September 10, 2015

2004 Olympic Trials Part 1: Schwikert Family Gold

Back to the grindstone. My soul-destroying retrospective of US Olympic Trials broadcasts continues with 2004. This was actually a fantastic year for the US Team, and Trials featured few falls and even fewer coaches being made to wear mics, which is a real shame. But still, we always have mercilessly making fun of Trautwig, right? Oh boy do we. He was in rare form this year. Let's begin.

(Note on that intro: Misty Hyman is still the worst name ever given to a human person. Hi, this is my daughter, Sweaty Vulva.)

Prologue: Kim Jong Martha
-"This is Texas."
-Yep, that's it. We've got a church, abandoned railroad tracks, some horrible dirt road from the 30s, and Martha eagle-eyeing the hell out of physical abilities testing. Or as Texans call them, the big four.

-This training montage music is called "Essence of North Korean Military." 
-The US gymnastics renaissance is being crafted at a cost. OK? The cost of...stretching in unison? SUCH TERRIBLE LIVES. THE COST IS TOO GREAT. THEY MIGHT MISS PROM.
-I forgot that we were still in the "how dare you put them through this hell" era of Martha camp narrative. Before the US started winning every year and camps became the glorious revelation of a soothsaying genius.

-If you're going for the "Remember how happy everyone used to be in 1996?" angle, maybe clips of Dominique Moceanu aren't the strongest choice. Old Dominique "Smiles" Moceanu, that's what we call her. She had a grand time. Totally loving life. (Have you forgotten the sadness forest so quickly?)

-Misty water-colored meeeemmmmmmories, of the way we were...

-Bela won the team gold medal in 1996. Live and learn.

-"And then that trash heap 2000 team fucked it up for everyone and finished 4th, like losers. You brought shame on a nation, and we hate you. I mean GO TEAM USA. As long as you hit. Otherwise, get out. What was your name again? Lizzie or something?"

-But it's OK because in 2003 Bela high-fived everyone, spontaneously creating Carly Patterson and saving gymnastics from the worthless failures of 2000. BYE LIZZIE.

-I love that this intro is basically a superhero origin story for the Martha camps. Martha pops out at the end to go, "And that's how I became...THE FLASH!"

-"16 survivors who have been put through the ringer." #inspiringquotes 

-Oh, we're still talking about how McCool's name has the word "cool" in it? What a treat for everyone.
-And the Fakest Laugh Award goes to Timothy Daggett.

-This year, Martha has tapped Elaine Stritch and Moaning Myrtle for the selection committee.

-My, how things change. Four years ago, having a selection committee was an unfair, manipulative nightmare. Now, it provides wonderful flexibility. "There's absolutely no confusion out on the floor exercise." Clearly Elfi hasn't seen the Kupets choreography. I have some confusion.

-Ah, Al's veiled pissiness about the Trials format. A national tradition. Count how many times he grits his teeth and tells us that nothing is guaranteed. Because it's exactly a thousand.

 Chapter 1 (Minute 6): The Pamela Anderson Championships, Starring Pamela Anderson

-Nailed it. Hollie's best vaulting performance.

-Before and after.
-"Her coach Cassie Rice. And later we'll document the relationship between the two of them." When we have 39 hours and a bathtub of Xanax.

-Automatic 10 for backhand slapping the camera when it tries to get all up in your business. Today, we are all Sam Sheehan.

-Talk about people who were born in the wrong code. Liz Tricase would have been a tyrant in an open-ended code. Tim and Elfi are really impressed that her bars routine wasn't in the "Cheng Fei goes to Brestyan's" circle of hell.

-GOD, is Al still talking about Survivor? How many years has it been? Update your lecture notes. At 2016 Trials, there's a 100% chance Al will make a reference to Harlem Shake.

-"Amazing that after all these years Carly Patterson still hasn't developed the ability to view her own vault from outside her body while she's performing it." Tsk tsk tsk. So useless.

-Yevgeny Marchenko's best quality as a coach = hilarious height disparity.
-I imagine him as a kangaroo, carrying Carly around in his stomach pouch. 

-Tim is trotting out the "easier vaults are getting deducted more harshly" argument. I guess he decided to go to Trials as a 2014 message board thread. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

-Tabitha, I want to see this exact leg form from Arizona next season. You have your mission.

-Mohini's "unlikely age of 25." YUCK GET OUT YOU WITHERED WRECK.
-Al is doing a thousand jumping jacks of glee that he gets to tell the Pamela Anderson story again. The theme of this broadcast is "A FAMOUS PERSON IS HERE AHHHHALALALALALALA EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE."

-"Scene 1, Take 1" Acting references! Because Pamela Anderson used to be an actress once! Look! She's clapping! STARS THEY'RE JUST LIKE US.
-Number of check-ins with Pam Anderson: 2. Number of routines by Mohini: 1.
-Bela : 2000 Trials :: Pam Anderson : 2004 Trials.

