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NBC reaps Sochi death headlines, but it's just one player

Published February 22, 2014 8:34 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

No one pressed the issue of Bode Miller's late brother like NBC's Christin Cooper, but the network wasn't alone with the story.

The Associated Press made mention of Chelone Miller's death before the now-infamous interview with Cooper. And Cooper wasn't the only one to push the story's emotional buttons.

Denver Post columnist Mark Kiszla wrote of Bode Miller: "The American rebel wept for his dead brother, Chelone Miller, a snowboarder who had dreamed of competing at the 2014 Games until he passed away last spring after suffering a seizure in the van that served as his home.

"Bode Miller wept because he's still alive and kicking."

And Bode Miller isn't the only athlete whose grief — or presumed grief — was highlighted.

As the 2014 Winter Olympics finished its final Saturday, I documented 52 examples of athletes, coaches or even commentators who suffered the loss of a loved one and for whom that was written or broadcast as part of their Olympic story. That's more than twice as many as when I posted a spreadsheet of such stories a week ago.

Eighteen of the 52 examples belong to NBC broadcasters or the network's website. The rest are a mix of wire services and newspapers covering the games.

Most of the references were found searching for phrases on Google News, though my wife and I also watched NBC every night and wrote down when the broadcasters mentioned a death affecting an athlete.

As Tribune columnist Kurt Kragthorpe pointed out, some passings are hard to ignore. The brother of Canadian skier Edi Podivinsky died during the games in an accident in Montana, The Canadian Press reported. The Ukranian delegation asked to wear black armbands to honor people killed during the protests in Kiev.

But most of the talk was on people who have been dead for a while. Some of those discussions were detailed, such as on Thursday night when NBC aired a lenghthy segment on Canadian freestyle skier Sarah Burke, who died in 2012. It ended with a statement that fellow Canadian Roz Groenewoud was paying Burke tribute.

Other references seemed to be in passing and vague. It was repeatedly said the mother of Japanese figure skater Mao Asada died in 2011. There was never anything specifying whether Asada was still grieving or what obstacle the death presented.

Whether the death discussion will continue in future Olympics remains to be seen. There's conflicting reports whether the ratings have been good for NBC. Only bad ratings are likely to force a change. If NBC covers the Olympics differently, other reporters might learn to do the same.

Is there an apetite for something different? The last death reference I found Saturday was in an article discusing Candadian curler Kaitlyn Lawes. The St. Thomas Times Journal in Ontario spent a portion of the article discussing her late father. But most of the article discussed former Canadian curling coach Jim Waite.

The retired Waite was watching the Olympics from Florida, but apprently not on NBC.

"We're watching Canadian TV compared to all the U.S. BS," he told the Times Journal.

Nate Carlisle is The Salt Lake Tribune's military reporter and a lifelong sports fan. Thanks to everyone who tweeted to @natecarlisle to alert him to Olympic stories mentioning a death.






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