Life in Hollywood, below-the-line

Life in Hollywood, below-the-line
Work gloves at the end of the 2006/2007 television season (photo by Richard Blair)

Monday, February 17, 2014

NBC Blows it Again

                        Christin Cooper just won't leave the man alone...

I’ve been following the Winter Olympics mostly through the newspapers the last few days.  Given that we work late four nights a week, there isn’t much time to watch NBC’s primetime coverage, especially when the event being broadcast always seems to be curling, the Biathalon “ski ‘n shoot,” ice dancing, cross-country skiing, or X-Games stunts like moguls and freestyle.  I mean no disrespect to any of the dedicated, hard-working, highly-skilled and undeniably passionate athletes in those sports -- all of whom deserve a standing ovation for getting to the Olympics in the first place -- but my viewing time is limited, so I watch the events that appeal to me. 

There’s no accounting for taste in such matters.  We like what we like, that’s all -- and although I really enjoyed the slope-style snowboard competitions, my taste in Winter Olympics leans towards the straightforward Alpine events.

So I tuned in to NBC on Sunday night to watch a compelling Super G race, where American Bode Miller managed a spot on the podium -- finally -- in a tie for the bronze medal.  After his disappointments in earlier events (he’d been favored to win the downhill, but finished well out of contention), this was probably his last chance at another Olympic medal, and to end his competitive career on a positive note.  Bronze may not be gold, but hey, it’s an Olympic medal, and Bode Miller is now the oldest skier ever to earn a spot on the podium of an Alpine event.

But what happened next turned my stomach.  Miller joined fellow American (and silver medalist) Andrew Weibrecht at the fence to be interviewed by NBC reporter Christin Cooper. With the viewing audience already alerted to the death of Miller’s younger brother last year (thanks to a video segment), Cooper proceeded to bore in on Miller with all the toxic intensity of a prosecuting attorney.

You really had to see the original broadcast video to understand just how boorishly insensitive Cooper really was (the video on NBC’s site appears to have been edited down since broadcast), but here’s the transcript as reported by the LA Times: 

"Cooper: Bode, such an extraordinary accomplishment, at your age, after a turbulent year, coming back from knee surgery, to get this medal today. Put it in perspective. How much does this mean to you?
Miller: I mean, it's incredible. I always feel like I'm capable of winning medals, but as we've seen this Olympics, it's not that easy. To be on the podium, this was a really big day for me. Emotionally, I had a lot riding on it. Even though I really didn't ski my best, I'm just super, super happy.
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.

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

Miller: Um, I mean, a lot. Obviously just a long struggle coming in here. It's just a tough year.

Cooper: I know you wanted to be here with Chelly, 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 don't know if it's really for him but I wanted to come here and, I dunno, make myself proud, but ... (trails off)

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

At that point, Miller breaks down into tears."

Miller had been wiping tears from both eyes halfway through the interview, then lowered his helmeted head to the fence and wept.  He turned, walked a few feet, then went down into a crouch -- overwhelmed by emotion, the man needed some space.  When a teammate approached and kneeled down to comfort him, some NBC slimebag -- doubtless a producer of one sort or another -- waved him away so he wouldn’t block another camera attempting to capture a head-on shot of Miller weeping.  

It was disgusting.  Here was the normally cool, calm Bode Miller suffering an emotional meltdown, and NBC refused to cut him an inch of slack -- in essence, they stuck that fucking camera right in his face.  Real Klassy, NBC -- with a capital “K.”

A wave of criticism towards Cooper and NBC came in via Twitter, but Miller was very gracious in his own response: 

“I appreciate everyone sticking up for me.  Please be gentle with Christin Cooper, it was crazy emotional and not all her fault.  My emotions were very raw, she asked the questions that every interviewer would have, pushing is part of it, she wasn’t trying to cause pain.”

With all due respect to Bode Miller, I disagree -- it was all her fault, and totally unnecessary.  I don’t know that Cooper was actively trying to cause him pain, but she certainly poured salt on Miller’s suddenly open wound in her relentless pursuit of the “money shot” -- Bodie Miller on his knees, crying like a baby.  And yes, she doubtless had yet other NBC douchebag screaming in her earpiece to probe ever deeper about Bodie’s dead brother, but that’s no excuse.  “I was only following orders” didn’t cut it at Nuremberg, nor should it on the white slopes of Sochi.  

One commenter refereed to Christin Cooper as a “presstitute” -- an apt description -- but my own term for her behavior is bit less genteel: at that moment she was a cunt -- an ugly word I very seldom use.  Under other circumstances she might be a nice person, but when Bode Miller was totally raw, open, and vulnerable, she acted in a willfully manipulative manner that I cannot forgive.   

NBC and Christin Cooper owe Miller, the entire US Olympic ski team, and their vast viewing audience an apology... but I suspect pigs will wing their way across the frozen wastelands of Hell before that ever happens. 

I have to give Bode Miller credit, though.  For all of Christin Cooper’s pressure, he did not buckle and deliver the Hallmark line NBC so desperately wanted: that yes, he really had won that medal for his dead brother.  Say what you will about Miller and his actions over the years at previous Olympics, the man speaks what’s on his mind and not what the media sluts want him to say.  He tells the truth.

And unlike the thoroughly bought-and-paid for Christin Cooper, he's his own person.  Despite his disappointments in these Sochi Olympics, Bode Miller should be able to sleep well -- he gave it his best shot, and things just didn't work out this time.

But if there's an ounce of decency in Christin Cooper -- if she actually has a conscience -- she won't enjoy a restful night for a long time to come.


JB Bruno said...

Michael, we agree on so much, but I have a little different take on this in terms of Cooper, if not in terms of NBC.

From the transcript, Miller brought up his brother. As a journalist, Cooper would have been slacking on her job if she didn't ask the follow-up questions.

For better or worse, NBC has built up athletes and the Olympics based on "stories" - I've mocked this in the past and still would.

I;m sure most Olympians have had some obstacle - to make each one of them some "story" is part of how NBC sells the Olympics. The end result of that is that it makes celebrities - and money - for the athletes whose "stories" they sell.

Once you are in for that - it's why Anna Kornikova made more money than many talented tennis players - you have to accept what comes with it. It's not Cooper's fault that we are in constant celebrity culture.

I'm fine with her questions. What I am NOT FINE with - and where I agree with you - was NBC's ugly coverage afterward, which was more "worthy" of reality TV than anything approaching journalism.

Years ago, I stopped depending on NBC coverage. checking out coverage from other sites.

I get your reaction - just think Cooper is not ultimate villain.

Michael Taylor said...

JB --

You're probably right in terms of the big picture here -- I was seriously pissed off when I wrote this post, and have cooled off since -- but I still think Christin Cooper went at least one question too far in that intrusive interview. Looking at that interview now, out of context, it doesn't seem as bad as I made out... but I watched it in the context of NBC's coverage of the event -- tape-delayed, but the events unfolding exactly as they had for the earlier live broadcast. With the video clips NBC included (including photos of Miller's younger brother) describing his tragic death, it all culminated with Christin Cooper trying to elicit the response NBC wanted -- the Hallmark Card moment where Miller would declare that he had indeed wanted to win a medal for his brother. The shameless manipulation of the man's raw emotions is what bothers me about all this, and Christin Cooper's role in the whole thing does not cover her in journalistic glory.

Granted, Cooper is not the ultimate villain here -- that would be NBC -- and I shouldn't have tarred her with the "C" world. Still, if her first few questions were legitimate, that last one -- where she pushed him over the edge -- was unnecessary and uncalled for. I really hope she has had second (and third) thoughts about asking it since then.