NBC Mocks Racewalkers by Playing Benny Hill Theme

Five-Ring Circus
A Blog About the Olympic Games
Aug. 11 2012 2:54 PM

NBC Mocks Racewalkers by Playing Benny Hill Theme

Racewalking
SARANSK, RUSSIA - MAY 13: Olga Kaniskina and Elena Lashmanova of Russia in action at the 2012 IAAF World Race Walking Cup.

Photo by Oleg Nikishin/Getty Images.

Before the Olympics started, I wrote a post suggesting that NBC play “Yakety Sax” during all the running events. Today, I’m proud to say that the network finally took my advice. Upon the conclusion of the women’s 20-kilometer racewalk, NBC Sports Network sped up the fast-walkin’ footage Benny Hill-style, showing the athletes bobbing and wiggling their way to the finish line. (The peacock did not, however, insert footage of Bob Costas chasing after the racers and pinching their butts.) Studio hosts Willie Geist and Liam McHugh then proceeded to mock the sport, saying they wished Al “Do You Believe in Miracles?” Michaels had been on hand to call Russian Elena Lashmanova’s dramatic, world-record-setting walk past countrywoman Olga Kaniskina.

Racewalking is easy to make fun of. Take, for example, this Snickers commercial, in which Mr. T berates an effeminate speedwalker—“You’re a disgrace to the man race! It’s time to run like a real man!”—and then tries to kill him by shooting him with a machine gun. (The machine gun is loaded with Snickers bars, not bullets.)

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Despite the fact that the sport is often the butt of jokes, it was still surprising to hear Geist talk mock-excitedly about “racewalking fever.” A quick glance at Twitter shows that approximately one person was offended by the network’s behavior. “Can't believe the disrespect toward Olympic Race-Walking on @NBCSN by Willie Geist & Liam McHugh. #London2012 #notokay @NBCSports,” wrote Bradley Sines.

I get that perspective, but in the end I stand with Geist. It’s the tail end of the Olympics, nobody’s watching anyway, race walking is funny to look at, and he didn’t go for any easy, Mr. T-esque, homophobic jibes. Besides, they actually took my advice and played “Yakety Sax.” My work here is done!

Justin Peters is a writer for Slate. He is working on a book about Aaron Swartz, copyright, and the rise of “free culture.” Email him at justintrevett@fastmail.fm.

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