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NBC ends up right on track

Carl Lewis sprinted down the long-jump runway, then took off with all the energy and style that made him a four-time Olympic gold medalist in the event.

As he flew through the air, the flash of spectator cameras lit up the twilight in Olympic Stadium, creating a scene reminiscent of what happened during the gymnastics competition earlier this week.

"Gymnastics has got nothing on us," analyst Dwight Stones said.

Stones was referring to the flash photography, but he could very well have been referring to the coverage. If you considered each of NBC's broadcasting units as separate teams, the track and field crew would be the clear leader.

Tom Hammonds expertly quarterbacks the team with plain-language descriptions. He keeps us interested by keeping it simple. He gets solid support from Stones, Craig Masbach and Carol Lewis. They are enough to offset the inconsistent Cris Collinsworth.

Stones is the best of the three analysts. The former Olympic high jumper handles field events with just the right amount of emotion in his voice. On occasion, he blurs the line of objectivity that should separate Dwight the broadcaster from Dwight the friend of world-class athletes, but Stones' emotional timbre tells non-track fans they are seeing something special.

Stones' delivery and information is so sharp he is given free rein when commenting on the field events.

Masbach does not deliver his comments with as much fervor as Stones, but his observations are technically sharp. Immediately after Allen Johnson captured gold in the 110 high hurdles, Masbach said he managed to win even though "everything went wrong." Replays showed Masbach was right. Johnson hit eight of the 10 hurdles.

Lewis, who did not get on air Monday, does a solid job on women's sprint and hurdles events.

Collinsworth is the wild card. His post-race interviews and comments have contained everything from Dennis Mitchell walking away before answering the first question to a stinging tirade against Linford Christie for his race-delaying antics.

Sunday night, he greeted Carl Lewis with the statement "Carl, you've won three gold records " I have heard Lewis sing, and believe me, he has not won any gold records.

Collinsworth has not been perfect, but he is no Jim Gray. Thank goodness.

JINGOISM?: NBC continues to raise the ire of those American viewers who are not so nationalistic. As some readers pointed out, Merlene Ottey's silver-medal performance in the 100 meters was glossed over. In fact, NBC did not even report that Ottey protested because she believed she had won.

The 5,000 meters, which had no true American contenders, also was left out of prime time.