September 27, 2015

2004 Olympic Trials Part 2: Courtney McCool's Comedy Oil Change

On to day 2 of the 2004 Olympic Trials competition. And by competition, I mean blathering for two hours while people warm up, with four routines thrown in as a treat. Also a treat, the live team announcement and ceremonial awarding of the emotional trauma and resentment. 

-The TJ MAXX TOUR OF CHAMPIONS is coming to your home town!!!!!!!!! What if you called that number right now and tried to get tickets? "I just want to see Carly Patterson!"
-The "TJ Maxx tour of champions" is also what I call the grocery store on a Sunday morning.

-"You will marvel as these gymnasts deliver gymnastics." TWIST.
-Oh, your senses will be kick-started all right. Particularly your senses of shame and regret.

-Interpretive ode to the red-light district?

-And now, let's begin.
-Ooooh, a flashback episode! "Previously, on the manipulative nightmare that is the Olympic Trials broadcast history, everyone's life was garbage..."

-It's really important to start with an "it'll end in tears" montage. Just to set the tone of the proceedings. Ladies, learn from this. Blubbering is the only goal. 
-Elise Ray is crying. Shannon Miller is crying. Alyssa Beckerman is crying. Beth Rybacki is crying. Obviously. Beth Rybacki is a Native American origin story of how the Great Lakes came to be. Which one's happy? Which one's sad? It doesn't matter. TEARS!

-Al is doing a pretty good job reminiscing about how traumatic that 2000 team announcement debacle was (raw, disorganized, abrupt, and unnecessary public and painful), but it's hard to tell whether that's supposed to be a good thing or a bad thing. Given the forthcoming 2004 announcement, I'm thinking it's supposed to be a good thing. "Imagine your worst nightmare. I can't wait to watch all of it."

-Yes, Bela decided to step down after 2000. Everyone else was going, "Please continue, Bela! It went so well! We love and need you!" That's what happened. 

-Turn back the clock to when Martha was also appearing as Sister Margaretta/Understudy Maria in Bucharest's longest-running production of The Sound of Music.
-When I was in elementary school, my haircut of choice was The Martha. #styleicon

-"Are they able to hold up, or not?" Well, that pretty much sums up the Martha era, doesn't it? Spoiler alert: mostly not.

-Did Al just refer to Martha as a "girl"? Yes, little Martha the schoolgirl. She's really excited to start second grade.

-"This is the real O.C." Oh. This era. I forgot. Al, please stop making me want to go back and watch The O.C. to make fun of Mischa Barton's horrible enunciation and "putting your hair behind your left ear counts as acting" performance strategy. Kristen Stewart owes her so much.
-(Marisa should have died in Tijuana in season one. I said it.)

-Wait, we missed the first rotation??? Of trials??? Scandal! Outrage! You're lucky Twitter wasn't a thing then. I feel like we need to put together an army of retroactive poop emojis just to make up for it now.
-They really listened to all those gym fans who said, "I'd like the broadcast to stay the same length, just with 25% less gymnastics. Fill that time with talking, please." 

-OH MY GOD. You guys, for a second I was worried that Pam Anderson wasn't there for day 2. Al mentioned her name, and we didn't immediately see a close-up of her chest, and I freaked out. WHAT WOULD WE HAVE DONE? But you can relax. The star of trials is here.
 -The competition may now continue. Carry on, worthless non-famouses!

-But really, if I had $20,000, I would donate it to that DLO full. Praise its light. Basically, I want to adopt Mohini's DLO full and take it clothes shopping and drop it off at school while embarrassingly shouting, "I love you," as it walks away. 

-"It has always been the top all-around athletes." False. 2000. While it may come as a surprise to the great narrative overlords in the sky, Atler finished ahead of Dawes in the all-around despite turning into a volcano science project mid-competition.

-Elfi got in a really high-quality "UGH" after Mohini dared to wobble on a punch front. Oh, I've missed you, disgusted groan. This was one of her strongest, too. 9.600. And now the competition is officially underway. As per USAG guidelines, competitions cannot begin until Elfi waves the checkered UGH.
-So thick, the condescending disappointment. "Probably starts from a 9.7, like a trash go to the chalk bucket and think about what you've done."

-"She got a 9.375 and looked great doing it." That's as close as Al will ever come to going, "Weeeeeerrrrrrkkk queeeeeeeeeen."

-1.5 pirouettes on bars. In loving memory. I'll always remember the times we shared. And don't give me that "they're so hard to finish in handstand" excuse because these people are doing it fine. You just need to try harder to be more like Tabitha Yim. As does everyone, always.

