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Canada's Jared Connaughton reacts after the men's 4x100m relay final at the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium August 11, 2012. Canada finished third but were disqualified. (LUCY NICHOLSON/REUTERS)
Canada's Jared Connaughton reacts after the men's 4x100m relay final at the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium August 11, 2012. Canada finished third but were disqualified. (LUCY NICHOLSON/REUTERS)

Usual Suspects

Media less harsh on mistakes made by Olympians, but is that the right call? Add to ...

Does the media use a double standard for Olympic athletes? Judging by Jared Connaughton’s blunder that cost Canada a bronze medal in the 4x100-metre relay on Saturday, the answer appears to be yes.

Not one Canadian media figure criticized Connaughton for muffing the three-part assignment of run-fast, don’t-drop-the-baton and stay-in-your-lane. The media rushed to sympathize from the moment that Canada was DQ’d in the race because Connaughton had stepped on the line between lanes (video suggested it was more than once).

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The broadcast consortium crew of Gord Miller, David Moorcroft and Michael Smith, operating in real time, deftly captured the 180-degree switch in emotion and ruefully conceded the mistake. Farhan Lalji capably elicited Connaughton’s admission of culpability. Then Brian Williams, host of CTV’s primetime coverage, cited Connaughton’s immediate admission of responsibility in giving him a wide berth for his error. Williams asked studio analyst Donovan Bailey, who’d won relay gold in 1996, whether the rule was not unduly harsh. Bailey was sympathetic to a point, but also told Williams, “The rules are the rules. That’s we sign up for.”

All four runners on the team agreed with Bailey. Still, a hashtag was started to have Connaughton selected as flag bearer for the closing ceremonies, as though that honour was a sop to the heartbroken. The honour went to soccer star Christine Sinclair, who turned her heartbreak into a bronze.

Would Connaughton have been treated the same if he were a hockey player who blundered in taking a crucial penalty that cost Canada a gold medal? Even in the men’s 2002 and 2010 hockey golds, there was criticism of players for dumb penalties or sloppy play. The entire 2006 team that finished out of the medals was ripped, despite the sacrifices they’d made for their nation.

Should Connaughton’s goof be treated differently? The traditional answer is that he’s an Olympian who can’t make much money or get glory except every fourth year. That has changed in the era of Own The Podium. Excuses are now for losers. While running on a relay team won’t buy you a mansion, significant money can be made in track and field from prizes and sponsorships now. As Bailey said, they know what they sign up for.

Olympians like Connaughton are the best of the best in Canada. They signal a possible comeback for Canadian track, which has gone south since Bailey’s magical 1996. But Connaughton made an elemental error (after seeing the British do the same next to him in the semis). His friends, fans and family can console him. That not the media’s job.

Summing Up:

Consortium’s take on Canada’s thirteenth-place finish in medals with just a single goal? “We have not Owned The Podium here in London”.

Boom Times:

Petro-Canada has been running a commercial during the Olympics that shows the parent of a triumphant Olympian with the slug, “It’s mom and dad’s victory too.”

Uh... no.

No one has more respect than Usual Suspects for the sacrifices made by parents of athletes (we did the drill, too). Petro-Canada’s program “Canadian Athlete Family Program” that pays for parents to see their kids compete live is worth every plaudit. Knowing the Boomer sensibility about its kids, Petro-Canada felt making the parental connection is a can’t miss.

But for once, could the helicopter-parent generation just back off? We Boomers have never been good with sharing. The Boomers did sacrifice and scrimp for their kids, but at the end of the day it’s about letting the kids have their day. The performance of the athletes has stirred a nation, so it’s time for Ma and Pa to back away from the spotlight. Thanks Petro-Canada, but turn the camera back where it belongs.

Lab Coating:

Brian Roberts, chairman of Comcast International, telling Sports Business Daily why the Olympics are worth $1-billion. “We see these Olympics as a real laboratory... When we were bidding in Lausanne for the future Games, and we got the rights through 2020, we were looking at some statistics. In the year 2000, there was virtually no broadband technology, and in the year 2010, broadband has become such a huge thing. So what is coming in 2020 that doesn’t exist today? We don’t know. But we have the rights to broadcast on any new technology that may be developed. That’s one of the great things about the rights we have.”

Seacrest Not Idle:

The votes are in for Ryan Seacrest,the American Idol fixture who’s hosting on NBC’s Olympic coverage. And, gosh, Americans like him, they really like him. Okay, 78 per cent of Americans like his work , according to The Hollywood Reporter’s poll. Seacrest, the 21st century’s answer to Dick Clark, has been doing features from the Games, and has done better with them than expected. But that’s the magic power of good editing.

Put in perspective, Seacrest still trails Dan Patrick (94 per cent) and Bob Costas (92 per cent) in the poll. Maybe if he’d chosen a song that suited his voice better...

dowbboy@shaw.ca

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