Tag Archives: Bob Costas

Derby Day with Bob Costas & a Random Sullivan

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Calvin Borel rides Super Saver to the finish/ nbcsports.msnbc.com

In case the title had you worried: Never fear, there were mint juleps as well. Take a deep breath.

As a kid I spent what felt like a fair amount of time at the Belmont Race Track with my family. One of my uncles was working there at the time and I loved horses like a great many little girls are wont to do. I read kid fiction about horseback-riding gals, I stole souvenir Belmont glasses from my grandmother, and I demanded that every vacation involve a jaunt on a horse since it had become to clear to me early on that never would my parents actually purchase me a pony.

It is a sad reality with which many children are forced to make their peace at one point or another.

Trainer Todd Pletcher celebrates Super Saver's Win/ nbcsports.msnbc.com

As the years went on, my uncle no longer worked at the race track, the juvenile fiction became predictable (though always ever so inspiring and tear-jerking), the glasses broke and my family started kayaking on vacation instead.

My love for horses and racing sports persevered over the years, despite my failure to be capable of reaching great speeds myself, with or without the help of  horse. Racing sports are the best because you get can pick one or two random names to back if you know nothing about the field, and unless you are into marathons the action is immediate, brief and thrilling to the end. Perfect entertainment.

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In college I met Kathleen who has spent a fair amount of time at the race track in Saratoga and owns more than one appropriate hat, much like Johnny Weir. Match made in heaven? Yes. We set out Saturday afternoon to enjoy the day and the Derby from Manhattan. We ended up at a random sports bar not far from Washington Square Park called Reservoir.

We settled in directly in front of a prime plasma screen, ordered ourselves a couple of mint juleps, persuaded the bartender to set the television to the derby before any one else had shown up for the race and proceeded to wow fellow barflies with our knowledge of Derby procedure.

It did not take a lot.

It also did not take a lot to make them commence in their judgment of us as crazy girls. I think it started when Bob Costas– everyone’s favorite sportscaster– appeared on-screen. We might have screamed, “Bob!” People might have turned and stared. But it mattered not. The question at hand was how could I have ever forgotten to depend on Bob Costas to appear for a high-profile, obscure, rich man sport?

If only it had been possible to hear what I am sure was insightful, winning and profound commentary from The Costas. Instead, we had to resort to pondering why he appeared to be holding court in a  rec room where people were playing pool and generally looking utterly unaware of the élite happenings out in the weather on the track. It wasn’t just us– everyone was wondering why Bob was sitting in a fluorescent basement. As I recall he may have escaped just before the race for the roses; however, by then we had a whole new set of problems unrelated to the producers of derby coverage.

Our new problems were embodied in the person of a Mr. Sullivan, a middle-aged man with poor vision and a few thousand dollars running on a horse that did not win. Luckily, Sullivan had grown up in a betting family and he had strategy that involved betting on a variety of horses and placements. I have no real concept of how such things work, so I’ll leave it at that.

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Anyways, Sullivan decided to join our table right below the plasma because he had apparently forgotten to bring his glasses. So we sat, we drank and we chatted with the man three sheets to the wind. He was a little wobbly, his drinks had a tendency to slosh over the sides and he told us many of tale of his gambling youth. In the end he was generally harmless, if a mildly irritating interloper who invited us to return to the bar for the Preakness.

So now you know where to find me later this month. Clearly. Care to join?

nbcsports.msnbc.com

nbcsports.msnbc.com

Also, in the never-ending list of Olympian perks… a handful of Vancouver competitors put on white suits and wide-brimmed hats to celebrate what Bob Costas has refereed to as an iconic element of Americana. Short track speed skater Allison Baver donned a wide-brimmed black number, although not quite as wide-brimmed as Johnny Weir’s. Bode Miller unsurprisingly was not wearing a hat, but did go for a festive white Derby Day suit. Also, not that tiny red feathered situation being rocked by the lady with the microphone, as a sidenote.

Olympians get invited to the best stuff.

One of these days–despite our non-Olympian, wealthy Southern or movie star statuses– Kathleen and I will go to the Derby and we will wear hats and it will not rain and Bob Costas will not waste his afternoon in a basement.

This will happen.

In the meantime, I have a gambling buddy for the Preakness and plans to go to Belmont for the Stakes.