-Uh oh! It's time to show a replay from a previous day. That can only mean one thing: obsessively dissecting and giving unwarranted significance to an oopsie! BECAUSE MEMORIES. It's literally the only reason there's ever a replay.
-But this is just an early dress rehearsal for the upcoming "Alicia's beam falls on a perpetual loop" era. The routine I've seen the most from 2004 Nationals is Alicia falling on beam, and the routine I've seen the most from the 2008 Olympics is Alicia falling on beam. And I think that's true for every person alive.

-You can actually hear Elfi's soul shoot out of her body the moment Dented Carly comes off on her arabian.

-Have you ever noticed that any time someone falls, Tim and Elfi (may she rest in peace) always stop in the middle of their reactions, like "Oh my g..." and "I can't b..." and then just finish with a bizarre exhale that can only be described as "the contractions have started"? It's as if they're rushing to censor themselves, and I always think, what were you about to say? Just once I want to get a "fucking shit" out of Tim after a fall. 

-It's cute that Elfi pretends she puts her pencil down when Carly goes on beam. Like she has a pencil. What would she be writing? "UGH. Huhhhhhh. AUGF. Unbelievable."


-"Martha confided in me that she wants the team to be better." THE SECRETS. Tim's got the scoop.

-"The bubbly personality of Liz Tricase." OUCH. Knife in the front. When they start talking about your personality, you might as well pack it in. Actually, it's a double whammy because she got "great personality" and "great improvement" for the same routine. She was just one "real leader in the training gym" away from achieving the NCAA never-making-a-lineup trifecta.

-Carly still gets a 9.300 with the fall. Because Carly.

-"New Sprite Remix Berryclear." That is all.
-No it's not. What the hell is a berryclear? Is that like a Scientology thing?

-Oooh, some serious cinematography going on there. Call the Oscars. Carly, so small, so far away, feeling so insignificant, as the humongous pressure of American expectations looms around her. You're getting deep here, guys.

-"Martha, I'm your birth mother."

-Did Al just shoutingly root for Tasha to stick? I've never heard him do that before. He has a special place in his heart for Tasha because of how much drama juice they've squeezed out of her backstory over the years.

-There were just a couple little, nitpicky, tiny, super small, iffy, maybe, never mind, please don't think I'm mean things in that routine. Yeah, like that giant arched handstand at the beginning. So nitpicky. It has been a major struggle over the years for them to find the balance between "PASSIVE-AGGRESSIVE SWAMP BEAST OF THE WORLD" and "I'm so sorry for almost doing my job, everyone is a beautiful flower!"

-I have to admit, Hollie's beam routine would make me say, "You can come to Oklahoma and just do beam" too. "You don't even have to do skills. Just pose flexibly for a while and shoot 10s out of your hip joints like a stormtrooper. The judges will understand." This is why I'll never be KJ Kindler. I don't have that "I swear you'll do one vault your senior year, even if it kills both of us" vision.

-Remember that bizarre narrative from 2008 of "the Chinese watched Nastia do E pirouettes at Worlds last year, and now they're copying her routine!" Like no one had ever done them before. 

-Can we please talk about Martha's rousing rendition of "The Wheels on the Bus" after Hollie's bars routine? Except, memo to Martha, it ends "all through the town," not "and then I bite chicken drumstick." Common mistake. 19:40 for reference. Do it.

-Hollie also thinks that 9.500 was some bullshit.

-BUMP CITY. Life=complete. Armine is so street, you guys. She made a mix called Bump City. I want to hear it right now. Because, as we know, that gym is bumpin'.
-P.S., what exactly is "crazy gymnastic noise"? You mean like after an NCAA stick? Or like the hand-slapping man-grunt of man-ppreciation after dismounting the man-bar? Or just Afanasyeva's new floor music? 

-Even more extreme than on night one. Are you incubating her?

-"That difficult spin with the dismount." Whoa, cool it with the jargon, Al.

-The crowd totally just Saved-by-the-Bell-audienced that McCool beam score. That's one thing you do miss in an open-ended code, sourly rolling your eyes at populist booing. Also, remember how Slater would always call Jessie "Mama," and everyone was like, "That's not a weird thing to say"? Because I do. 

-Now it's time for Kupets to soothe the crowd by teaching us where fairies come from. It's from her.

-Out of all the incredibly accomplished people with long medal histories in this competition, Allyse Ishino maybe isn't the best example of someone with a huge resume.
-BUT SHE WON THE PACIFIC ALLIANCE CHAMPIONSHIPS. Oh, well sound the alarm. End the competition right now. Send her to Greece as all six members.

-Uh oh. Ishino showed a moment of enjoyable personality after that stick. Disqualified.

