, which we used to think of as a North American event, not so good. In figure skating, good. Possibly very good. Stefan Fatsis of the Wall Street Journal has been charting our nation's sporting fortunes at the winter games and joins us from Turin. Stefan, first the good news, it's called Sasha Cohen.
STEFAN FATSIS: It is. First place after the short program and the two other Americans, Kimmie Meissner in fifth and Emily Hughes in seventh and they'll be skating tomorrow night in the much-anticipated long program. But there was a lot of controversy today, Robert. Sasha Cohen didn't practice. Everyone was wondering why. Her coach denied that she was injured, he just said that they finished skating very, very late, she didn't sleep well, other then a few aches and pains, she's fine.
SIEGEL: So Sasha didn't show up. Did the American ice hockey team show up?
FATSIS: They did not show up. Talk about not showing up. Our NHL players, every last one of the American team and NHL player lost four of six games, and they were eliminated from the medal round today. It was just a terrible performance. The Canadian team, also all NHLers, did not acquit itself terribly well in the opening round, and Finland and Slovakia -- the two best teams -- they've got a lot of NHL players too, and the question that comes up in my mind now is: Is it worth it to have NHL over there? It's great hockey. You do get a disadvantage with a couple of teams that just don't have as many NHL players, and I wonder, maybe it was more fun when the amateurs were playing.
SIEGEL: So the women's hockey team, by winning a bronze, actually did better than the men's hockey team.
FATSIS: They did, but this is a giant disappointment. You have to consider that the U.S. women and the Canadian women - up until the other night when America lost - had not lost a single game against any other country other than each other, more than 200 games that they had played.
SIEGEL: Now, onto some of the sports that you've become expert at over the past couple of weeks. Nordic combined, Stefan.
FATSIS: The Americans have improved drastically in this sport. We've been terrible at the Nordic sports, in as much as there's been virtually no support for it. The Americans had high medal hopes this time. A guy named Todd Lodwick, in his fourth Olympic games, considered the best Nordic athlete that the country's ever produced. They did pretty well, but no medal, no attention. There were four American reporters at this event that I attended in the mountains yesterday.
SIEGEL: You've also become a big curling fan over the past couple of weeks.
FATSIS: I have. And as a testament to my reporting commitment, before the Olympics, I did go curling, and I'm here to say that it's very, very difficult. It's not the most compelling sport to watch, though, apparently, back home on cable TV, CNBC and another cable outfit of NBC that are showing curling, the ratings are up seven times over what normal programming draws in the afternoon timeslot in which it's being shown.
SIEGEL: You're saying that curling is seven times more popular than what is normally MSNBC or whatever it is - CNBC.
FATSIS: It's CNBC, and it says something about who's watching Business News late in the afternoon.
SIEGEL: Okay, Stefan, last thoughts about Turin, the Olympic Games of 2006.
FATSIS: The problem becomes that the U.S. Committee is deciding more and more how much to spend on these events based on how the athletes finished, and when the results can be as quirky as they are in these winter pursuits, it's disappointing for a lot of these sports to fall short and to end up with less money down the road.
SIEGEL: Stefan, thank you so much for talking us today and before.
FATSIS: Thanks, Robert.
SIEGEL: Stefan Fatsis of the Wall Street Journal talks with us on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, usually on Fridays but not always, about sports and the business of sports.
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