-OK, coaches. We need to have a little chat about polo shirts tucked into track pants. Because tucking makes it classy.  

-Science fact: There's enough glitter on Terin Humphrey's eyelids to stretch around the equator three times.

-"There was some good coaching" is all Al can say. You mean throwing your gymnast out there to do a vault she can't really do most of the time and then praying she hits it? GREAT COACHING.

Chapter 2 (Minute 16): My Dinner With Bela

-Oh, Watchful Eyes Of Martha Karolyi cam. I think I'll miss you most of all.
-In honor of Martha's last year next year, someone who's good at that kind of thing needs to make a "watchful eyes" montage of all Martha's reaction shots over the years. And it needs to play at Trials. To the tune of "Time Of Your Life."

-Al continues having 30 embolisms about Granny Mohini competing in spite of her walker and trick hip. But how does she have time to do a routine when she's so busy handing out Werther's Originals to all the other competitors????
-Have you forgotten Dominique and Amy and Shannon from three seconds ago already? How many times, Alyssa?  

-Mohini Bhardwaj, vault:

-Elfi: "A lot of yapping going on." Yes. Mmhmm. I agree.

-Damn. 2004 was a good year. And not just because of my beloved Kupets. Other people too. No pissy coaches. No death stares. No Telfwig bitching about consistency. It's like they've never even heard of gymnastics before.

-"There's nothing more nerve-wracking than doing beam at Olympic Trials." What if there were a shark under it? Or this were, you know, the Olympics? There's a whiff of "winning the SEC Championship is harder than winning the National Championship" BS to that comment, and you don't get away with that on my watch.  

-They think Martha is having Christmas Morning Face about Tabitha's beam routine. Really, it's because Mohini just showed up with a Werther's Original.

-Tim, we don't name skills after people's first names. When someone does an Onodi, do we say, "She just rocked a Henrietta"? But really, please do.

-Awwww, I'm getting Mohini Fever all over again.


-When you're Courtney Kupets, you get to dress like a candy cane and no other girls can say anything about it.
-Because this bars routine. All the 10s. All the 20s. Remember when the US's good event was bars?

-Bela isn't even part of this, and yet his ghost lingers in the commentary. Stop trying to make Bela happen! You don't know what he and Martha talk about over dinner! You don't know anything about their dinner. Is it entirely chicken salad and that vat of watermelon wedges? Maybe. You have no idea. They probably spend more time on those goddamn llamas than they do on Alyse Ishino. Unless one of the llamas is named Alyse Ishino, which of course it is. All of mine are. 
-"Mary Lou Retton, Nadia Comaneci, Kerri Strugg." Dear Kim Zmeskal, let me put out this cigarette in your eye and then hurl you off a bridge.

-Al, please don't start sentences by shouting, "Make me hard." Please. For all of us.

-Hollie Vise. Podium wedgie pick. THE ARTISTRY.

-2004: Two amazing world bars champions are deemed unnecessary for the team because our diamond mine is too full of diamonds.
-2008: Should we take Jana Bieger for bars?

-Carly needs Hollie to go to the Olympics. If this were a reality show, this is the moment you'd hear a hundred maracas of foreshadowing.

Chapter 4 (Minute 33): No City Championships

-This Tasha piece is one of the all-time great fluff pieces. I'm obsessed with it. Watch it now and forever. Joy Schwikert is Most Entertaining Gymnastics Parent Emeritus.

-Can you imagine this happening today, or about anyone else? Lynn Raisman clutching that yipping dog in a living room going, "Aly is a shit box." This is why Tasha Schwikert is my sun and stars. No wonder she has to spend, oh, 72 consecutive minutes sitting on that mat planning to burn all of society to the ground.

-"Hey, mom. What did you talk about with the cameras?"
-"Oh nothing. Just how you're a garbage demon."

-"We're not going for no city championships." For next year's team t-shirt, I vote for that over "WE GOT THIS." The grammar is the same.
-This is why it's such a shame Tasha never had more Olympic success. Schwikert Family Gold. That's all I'm saying.

-Cassie Rice is the only person who can talk about punching her own gymnast in the face and make it hilarious and adorable. Rice Family Gold wouldn't be too bad, either.

-Cue the montage of Vegas nightlife to imply that...what...Tasha has been doing lines of coke off hookers instead of training?

-"I'm not even sure they need her on the team." Joy Schwikert's Night of Honesty. I live for it.

-Were those gymnasts doing the chicken dance in the background after Tasha's beam? That's definitely part of physical abilities testing. Fastest chicken dance. People are always all up in Nia Dennis's about that after each camp. BUT WHO WON THE CHICKEN DANCE? WAS IT BAILIE?

