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Tesh is dramatic but that's okay

I like John Tesh.

There, I said it. I am not ashamed, either.

NBC's lead commentator for gymnastics is getting a bad rap. I cannot explain exactly why, but I think the disdain people have for Tesh has more to do with his previous role on Entertainment Tonight or his New Age music.

In the minds of many, his greater claims to fame somehow make him seem inappropriate for sports commentating. It is as if years of sitting next to Mary Hart make him unqualified to sit in the Georgia Dome and comment on gymnastics.

Tesh performed this same role at Barcelona, and if he seems overly dramatic, it may be only because he carries a lot of emotion into this role. This is a man who cried when American Trent Dimas won the gold on the high bar in 1992.

As long as it is genuine, I prefer too much emotion as opposed to not enough.

Unlike in football or basketball, there are a lot of newcomers tuning into the Olympics, so NBC has to attach a degree of importance to events so viewers will have a sense of what should excite them.

Tesh does that, and unlike some of his colleagues, he often tries to let the action speak for itself.

Yet, a general sampling probably would find that a lot of people are just plain annoyed by Tesh and his histrionics. Ask for constructive criticism and those critics can come up with few examples.

"It's just his voice or something," one friend said.

I listened intently Sunday night and found little fault with Tesh. His hyperbole in the montages that open and close the gymnastics segments can be too superfluous, but those scripted segments have been the same for all of NBC's coverage, not a personal trademark of Tesh.

If he stumbles, I will write about it, but so far I can only say, "Whatsamatter with John Tesh? He's all right."

FEATURE PRESENTATION: Of the 11 features and reports aired by 10:30 p.m., nine were on women. That's somewhat expected on a night when most of the featured sports involved women, but it certainly seems to underscore the network's commitment to attracting females.

Most of the features, including a Centennial Moment on 1992 gymnastic hopeful Kim Zmeskal, were good, but sooner or later we are going to start to wonder how much more action we could see.

Example: of the four road cycling women profiled, only one won a medal. Less features may have allowed more time for women's soccer and women's softball, two events reduced to short highlights.

A WORD ABOUT THE SPONSORS: The biggest star to emerge may be an athlete who actually is making a comeback. Speed Racer, the 1960s cartoon character, boosted his profile as part of ESPN's NASCAR commercials. Now he is showing up during the Games in Volkswagen ads.

Jason Alexander's Rold Gold commercial as "pretzel boy" may be the best so far, however.

QUESTIONABLE CALLS: NBC's Jim Gray often has sparkled as an interviewer and reporter, but some of his questions were questionable. Gray concluded his interview with gold-medal swimmer Tom Dolan by saying "You're a rapper, do you have a little rap about your victory?"

Yikes.

Later he took home the night's Mariah Burton Nelson Award by telling 14-year-old silver medalist Amanda Beard that "the nation is falling in love with you." Nelson, you might recall, is the syndicated columnist who predicted some NBC announcers would unfairly portray the Games' female participants as women first, athletes second.

Gray made her prediction come true with that comment.

Would he have told 410-pound weightlifter Mark Henry "the world is falling in love with you"?

HITTING FOR THE CYCLE: Maybe it is that cliche that prompted Al Trautwig to use baseball metaphors in his coverage of women's road cycling. He compared gold-medal winner Jeannie Longo-Ciprelli with Babe Ruth by calling her the "sultan of cycling swat," then likened her to Ty Cobb because her competitors dislike her.

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