Home > family, media, olympics, sports > Bode Miller, Christin Cooper, and NBC’s Olympic Coverage Suckitude

Bode Miller, Christin Cooper, and NBC’s Olympic Coverage Suckitude

Monday, February 17, 2014, 18:22 EDT Leave a comment Go to comments

While the last part of this title could launch a whole series of articles, my target today is last night’s Christin Cooper interview of American skier Bode Miller after the Super-G event which was his final chance to get a medal. Miller’s rather interesting story includes significant competitive achievements. It also includes a recent personal loss, the death of his younger brother.

Throughout their coverage so far, NBC has presented personal information about Olympic athletes as a way to elicit greater interest among viewers (and, by extension, enhance the television ratings). After all competitors had finished yesterday’s race, Miller was left tied for third place, thus becoming the oldest alpine skier ever to win an Olympic medal.

Cooper approached Miller and initiated the following on-camera exchange:

NBC [Christin Cooper]: For a guy who says that medals don’t really matter, that they aren’t the thing, you’ve amassed quite a collection. What does this one mean to you in terms of all the others.

Miller: This was a little different. You know with my brother passing away, I really wanted to come back here and race the way he sensed it. This one is different.

NBC: Bode, you’re showing so much emotion down here, what’s going through your mind?

Miller: [pause] Um, I mean, a lot. Obviously just a long struggle coming in here. And … it’s just a tough year.

NBC: I know you wanted to be here with Chilly, really experiencing these games. How much does this mean to you to come up with this great performance for him? And was it for him?

Miller: I mean, I don’t know if it’s really for him but I wanted to come here and … I don’t know, I guess make myself proud, but…

NBC: When you’re looking up in the sky at the start, we see you there and it just looks like you’re talking to somebody. What’s going on there?

Miller: [breaks down crying]

Awful, right? But it gets worse. Because of the time difference between the U.S. and western Russia, the NBC production team had 20 hours to either edit the interview before televising it or decide not to use it at all. They did neither.

The viewing audience was horrified, as indicated by comments on Twitter.

Then, to add stupidity to both insult and injury, the networked doubled down. According to the New York Times, an NBC spokesperson issued a statement in defense of the interview itself and the decision to air it later.

“Our intent was to convey the emotion that Bode Miller was feeling after winning his bronze medal,” a spokesman for the network said. “We understand how some viewers thought the line of questioning went too far, but it was our judgment that his answers were a necessary part of the story. We’re gratified that Bode has been publicly supportive of Christin Cooper and the overall interview.”

How nice that Miller, who apparently has been friends with Cooper for years, is willing to forgive. That doesn’t mean that it was the right thing for NBC to do.

How and why did this sordid episode suck? Let me count the ways.

  1. Even if Miller’s grief over his brother’s death was “a necessary part of the story,” it was addressed very clearly by Miller in his response to Cooper’s first question. Hammering him about it afterward was redundant, unnecessary, and ultimately mean.
  2. NBC is supposed to be presenting Olympic coverage, not a gossip rag. Giving some background on the athletes adds a human interest aspect to the coverage, but it shouldn’t be the focus over the results of the competition. NBC chose to make it the focus.
  3. Cooper had obviously decided in advance that she would go for the most gut-wrenching display she could evoke. That she didn’t stop until he was sobbing is proof of her intent.
  4. Once she got the tears she wanted and in full view of the camera, Cooper attempted to comfort Miller by laying her hand on his shoulder. If she were really concerned for his comfort, she wouldn’t have badgered him.
  5. The decision, hours after the fact, to air the entire exchange shows how far American media have descended into the “reality TV” pit. Someone, or more likely several people, deliberately decided that the ratings were worth exposing someone in a vulnerable moment to a voyeuristic public that, thankfully, was horrified by it.
  6. “How much does this mean to you?” (like its close cousin, “How special is this to you?”) isn’t an interview question. It’s a crutch used by reporters who are too incompetent to ask relevant questions about the event at issue and/or too lazy to come up with a real question. Just once, I want the interviewee to reply, “It’s not special to me at all, dumbass,” and then walk away. Extra points if it’s done on live television.

Over at today’s Wall Street Journal, Kwame Dawes has an “Ode to Bode Miller’s Tearful Interview with Christin Cooper” which I won’t excerpt only because you really should read the whole thing. All I’ll add is that it made me think of rocker Don Henley’s 1982 single “Dirty Laundry,” which is as accurate an indictment of major media today as it was then.

We got the bubble-headed-bleach-blonde
Comes on at five
She can tell you ’bout the plane crash
With a gleam in her eye
It’s interesting when people die
Give us dirty laundry

Can we film the operation?
Is the head dead yet?
You know, the boys in the newsroom
Got a running bet
Get the widow on the set
We need dirty laundry

Kick ’em when they’re up
Kick ’em when they’re down
Kick ’em when they’re up
Kick ’em all around

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Categories: family, media, olympics, sports
  1. Jim Peale
    Monday, February 17, 2014, 22:20 EDT at 22:20

    Residents of Joliet Illinois would say Cooper is a yellow hammer

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