Aileen Gallagher is writing about the Winter Olympics every weekday for The Sports Section. She is smart.
Johnny Weir may be bedazzled, but last night's over-the-top award goes to NBC Sports for its hilarious/offensive piece on Russian Yevgeny Plushenko, the defending gold medalist in men's figure skating. The segment opened with a shot of Lenin's statue in Moscow and was replete with dour skies and an ominous, towering Kremlin. Plushenko even referred to his competitors as "my enemies." The sun rose only when Plushenko said he wanted to win two gold medals, like American skating hero Dick Button. Button's gracious response: "Records are meant to be broken." Unfun fact: Did you know that Dick Button was attacked by baseball-bat-wielding thugs in Central Park in 1978? Anyhow, Boris Badenov scored a 90.85 with an intimidating, athletic routine that likely shook Johnny Weir's feathers.
Weir's program was called, "I Love You I Hate You," and never before has a blown kiss looked so much like a middle finger. The crowd loved his bombast — he's watched Moulin Rouge a whole lot — and booed his 82.10 score. Weir is not expected to medal.
But don't be distracted by the skating. The real competition during the Men's Short Program was for worst outfit. And oh boy, did Italy's Samuel Contesti win that one. His farmy ensemble — plaid shirt and stained overalls — would go better with "Cotton Eye Joe," but he unwisely chose to skate to "Wammer Jammer" by the J. Geils Band.
German Belgian Kevin van der Perren wore a skeleton bodysuit that Target should carry come Halloween. In this sport, that's high praise.
Other skaters of note:
• Takahiko Kozuka of Japan skated to Jimi Hendrix and rivaled Stephane Lambiel of Switzerland in whiplike RPMs.
• Patrick Chan, a 19-year-old, seems so nice and Canadian! But we really liked him because the sweet introductory piece about him and his cranky old coach opened with a Band of Horses song. Look for him in 2014, when we will be 35 (!) and he will be 23, in his skating prime.
• American Evan Lysacek, whom this magazine knows quite well, also got the NBC in-depth treatment and, like Chan, the segment emphasized his grueling workouts. The network is obviously trying to masculinize men's figure skating. Good luck with that. But Evan did get a 90.30, and will go into the long program in second place.
Rather than compete with Lost (or even the Westminster Dog Show), NBC aired a little women's luge and some snowboard cross (simply put, a snowboard race) from 9 to 10 p.m. And no, we didn't watch those events.
What to Watch Tonight:
Snowboard: Men's Halfpipe
Speed Skating: Women's Short Track
Speed Skating: Men's 1,000 Meter