Oh and in case you were wondering and had not yet figured it out, my horse Devil May Care did not win, but Super Saver did.

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I’m Gonna Miss You, Bob Costas

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You too, Al Michaels and Chris Collinsworth.

The following came to my attention during the closing ceremonies. It was one final, harsh kick to the gut: the Olympics being over probably means that I have to break up with Bob Costas, because I don’t really watch other sporting events almost ever.

City of Broken Dreams: Population, 1 (Johanna)

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Mary Carillo: Expert in Canadiana

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I think a lot of us fell a little in love with Mary Carillo over the course of Vancouver 2010. I know Kathleen and I did; I suspect that you might have.

Mary Carillo’s late night coverage got us through many hours of luging and women’s events, which were often inexplicably/explicably pushed from prime time into late night– lots of lady speed skating, biathloning and other such activities. I would have been even more upset had Mary not been there to carry us through with her amazing collection of boots and blazers that challenged even the dapper new look sported by Bob Costas.

So who is Mary Carillo? How did she come to us?

Facts:

Mary Carillo was a professional tennis player in the late seventies, retiring in 1980 due to knee injuries. From there she went forward as a widely celebrated tennis commentator, et cetera… and in 1992 she showed up in Albertville to provide some insight into skiing events. She made her summer games début as a tennis commentator at the 1996 Atlanta games, and continued to expand her winter repertoire as well. The 2002 Salt Lake games brought us the best comment about two-man luge that the world as ever heard: “a bar bet gone wrong.” She has also written three books about tennis. Read her Wikipedia page, she sounds like a busy lady… who maybe would like to hire me to be on her team for the 2012 games… I’m just saying that it would be a lot of fun and like, we could stand next to each other and it would be funny because you know how I am short and she is the opposite of that… and I just love the Olympics so much, and I just want to hang out with Mary and the Olympics…

Ahem.

Anyways, as the years  passed she took on hosting capacities, such as her 2006’s Olympic Ice in Torino and forging into late night coverage in Beijing. It appears that the 2008 games also saw her foray into providing cultural slices of life about the host country. This past time ’round, Bob Costas noted that she has become an expert on all that is Canadian, “Canadiana” if you will, as per her special prime time segments that took us around the great white north as if we really wanted to know more about Canada. The segments also roped in many an animal lover with spotlights on playful polar bears and puppies, theoretically luring non-sportsfans to turn their gaze towards Olympic coverage. They say there is something for everyone…

So we got to see Mary try out dog sledding after meeting an inspirational blind husky named Isabelle who still runs despite her disability. Mary figured that if Isabelle could still run with her pack, that she herself could give dog sledding a try. They both achieved the seemingly impossible that day.

Later, Mary delved into the world that is British Columbian logging. She hung out with lumberjacks, learned about their efforts to replant the forests as they go, and what they do for fun on the job. And what do they do? The pop wheelies on their tractors. The tennis pro and the woodsmen really bonded. As a final moment of joy on the river, Mary got to give the call for the loggers to dump a pile off logs into the river from above; it clearly brought her a lot a of joy: “Hahaha, I love my job. I love my job! Ahahaha!”

I love your job too.

We were blessed with one last moment of enlightenment regarding the Canadian experience as Mary and Bob bid each other farewell: It was an ace investigation into Canada as a breeding ground for humor, “the comedy of Canada as its greatest export.” Caroline Rhea explained that “It’s really cold here, so you have to entertain yourself all the time!”

So… turns out there are a lot of Canadian comics amongst us. Additionally Lorne Michaels, creator of Saturday Night Live hails from our northern neighbor. It makes sense when you think about it, since SNL is such an entry point for such folk (Dan Aykroyd, Martin Short, Mike Meyers, and more). Shocking.

Mary also provided some insight to the sporting events in questions: NBC sent her to the Netherlands to check out the homeland of speed skating in Kathleen’s favorite Carillo special segment. We learned about the Elfstednentocht, the longest of long tracking over 200 kilometers of canals in the Netherlands, coursing 16,000 competitors through eleven cities, fifteen times since 1909. As the canals have not cooperated by freezing fully since 1997’s event, the Dutch recently came up with an alternative: the FlevOnIce, a three-mile manmade ice track allowing the Dutch to pursue their love of skating outdoors. Mary’s thoughts on the matter? “It’s a lovely passion, it is– a lovely obsession.”

