Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Agony Of Defeat - But Not In Europe

Do you remember Vinko Bogataj, the Yugoslavian ski jumper whose 1970 crash adorned the Wide World Of Sports open as "the agony of defeat"? Of course you do, and nearly everyone you know does too. ABC took that unfortunate and unsightly moment and made it into something so much bigger than it actually was.

We Americans tend to do that: glorify the grotesque, the painful, the "agony of defeat" almost as much as we celebrate beauty, expressions of pure joy and victory.

Joe Theismann's broken leg? Barbaro's broken leg? Darryl Stingley? Mike Utley?

You get the point.

Everyday injuries during our games are first met with close-ups of an anguished face followed by numerous slow motion replays from every angle available. Maybe play an angle or two back at real speed. Back to slow-mo again. Out to another tight face shot.

That's the way we do it. And that's what our audience expects.

And who wouldn't want to give those guys everything they want?

Seriously though, coverage any other way would seem inadequate or incomplete, wouldn't it?

That's what makes Scott Macartney's crash in Kitzbuehel, Austria stand out. Macartney went down heavily last Saturday, on the last jump of the World Cup race. Unconscious upon impact, he slid down the remaining portion of the course followed by his helmet, while the crowd held its collective breath.

We know how we would have covered it.

Via Austria's ORF, here's how the world feed looked:

(Reuters reported that Macartney suffered no fractures, regained consciousness and began making jokes. He is expected to make a quick and full recovery.)

The Europeans showed no close-ups at all. In fact, the director often cut to wide shots. Replays were used sparingly and it seemed only for context not content.

We're not saying they're right and we're wrong. We're not saying we're right and they're wrong.

We're just saying our approaches to similar situations are very different.

Makes you think, doesn't it?

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