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Fire on ice (cont.)

Posted: Wednesday February 22, 2006 8:41PM; Updated: Thursday February 23, 2006 12:13PM
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Dick Button
Figure skating icon Dick Button has provided another facet of analysis to NBC's coverage.
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Using the kind of hyperbolic-speak that makes television media guides so fun to read, NBC Sports executive producer David Neal compared his network's figure skating talent -- including the analysts Sandra Bezic, Dick Button, Scott Hamilton, David Pelletier and Jamie Sale -- to the 1927 Yankees and the 1972 Dolphins. (Who is the Earle Combs of that group, by the way?)

Certainly, NBC's gold-plated analysts face some pressure tonight, even if Michaels is calmer than Tiger Woods at Augusta. No one is tuning in simply because Button or Hamilton is working the broadcast, but figure skating expertise holds unique importance in Olympic broadcasting. With so many casual viewers tuning in, perhaps for the first time in the entire Olympics, explaining the nomenclature of the sport (especially during a year in which its rules changed) is vital for a great broadcast.

(Those of us in Turin can't get NBC in the media center or our lodging, so we're mostly exposed to CBC, Eurosport and other foreign broadcasters. CBC's coverage is understated and measured. Basically, marvelous. And nobody covers a biathlon better than German TV.)

Michaels said he'll start his day (cardiologists, please hide your eyes) with a triple cappuccino around 10:30 a.m., then meet with Hamilton, Bezic and announcer Tom Hammond at a hotel near the Palavela rink for an informal meeting.

"Scott and Sandra will go to a practice at 6 or 7 a.m.," says Michaels, "because the last practice always gives you clues."

Michaels will then head to an NBC compound near the rink for additional meetings, including a one-on-one with Button. He'll take a short walk outside of his hotel to clear his head. Then it's on to the NBC production truck at 2 p.m. At that point, discussions will commence on issues such as how many skaters NBC should feature for the night. (The Olympic long program consists of four groups of six skaters.)

"My staff and I spend about an hour reconciling how to do the program, but Dick is the scientist," says Michaels, 56. "He has the test tubes boiling and then at some point he says, 'I found the formula.'"

During the actual event Michaels will be sitting in the middle of a production truck outside the arena. He has 10 NBC cameras at his disposal. Upon the conclusion of the event, he and his staff hit the edit rooms to turn the action into a ready-made program for soccer moms and NASCAR dads across America. His night will end around 5 a.m.