I like her candidness.

nbcolympics.com

Ever game for an authentic experience, Mary even dressed up like a crazy Dutch-er and went to see a pro race featuring Sven Kramer and American Shani Davis, who–incidentally–won, probably because Mary was there cheering him on. Mary asked a few locals if her outfit was the craziest they had ever seen. They gave an emphatic “Oh no,” please, “you’re in Holland!”

Mary’s final verdict on her experience: “Anyone who visits will get carried away by the zany orange zeal.”

Let’s take this opportunity to thank Mary Carillo for traveling all of Canada and various other parts of the world for our Olympic education and entertainment.

Parting with Mary’s late night coverage was bittersweet. Colbert the moose (formerly Ebersol) was apparently pretty torn up about it as well. The two had been through a lot together, “Colbert was inconsolable” when the Canadian men lost to the Americans in that early hockey game (presumably he is now feeling adequately smug about that gold medal situation). However, he had best reign in those Canadian feelings since it look like Colbert is coming back to New York with NBC for some sort of installation on the Vancouver games at 30 Rock. Looks like they are going to have to change his name again though since Colbert is kinda associated with Comedy Central, which brings us to this last exchange:

“‘The Chairman,’ that’s you name? Is that your final antler?… You wanna meet Tina Fey? I can’t promise that.”

Get in line moose, we all want to meet Tina Fey.

twitter.com/amandaameer

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Ok, ok, so that final adieu to late night Olympic coverage was insanely corny. It was ridiculous, but you know what? Mary went out there and got it done– the interesting, the stupid, the funny and the obscure. During her final chat with Bob Costas she said, “I’ve had a lot of good assignments.” That’s probably worth kissing a stuffed moose, right?

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Comedy Takes on the Olympics: Saturday Night Live, Jimmy Fallon & David Letterman

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This past weekend, NBC had the foresight to know that they would have to slowly reintegrate regular entertainment programing into the blood stream of rabid Olympic viewers. They knew not to rush the matter and they respected our desire to focus on obscure winter sports for just a few more days.

First off, Bob Costas had Jimmy Fallon pay him a visit on Friday night. Not only did Fallon get caught up on his ‘thank you’ card writing, but Costas tried out his own comedy chops with a little fabulous faux keyboard playing. Here are a few gems from their encounter:

“Thank you men’s speed skating for leaving nothing to the imagination. We get it– it’s cold in there.”

“Thank you to biathlon for having athletes ski around with rifles on their backs. In America we love sports where players run around with guns– but we call it the NBA.”

“Thank you Apolo Ohno for winning an American record number of medals and for being to frozen water what Michael Phelps is to regular water. Oh no he didn’t! More like: Ohno, he did.

Bob wrote that one. Yes he did. Love Bob.

“Thank you one one-hundredth of a second for apparently being a huge crap load of time.”

He also thanked Bob Costas and Chris Collinsworth for dressing so dapperly. I second, as does GQ.

“Thank you Olympics for being the first televised event to top American Idol on the ratings in over six years.” I believe that major props go to Shaun White for that victory.

I especially feel this last one, because in case you didn’t know: I seriously judge the phenomenon that is American Idol.

It was delightful. We took our second step into the cold pool water that is regular programming the next evening with the return of Saturday Night Live instead of late night Olympic coverage. I was a little sad.

Jennifer Lopez was the host and musical guest, so of course the writers took advantage of her Latinaness and brought us a curling match aired by ESPN Classic featuring Team Paraguay helmed by Maria-Shakira Prinze, Jr. versus Helga Birkenstock on the Norwegian team. The lady product sponsor? Gyne-Lotrimin vaginal cream for those times when “you’ve got something fungal in your lady jungle.”

Oh writers.

There was also the expected foray into Telemundo-land in which Lopez and SNL’s Fred Armisen played anchors to Jenny Slate and Bill Hader as on-location correspondents in Vancouver. They were not happy: “I would say I am in hell, but it is far too cold for that.” The sketch expounded upon the high risks associated with these obscure winter sports: “All of the sports are very strange, why would you do this unless you want to kill yourself?”

“Why?! Why would you do this?!”

Upon watching a ski jump competitor take off Lopez and Armisen screamed, “Where did the land go?!” When Slate explained that for some reason flying off the end of a slippery slope  had been the athletes intent they shook their heads, “Oh thank goodness he is ok!”

