I read an article today denouncing the media for complaining that Amanda Beard wouldn’t want to kiss Michael Phelps. The article mentions that both swimmers are Olympic gold medalists. The essay goes into deeper sociological concepts; however, I think the point is simple. NBC wants to stir the pot and boost ratings.
No mention in the essay was made about the similar tactic used during the 2006 Olympics between figure skating medalist Sasha Cohen and snowboarding champion Shaun White. Bob Costas, NBC’s lead anchor then and now, asked White who he’d most like to meet. White answered with Cohen’s name. There was an insinuation that White had a crush on Cohen but that was never confirmed. Cohen agreed to meet White. By all accounts, there was a friendly exchange, albeit a non-romantic one. Both people were asked more about their fictional budding romance than about their performance the rest of the Olympics.
Yesterday, Costas asked two-time beach volleyball champions Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh if they’d run out of people to hug. May-Treanor and Walsh are both happily married women who want to start families soon. Part of the beach volleyball culture is to hug people and be friendly. Had Costas spent time at the venue instead of dispatching others there, he might know that. He should know lots of excited winners–at the Olympics and otherwise–have embraced anyone they could find in a moment of joy. Don’t you ever feel so thrilled you could burst? So excited about achieving your dream you want to tell anyone and everyone who will listen?
Beard did two things this month: pose nude for a PETA ad and perform miserably in the 200-meter breaststroke. She finished 17th in the event and looked like an over-the-hill athlete. She’s not the first; she won’t be the last. Good luck to her as her post-swimming career begins in earnest but she was irrelevant to the Beijing proceedings. The question about her possibly dating Michael Phelps was silly but not malicious. To be malicious, one needs intent. I’m not convinced Costas has any intent beyond managing to avoid mangling his next line on the teleprompter.