Just after the worst mistake of his career, Elliotte Friedman showed the self-righteous, zero-tolerance world of Twitter what responsibility and grace mean.
"I'm sorry everyone. I blew it. No excuses."
Twenty-two minutes after that horrendous miscue, in which he confused gold-medal winner Michael Phelps for his fellow American swimmer Ryan Lochte for the entire race, Friedman went back to the CBC microphone and delivered a solid play-by-play call of Penny Oleksiak's historic gold-medal win for Canada on Thursday night.
Yes, he referred to Oleksiak as teammate Emily Overholt at one point, but it was a slip of the tongue broadcasters make all the time. The important thing was that Friedman quickly recognized yet another rarity, that Oleksiak and Simone Manuel of the United States tied for the gold in the women's 100-metre freestyle race, only the third time in Olympic swim history this has happened.
The mistaken call on Phelps capped a nightmarish 24 hours for Friedman and swimming analyst Byron MacDonald. On Wednesday night, MacDonald set off an international furor during another of Oleksiak's medal swims, the women's 4x200-metre freestyle relay, when he forgot the broadcasting axiom: treat all microphones as live.
Shortly after Oleksiak out-duelled a Chinese swimmer to get Canada a bronze medal, MacDonald thought he was off the air and blurted that one of the Chinese athletes, 14-year-old Ai Yanhan who swam the second leg, "went out like stink, died like a pig. Thanks for that."
MacDonald and the CBC as a whole quickly apologized, although the rage in China at the slight has yet to settle. Friedman was also quick to apologize and own his mistake, first on the air and then with the tweet quoted above. It turned out to be a rare occasion when social media was in a forgiving mood, as a flood of supportive tweets went to Friedman, who is best known as a mainstay on Hockey Night In Canada.
There is even an argument to be made that MacDonald should be cut some slack. While there is no shortage of viewers who think he talks too much, the veteran broadcaster and swim coach does not have a history of insensitive remarks.
Taken in isolation, the swimming contretemps might indicate the CBC and its network partners, TSN and Sportsnet, are bungling their way through the 2016 Olympics. However, until then the CBC was doing a good job overall as the main Canadian Summer Games broadcaster for the first time since 2008.
Yet another oddity was that until MacDonald's slip involving the Chinese swimmer, he and Friedman were the best broadcast team across the three networks. Friedman took the play-by-play job under difficult circumstances, as he was a last-minute replacement for Steve Armitage, who has called swimming for the CBC seemingly forever. But Armitage had to bow out due to health problems and Friedman quickly went from reporter to calling races.
Friedman wisely decided not to try and emulate the more emotional Armitage and delivered the action in a low-key but informational style. MacDonald, on the other hand, can be an acquired taste. He talks way too much for some, but he delivers information and insight in equal measure, a prized mix for an audience that largely checks into the majority of Olympic sports every four years.
If the volume needs to be turned down on someone in swimming, it should be Mark Tewksbury. His mixture of fawning nationalism for Canada while scolding Phelps for gloating over a South African swimmer who has long taunted him tends to grate after a while.
The shadow of Brian Williams still hangs over the CBC's Olympics production, even 10 years after his contentious departure from the public broadcaster. Williams set the standard for television hosts and some early factual mistakes by a few of his successors as the 2016 Games began made it easy to long for the legend.
However, Scott Russell, whose Olympic pedigree is in the same ballpark as Williams, is doing an excellent job as CBC's prime-time host. His even-handed approach manages to celebrate Canadian success stories without descending into the boosterism that plagues Olympic media coverage.
Also notable are Andi Petrillo and David Amber, the midday CBC hosts, as well as Nabil Karim, who does the same job for TSN. Amber, by the way, doubled as interviewer for Thursday night's swimming and did an excellent job after Oleksiak's gold-medal swim. In short order, he asked the pertinent questions – how did you manage the comeback in the last 50 metres and how do all the medals change your life? – and the viewers were rewarded with decent answers.
Given the CBC's well-documented funding woes it would not have been a surprise to see on-air signs of budget cuts. However, the network is handling its resources well and made a smart move in making liberal use of the Olympics' international broadcast feed that is available to all countries. This allows the CBC to show some events live that it normally would not have the crews to cover itself.
Technically, the CBC and its partners are also performing well. There is enough coverage over the five channels (CBC, TSN1, TSN2, Sportsnet and Sportsnet One) to satisfy even the most diehard fan, supplemented by online and mobile viewing. One nice touch is the small graphic that appears in the upper corner of the television screen from time to time showing the events running on each channel. This makes channel hopping much easier.
As always, the features on the Canadian Olympians are well done, telling the compelling stories behind relatively unknown athletes. One standout was the piece on boxer Arthur Biyarslanov, known as the Chechen Wolf. He narrowly escaped the Russian-Chechen war with his family and came to Canada by way of Azerbaijan as a refugee before finding success in the ring.