Point. After all, it is shockingly counterintuitive stuff.

Their conclusion? “This is a madness that happens when a country has no beaches.”

Oh really? Well then explain me that Jamaican bobsled team? Ahaha– got you.

At any rate, I would like to take this opportunity to thank NBC for caring enough to ease me slowly out of my Olympic bubble. The Marriage Ref… not so great, but then again those closing ceremonies… not so great either. It was a toss-up.

This evening, I finally went ahead and changed the channel from NBC to explore the world away from the peacock. It was weird. David Letterman was there, and guess who was with him? Evan Lysacek presenting the Top Ten List: Thoughts Going Through Evan Lysacek’s Head While Going Through His Gold Medal Winning Routine.” A few of the better ones:

“Did I overdo it with the sequins?”

“Bendy-twirly-jumpy thing”

“Stop running promos for The Marriage Ref.”

“Wheeeeee!” To which Dave countered, “You’d be surprised how many times that thought goes through my mind just sitting right here.”

And the number one thought: “Holy crap, I’m dizzy.”

My main critique: There should have been a Dancing with the Stars reference, and we all know it.

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Closing Ceremonies: I Almost Ran Out of Words

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Shortly before the Vancouver 2010 closing ceremonies were upon us, I came across a tweet that echoed my feelings almost perfectly:

@SethMeyers21 Nice work Winter Olympics. Now don’t blow it with an over emphasis on ice and whales at closing ceremony.

Now to be fair, we were warned that the closing ceremonies were going to end up a bit campy. We were not, however, warned that they would be emotionally scarring. Remember, for instance the small child on inline skates dressed like a hockey puck, who looked downright terrified (and also really resentful of whoever got him the gig) in the midst of those gigantic and horrendous cutout hockey players. Add to that the enormous inflated beavers, the midriff girl maple leaves, the real and oversized Mounties, the slutty Mounties, the men dancing in canoes… it was mayhem, and not the good kind (by which I clearly mean short track, the best kind of mayhem ever).

nbcolympics.com

The beginning was OK; with the knowledge of what was to come I might even call it quite nice. The look forward to what we can expect for Sochi 2014 was a delight– an orchestra playing in the snow in Red Square, classy (the Sochi gear that people were already wearing was a reminder that Russian fashion definitely peaked around 1982, but I won’t dwell. Not until 2014).

The athletes marching in was heartwarming as usual. Ralph Lauren dressed the Americans up like New England-themed paper dolls. It was picturesque.

popwatch.com

At first I forgot that the athletes get a specially designed outfit for their march, and since the cameras immediately honed in on Apolo Ohno I had a moment thinking, “Well that’s adorable, look at Apolo wearing a plaid shirt and tie with an old man cardigan, he looks so happy and Ivy League…” and then, “Oh hey, that  other guy is rocking Williamsburg plaid too… Wait a minute! Oh, Ralph Lauren you sly dog, you tricked me into thinking that your Olympic gear is real clothing!”

nbcolympics.com

As a sidebar, if you are a millionaire, you can go to the Polo store on Madison Avenue and get your own high-end Olympian gear. I would like very much for someone to purchase me one of those old man cardigans with the enormous Polo logo, the turn over collar and that authentic five ring appliqué. Or you know, if you have one and you are never going to wear it again, send it my way. I will wear it all the time. I think it is jaunty.

Ahem.

At one point during all this marching, either Bob Costas or Al Michaels said, “This may seem corny to some, but this is what the Olympic games are supposed to be about.” I have to admit that I really like seeing how happy everyone is and for once in my life I find myself judgement free watching the athletes snap pictures of the crowd and, even better, with each other. Again the cameras found Ohno getting a shot with one of the hockey players. A girl with what appeared to be a broken leg was carried in by two teammates. Evan Lysacek was rocking his gold medal and having a fine time. Everyone was wearing ridiculous moose antler crown thingies. It was nice. My heart was warmed.

You know what’s great about the Olympics? They make you forget about all the people whose dreams have not come true.

But  you know, it is kind of nice for two weeks to let yourself become invested in and stoked about people who worked hard and were lucky enough for that hard work to have paid off in the ultimate sporting way– even if the closing ceremonies make me say snarky things like the above.

