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Network can make amends with 100 meters

Watching the Olympics is not much fun.

Many of the personally targeted events are delayed and remaining innocent of the outcome is nigh onto impossible. The competition between Ryan Lochte and 14-time gold medal winner Michael Phelps in the recent Olympic trials teased the 400 meter individual medley because there was a suspicion that the two friends played a cat and mouse game in Omaha, Neb.

To make sure there was no conflict between the Lochte-Phelps race and a search for a new couch, I Googled Olympics telecast schedule shortly after noon on Saturday and up pops, “Lochte Storms to Victory.”

Oops.

Worse, out of habit during a commercial break in the PGA Tour event, I checked ESPN. As if on cue, the network went to its man in London who told us that Phelps fell behind early when he performed poorly in his speciality, the butterfly, and then shared a stern quote from Phelps’ unhappy coach.

At 5:30 p.m., NBC anchor Brian Williams asked experts about the loss.

The network finally got around to showing the four-minute-plus race in primetime. Even then, viewers were strung along for 90 minutes. At least, that’s what I was told. Reruns are not my thing.

Earlier, James Bond’s moment with Queen Elizabeth and their supposed entrance into Olympic Stadium via parachute worked because viewers did not know what was coming.

Apparently, the Lochte first-Phelps fourth finish could be seen live through NBC’s online coverage and through mobile apps, but even Dirk Nowitzki was upset that NBC sat on the race until evening.

According to somebody familiar with tweeting, the NBA star said, “Can’t believe they didn’t show Phelps Lochte live. Now, we all know who won. This is frustrating.”

The bad taste turned downright sour when Vivian Schiller, chief digital officer for NBC News, gave a “+1” to a tweet that said, “the medial for most Olympic whining goes to everyone complaining about what happens every 4 yrs, tape delay.”

The 400 IM had great appeal in the U.S.; the backlash will be much more widespread if NBC delays the finals of the men’s 100 meter dash on Sunday. Always a sexy event, the field is so deep that former Razorback sprinter Tyson Gay said it might take 9.7 to get a medal. He means a medal of any sort and the thought of three men running 9.7 or better in one race is mind-boggling.

Barely four years ago, the world record was 9.72, set by Asafa Powell of Jamaica.

The best time in the world this year is 9.75, recorded by Yohan Blake when he beat world record holder Usain Bolt in the Jamaican Trials. Bolt was the first to break 9.7 when he did 9.683 in the 2008 Olympics. A year later, he lowered the record to 9.572.

All three Jamaicans are in the field along with Gay and 2004 Olympic champion Justin Gatlin of the U.S. which means there is no room for the slightest bobble.

“It’s going to be pretty crazy,” said Gay, who has run a wind-aided 9.68.

The 29-year-old Gay, who was off the track for almost a year with a hip injury he suffered in 2011, invited the media to his recent workout in Birmingham, England to make a point about his health. Bolt has been preparing in seclusion.

In Beijing, Bolt defeated Richard Thompson of Trinidad by two tenths of a second, a thrashing in a race in which a camera is often needed to confirm the result. Gay, who had a hamstring injury in 2008, did not get out of the semifinals.

The semifinals will be around noon and the finals about two hours later. The world will be watching … if NBC will allow.

Harry King is sports columnist for Stephens Media’s Arkansas News Bureau. His e-mail address is hking@arkansasnews.com.

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