-Thanks. I was really wondering how Pam Anderson was doing right now. Still famous? Great. Show her a few more times.
-"And Pamela Anderson has to be feeling that the money she used to support Mohini is money well spent." What, because if Mohini had fallen or not made the team, it would have been waste? This is why we treat you the way we do, Al. GO AWAY.

-And next up on beam, wolf turn patient zero. You did this to us, Terin. You did this.
-If you had a time machine, would you use it to kill Hitler or push Terin off the beam at this moment thereby cursing the wolf turn forever? There is no wrong answer.

-Tim, on how to do an arabian: "Leave your body in the air." Now that would be a skill. That's what I do whenever Tasha's mom speaks.

-TERIN IS SO UNTALENTED YOU GUYS. What's with the Shevchenko treatment, ladies? This is the era when Elfi was really into calling people untalented. It's like her version of Picasso's Blue Period. It's Elfi's Stone Cold Swamp Beast Period. It lasted 19 years. But really, if you think Terin Humphrey epitomizes a hard worker who isn't naturally suited for gymnastics, don't go to a fortune teller.

Chapter 5 (Minute 44): Armine Sandwich

-In case you were curious, Pam Anderson has now been placed in a glass enclosure. She'll be worth more if she's kept in her original packaging.

-One step ahead of you.

-Pam Anderson: 5, Mohini: 3

-I love that Alyse Ishino landing short on a pass is the worst thing ever to happen at this competition. In 2000, she would have been given 8 trophies and a landed estate for that routine.
-It happened because Beth and Steve didn't take a creepy family photo with her.
-Never gets old.

-"It's almost like every mistake is a big mistake. There's no other way to put a factor on it." Yeah, not like the scores or anything.

-Poor Kupets. I definitely forgot about the "pawing the beam with your hoof like a pony with a bladder infection" portion of her elite beam choreography.

-"Elfi Schlegel, let's play too high or too low." Elfi Schlegel, let's play Hi Ho Cherry-O.

-If you're wondering why the judges at NCAA Nationals EF in 2010 overscored so hard they pulled a hamstring on McCool's final beam routine, it's because of this glory.

-I hope none of the GAGE gymnasts are claustrophobic because it's totally harrowing when Al/Armine immediately converge for a squeeze sandwich (turkey, lettuce, and vaguely disappointed breathy corrections given directly to your forehead) after a routine. I imagine the Jaws music.
-"This is the prettiest one I've collected..."

-Al's talking about baseball. It makes him feel safe in this foreign environment. It's his blankie.
-"She hit every touch." Nope. That's nothing.

-Hollie's Yang Bo tribute routine, complete with stunning everything and terrifying double tuck. No one can rip her kneecaps off cowboying a misguided double salto quite like a WOGA girl.

-"Ongoing saga" is Tasha's new name.
-It's not nearly at UCLA levels yet, but the girl knows how to use her hips in a floor routine. It's not for everyone. It's not for nearly anyone. But if you're going to do it, take a lesson from Ongoing Saga. Though it's way better in the black leo. This one is a little too "I'm going to sing 'You're A Grand Old Flag' at the 4th-grade talent show" for a bend-and-snap. 

-The national bird of the gymternet:
-Cassie gets us.

-I find "Cellblock Tango" to be a wildly irritating song, but it works for Tricase because "It was a murder but not a crime" is a perfect description of that DLO. Killed it.

-The Rio Olympics will be as far away from the Magnificent Seven as this competition is from Mary Lou Retton. Sit on that.

Chapter 6 (Minute 60): Her Ladyship, Duchess of Daggett 

-DEFCON 60. Threat Level Magenta. Nail the windows shut. Dig a bomb shelter. Bury all your clothes. Carly just fell on a switch split, immediately transforming Tim into one of those sickly duchesses who always faints at dinner parties because her corset is too tight. Get the smelling salts. Daggett down. Daggett down.

-IS SHE CRYING? Maybe! That looks like moisture! WE GOT ONE! Zoom in! Zoom! ZOOM I TELL YOU!
-Carly's face has a little case of the 2000s.

-"Al, you're going to love this routine." Why? Tabitha's leo isn't an American flag, and she's not using music that stereotypically corresponds to her ethnic heritage, so I'm pretty sure he's going to hate it. 

-"Ms. Patterson is like a car that's been dented. You can fix that dent in the shop, but you'll always remember you had it." Um...DA FUQ? Isn't that like what religious nutjobs say about women who dare to have sex?
-I was wondering when the banshees would start circling. Carly, you are damaged goods, and we will never forget this horror.

-No, Tim and Elfi have absolutely not seen Carly perform hundreds of times. Like maybe eight.

-You know what we need to do? Break into discussion groups and spend a hundred more hours talking about Dented Car(ly) and how this is serious (not really) and changed everything (it didn't). 
-Tim even has a pen about it. A pen! Because he's so lost and confused! Timmy needs a nap.