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The arena went quiet as Neil Young– who Costas described as “still rocking in the real world after forty-some years”– sang “Long May You Run,” and the flame petered out. People around the world felt a sudden emptiness inside. I wondered what I would do without obscure winter sports to keep me occupied. Al Michaels would later reflect that, “when the cauldron descended I felt like everybody here was like ‘No, no, no– we’re not ready for this party to end.'”

And then it all went to hell.

William Shatner’s monologue seemed lost and torn between various tonal choices, as if six writers had gotten together, each written their own script and then told a non-English speaking intern to paste the bits together. When Catherine O’Hara appeared out of the ground I got really excited and then she bombed with a drawn-out joke about Canadian politesse: “We just like to say ‘sorry,’ It’s our real national past time. The delightful Michael J. Fox was not a whole lot better and the tinker tot graphics that accompanied him were mind boggling.

NBC kept hopefully resorting to their Vonn-cam in hopes that her delighted face would make it appear that things were going well. Lindsey Vonn, of course, in her never-ending quest to be the most overexposed athlete of the games willingly obliged.

On our end, Kathleen just exclaimed, “You are ruining the Olympics.” I felt similarly let down.

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The mayhem had not even started at this point. It is difficult to even recount the dismay felt when the giant hockey players, mounties, moose and beavers appeared. I can only hope that in person it was less distressing because I would hate to be an Olympian who just battled through two weeks of grueling competition, stayed around to march with my countrymen in the closing ceremonies and then ended up with retina scarred by inflatable woodland creatures and Canadian stereotypes.

Best description of the theatrical meltdown belongs to Matt: “This is a Mel Brooks musical.” And yet not nearly as entertaining. What an awful day to be a Mountie.

At 10:20 an exasperated Kathleen cried, “Thank God The Marriage Ref is on in ten minutes, because I need to break up with Canada… I literally want to die now. Like, I really enjoyed these Olympics. I went to the gym because of these Olympics.” She did. She even signed up for a 6:45 am spin class. “It’s so un-Olympics!”

Sigh. Sour notes indeed. As if the end of the Olympic games is not bittersweet to begin with, this made it downright unpleasant. I certainly hope that the people who were there managed to have a good time. Maybe being in a tiny Manhattan apartment, stewing in my own failure to have achieved my dreams had something to do with my distaste.

But I’m pretty sure that it was actually out of control. A few Olympian tweets from the ceremony/ensuing concert that included Nickelback & Simple Plan (a more evidence for my judgement):

@airblais Wow…really playing up the stereotypes!

@airblais Nooooooooooo Nickleback! Omg…this hurts!

@SeanCrooks Get a new album Avril. I said it.

@SeanCrooks Ok , just clear it up. Hedley and Simple Plan…No

Of course most people were more positive about the situation– basking in the glow as is their right– very Olympian of them. You can go on twitter yourself for those, there are far too many.

At any rate, it’s over. We’ve had to say goodnight and goodbye to Bob Costas who sent us off into the night with “the traditional cavalcade of Olympic images” to the tune of John Williams’ inspired Olympian theme.

Until we meet again.

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I’m just kidding. This week will see a series of Olympic recaps featuring Olympian advertising, a few top ten lists, profiles on some favorite ssuch as Mary Carillo the queen of the late night Olympic coverage, Johnny Weir and more. In fact, if you have a request feel free to leave a comment and I will see what I can do. It is going to be a process in which we mingle the Olympic with regular bloggy programming. Together we can slowly wean ourselves off the Olympics with minimal postsportum depression, hahaha.

Sorry for that.

I also plan to do what I can in the future to keep up with a few of my featured obscure winter sports for the future, to get us all through to Sochi. So stay tuned!

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Giant Slalom Aftermath & Olympic Helmet Fashion

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In the aftermath of Wednesday’s awful Giant Slalom weather and the Vonn-Mancuso situation there were a lot of sound bites flying around regarding their relationship over the years and at present. Bottom line: the two are “polar opposite personalities,” and as the GS commentators pointed out: “that’s just one of the realities of  being on a national team” and of being lifelong competitors.

Vonn has her ‘I’m-1000x-more-intense-than-you’ attitude, embodied best by her pre-race visage, while Mancuso prefers a “don’t sweat the small stuff attitude.” The only thing scarier than Vonn’s game face huffs and glares is the legit roar that fellow teammate Sarah Schleper lets out just before heading out the gate.

