- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 7, 2006

One of the fundamental problems of the Turin Games, besides the treacherous snow and ice in the absence of D.C.-inspired storm team coverage, promises to be the nauseating presence of Bob Costas and Katie Couric.

Costas and Couric are the Ken and Barbie dolls of NBC, a pair of half-pints who exude a smug, condescending air behind their plastic smiles and pseudo-charm. They are television’s version of fingernails dragging against a chalkboard.

NBC’s bosses certainly would beg to differ, and they undoubtedly have the results from a zillion focus groups to support their assertions. The corollary is that there apparently is a market niche for everyone, the unpleasant and the like.

Costas has evolved into the conscience of just about every sport there is, including professional wrestling. The latter goes back to his interview with Vince McMahon, who appeared interested in squishing Costas like a bug at one point during the exchange.

The ego of Costas is larger than the person, and we can debate whether that is a significant phenomenon, given the severe physical limitations of the person.

Costas imagines himself to be an intellectual, amusing as that is, considering that sports rarely rise above the grunts and sweat of the principals. And that includes those who deconstruct the games in decibels that hurt the ears.

Costas used to traffic in wit and irreverence. Now he is a fountain of sober thought, of what it all means, as if it means anything, and the joy of the moment becomes subservient to the chatter.

Costas and Couric are certain to bring us the so-called uplifting saga of a one-eyed athlete who overcame a dead grandmother, dead dog, dyslexia, irritable bowel syndrome, a stroke and three heart attacks. For good measure, the athlete also nearly choked to death on a chicken bone in the days leading up to the Greco-Roman Alpine Synchronized Ice Fishing competition.

This weepy foray is intended to entertain and inform, plus connect us to the dreams of the performer, which is really in the intrusive company of Jerry Springer, only without the flying chairs. Most maudlin details are better left unsaid.

Costas and Couric endeavor to champion the proud athlete from a dusty village in a faraway land. You can take that as a threat to your viewing pleasure.

Couric is no longer perky, just pedestrian, as she fills the air with observations best left to trivia games.

Did you know that Finsteraarhorn is the highest peak of the Bernese Alps?

Hmm. Please tell us more.

As a beacon of blab, Couric has refined the art of saying a lot about mostly nothing, which is what the Winter Games are to those Americans who usually see ice only in their drinks and refrigerators.

Figure skating is said to be transcendent to a degree, if only because of the appeal of the garishly dressed peacocks on ice, and that description applies mostly to the men.

NBC is planning to air 416 hours of the Winter Games, which comes out to 241/2 hours a day. That is a lot of Costas and Couric, one as grating as the other, each compelled to fan the flames of interest with insights that provoke the primal-scream urges of the less cultured.

In their defense, curling is always a tough sell to the masses, forever taken aback by the sight of a broom and bowling ball, or whatever the thingamajig is called.

A one-armed curler, if there is one, would celebrate the indefatigable nature of the human spirit.

Costas and Couric are indefatigable as well, the bane of the events.

They aim to provide context to the Nordic Combined Snowball competition, even if no context is necessary. Perspective, too.

Voice-over: That puts it all in perspective.

Or not.

Costas and Couric undoubtedly will feel obligated to help viewers get through the eye-moistening ordeal, whatever it is.

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