-"Tim and Elfi, what can you say to explain gymnastics to me? Just a disclaimer, you have 16 seconds, and I won't be listening."

-I have to say, I really miss Furious Gesticulations Martha. She's my fourth-favorite Martha, behind Tough-but-Fair Neck Pinch Martha, Passive-Aggressive About a Comeback Martha, and Malibu Martha. 

-Ah yes, the summer of scar closeups. I almost forgot. Remember that time Courtney Kupets didn't have a face?
 -Watch out, Pam Anderson. There's a new starlet in town. Kupets Ankle Scar is a tour-de-force!

-It's really tough to decide what my favorite part of Kupets's batshit floor routine is, but I'm going with "pie in the face, pie in the face, pie in the face, pie in the face." Though it's a very close call between that and "let's all pee with a hula hoop," "crabs don't play that game," and "polishing the silver can get funky, y'all!" 

-"RIGHT TO THE PERIMETER." He was so close to being able to say "OUT OF BOUNDS." Good improvisation, Al. You have a second comment!

-Armine is doing a fun run around the floor exercise at the end of McCool's routine. It's for a good cause! Must suffocate Courtney's forehead with feedback!

-Yes, Al made yet another, even more outdated and unnecessary Austin Powers reference. I told you, he's using the same notes as in 2000.

Chapter 7 (Minute 73): BUT PAM ANDERSON YOU GUYS

-Tim said "Assens Test Event." Teehee. Assens. She beat the entire world.

-Ongoing Saga moves to vault.
-"The scores might not be that great, but that isn't our narrative, so I feel like she's doing really well."
-Wait, you mean some of these scores might be bullshit? I NEVER.

-Secrets, secrets are no fun. Secrets, secrets hurt someone.

-I live for Tasha's "hell no" eyes about this 9.1. And her Martha impression.

-Nailed it. If you can ignore Al's yapping, please listen to Tasha's background honesty about political scoring shenanigans.

-You know who isn't a person, apparently? Annia Hatch. Don't worry. She won't make the team.

-Al just said, "rim rocking shakedown." I don't think that means what you think it means. Looks like we have something else to add to the "don't say it, ever" list.

-The theme of Carly's floor routine is "101 Things To Do with Bent Elbows." You can cover your face, you can perform the life cycle of the butterfly, you can do the hustle, you can raise the roof (some of the way), you can play the piccolo in a marching band, you can teach a lesson on the types of triangles, you can open a giant set of cupboards over and over again, you can be a little teapot. The possibilities are endless.

-"Oh My God, Carly, your elbows were so bent."
-"Thank you!"

-"The two big stars of the American team right now in Kupets." The first time I agree with Al. Kupets is the two biggest stars on the American team.

-To the floor for Pamela Anderson, who Pamela Andersoned her best Pamela Anderson so that Pamela Anderson could Pamela Anderson.
-"She has stayed to the end of night 1." Oh well hip hip hooray. Someone get her a bouquet.
-"Zoom out! The boobs aren't in the shot! Quickkkkk! You're missing it!"

-Oh, Mohini's here? Huh. What do you know.


-"How do you say gigantic and put like a cubed after it?" Oh, Timmy, you little dork.
-Pamela Anderson: 150 million, Mohini: 4
-"Hey everyone, we're grossly ogling Pamela Anderson and laughing about it because JOKES. Isn't this fun???? Wait, there's a gymnastics meet going on? Oh HA HA LA LA LA. BOOBS!"

-Tasha's interview with The Andrea. "Tasha, congratulations on...something. You looked good, not like the shit show we expected to see. Because Las Vegas nightlife. What do you think about that? Best of luck or whatever." The Andrea Joyce National Nightmare begins.

-I love that Tasha was apparently the star of this meet. OK. But it makes sense, because she's the star of everything.
-And then there are, like, two people named Courtney or whatever. Cool. But really...



  1. Just wanted to point out the most important part, that you can see me discussing Vise's "vault" with my BFF in the background of that shot. Also, pie in the face has me in tears.

    1. Even better! You get 100% credit for Hollie's vault performance.

    2. It was driving me nuts all day, I was saying "pie in the face, pie in the face" a certain way in my head, and I couldn't figure out where it was from. It hit me late last night- I was singing "pie in the face, pie in the face" the way Chris Rock sings "dick in the ear, dick in the ear" during one of his stand up specials.

  2. I think this is your best work ever (though I'm partial to Tough-but-Fair Neck Pinch Martha). What would we do without grainy YouTube footage?

  3. I cried tears. Malibu Martha is my higher power.

  4. "Cheng Fei goes to Brestyan's " AHAHA
    please do more of these. also if you aren't just doing trials ones I STRONGLY suggest nationals 1997, the fluff is incredibly melodramatic and everyone is garbage.