After yesterday morning’s second run at 1:34.13 Mancuso was relaxed saying, “I’m not nervous cause it’s like a miracle, you know? It’s all I can do.” Unfortunately she ended up unable to reclaim her gold with an eight place finish but the run was a great comeback from the previous days trauma-drama. Plus, she had tickets to see the women’s figure skating free skate… so that’s pretty much a win, and her tweets throughout the evening were pretty positive.

Late night coverage aired a Bob Costas interview with Mancuso where she talked about the rarity of seeing a yellow flag in GS and how confusing that foggy day of first runs was. She also responded to her previous comments about Vonn getting all the attention and making it difficult for the achievements of other women on the team to be seen and appreciated: “I wold love to see our team just cheer for each other… and there are a bunch of other girls out there skiing really fast… not just me and Lindsey.” Of course such PR repairs are expected, but truly, Vonn’s crash did inadvertently ruin Mancuso’s chance for a fair first run and that’s just the truth and some bitterness was to be expected. Furthermore, Mancuso has a point… who are those other speedy skiing ladies, and why don’t we know any of them? Point.

To sum it up: “I was proud of my effort out there… these things happen. It was outside of my control to get a fair chance, but it really has been a great games, so I can be excited to go home like that.”

As for Sochi, 25-year-old Mancuso says we’ll see her there for a fourth games: “I love to ski.” And in the meantime, “I just remember how much fun it is to travel the world and ski and live my dream job.”

And I like that about her.

What else?

NBCnewyork.com

Check out this link to NBC New York. They’ve put together a slide show of the most awesome helmets of the Vancouver 2010 games. Look for the beaver helmet, lots of skeleton designs, a few heinous americana hockey helmets and a creepy ‘I’m watching you’ specimen.

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US Speed Skating & the Colbert Nation: “Kicking Ass & Mispronouncing Names”

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… said Stephen Colbert on his Tuesday night show. On Wednesday night he came to us from the Colbert Report ‘sports zeppelin.’

He has also presented an ace profile on himself as the Assistant Sport Psychologist to the US speed skating team by showing footage of his hilarious self diagnosing and then ‘helping’ out a few members of the team. I can’t help myself, I have to recap a few key moments of “Freud Rage: The Iceman Counselth.”

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1) Colbert gave Mitch Whitmore a “thigh five,” after talking Whitmore through dealing with his addiction to skating.

2) Lauren Cholewinski was told to imagine that Colbert had stuffed her suit full of meat and then let a pack of wild dogs out on the ice. “You are skating for your…?” “Country?” Wrong. The correct answer? “Life.”

3) Fredricks Tucker has a hard time with Colbert’s trust games since they involve getting poked in the eye, declaring “I don’t trust you!” to an incredulous Colbert.

colbertnation.com

4) Tucker really wins with the funniest segment, agreeing to let Colbert brand him with a little Nation love by autographing his chest– his heart if you will– since at the Olympics athletes cannot wear any sponsorship labels.

colbertnation.com

5) And to close the first of a two episode series profiling the antics of this wayward assistant sports psychologist, Colbert had a serious conversation about racing strategy with Tucker’s glutes. And remember, “You’re gonna feel like giving up, but don’t– you’re not just any ass, you’re an Olympic ass, remember that.”

Part two of the exposé featured a team pep talk involving such motivators as: “Your self worth is riding on what you do here.”

Shani Davis also made a an appearance via fireplace satellite where he admitted that “If [Stephen] were there in my 1500 m race I probably would have won the gold [instead of the silver].”  Is there a true reconciliation in the works?!

Earlier in the week Bob Costas had jokingly confirmed with Colbert that “animosity really fueled [Shani].” On last night’s show Colbert admitted that “Shani prefers that I do most of my coaching from the stands.”

But don’t worry kids, the boys have made up. Shani presented his medals to the Colbert Nation: “This one is also for Stephen Colbert and the Colbert Nation, thank you so much.” I’m glad your PR person is doing their job Shani.

And for old times sake? “Stephen, you’re a jerk,” with a south side smile on his face. What is a south side smile? It’s something that I made up, which I am allowed to do since I too am from the south side of Chicago. And it’s my blog. So there.

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