-Um, excuse me???
-Where are the thousand secret service agents who are supposed to be pepper-spraying that little girl into a puddle for getting dangerously close to Her Ladyship mid-competition? Distractions! Mary Lee would have smelted her. I feel like the political crazies need to spend a little less time talking about putting up a wall with Mexico and a little more time talking about putting up a wall between Kupets and peasants. 

-That was some epic trolling of Tia Orlando right there. "Next up, a gymnast from Parkettes...LOL NO. HA! Did you really think we were going to show you? That's adorable. You're like in 50th. Shut your loser face. Commercial!"

-"Carly Patterson falls into the standings." That must hurt.

-Good thing we went to a commercial break during Tia Orlando's routine so that we could return for Al to spend the next 20 minutes playing improv games about Carly Patterson during the entire warmup for this rotation. Good use of time.

-"Falls are not a good thing." I'M FULL OF WISDOM.

-"Larissa Fontaine. Her role is as...the third one."
 -Christ, this warmup is taking for DAMN EVER. Even I'm getting bored. When there's time for an extended biography of the athlete rep, there's a lot of time to fill. Dynamic moment! At that point, I basically expected them to go to a fluff piece about her. Larissa Fontaine floating in an innertube going, "Being the athlete rep is medium."

-"So, um, damn, what else is there to talk about? In the next few minutes, we'll see Tabitha Yim, Carly Patterson, Tasha Schwikert, Chelle Stack, Kathy Johnson, an old boot, some slow motion footage of tumbleweeds, Elfi's vacation slides, and literally everyone and everything except Tia Orlando."

-WAIT. THE TOP TWO PEOPLE FROM THIS COMPETITION MAKE THE TEAM? Stop the fucking presses. You've never said that before.
-Seriously, you guys. You could be showing Pamela Anderson right now! Wasted opportunity. 

-"Go to the camp to be part of...what goes on there." Blood oaths and orphan sacrifice.

-"To me, I get this feeling that Tabitha Yim has been getting a lot of 9.3s."
 -WHAT GIVES YOU THAT IDEA? Al's sixth sense is reading.

-That fun game where your floor music begins with the wail of a constipated goose.
-On day one, I forgot to include "Shamelessly pandering to Martha by also performing 'Wheels on the Bus'" to the list of things Carly shows us you can do with bent elbows. 102 things.

-At this point, I know more about Tasha's parents' work schedules than I do about Annia Hatch's entire life. We need to put together a gymnastics trivia contest, but with questions like "What hours do Tasha Schwikert's parents work?" and "Does Mo Huilan's mother know that she smiles?" and "What was Tatiana Gutsu's reaction to Roza Galieva being pulled from the all-around?"
-Answer key: A) 7pm to 3am; B) Of course she does, you garbage demon; and C) She undahstyand how her feelin'.

-"[Extended pause] She wasn't great." Well played, Tim.
-Also, "definite bubble person" is the least flattering descriptive adjective of all time.

-"I'm getting irritated, and I have nothing to do." I think we found a title for Al's autobiography!

-Remember when beam mounts were a thing? And people didn't just sit on the beam like it's Santa's lap and then wrist for five seconds and call it magical.

-Whoa. Elfi just explained start value and bonus in a helpful and succinct way during this routine to assist viewers in understanding a bit of the scoring system. I don't even know what to do. THE CASUAL VIEWERS MUST BE REPULSED. MORE GRUNTS AND NARRATIVE PLEASE. I NEED A GREEN TRIANGLE.
-It's why Tasha screwed up that dismount. She was bowled over by competence.

-Stop. Also, drop and roll. Andrea has HUGE BREAKING NEWS. Courtney McCool is learning to drive and her mom taught her basic car maintenance, like how to do an oil change. Wow. You'll definitely want to send out a press release about that one. Call everyone. Do everything.
-For some reason, the trio thinks this is the funniest thing ever to happen in history. HA HA HA. THAT'S CRAZY. How will driving help her gymnastics? Why would a gymnast need to know how a car works? HA HA HA. 

-You guys, Courtney McCool is a threat to win the Olympic all-around.

-Now we're doing the housekeeping? This broadcast has been nothing but housekeeping. It's basically Mihai's vacuum, the meet. With two Carly routines thrown in.
-But it does mean there's time for Al to call out that any time Tasha doesn't get a 10, it is a failure of civilization. Correct. I didn't really notice before that Al loves the crap out of Tasha Schwikert. It's the closest I've ever felt to him.

-I'll show you where you can put your 9.1, bitches.

-Courtney McCool "bounced and exploded." Who wants to go to the hospital?

-Now Al and Tim are telling us about how the gymnasts aren't little girls. You literally just called her and Kupets "little kids" before this routine.

-Oh fun! More Kupets scar porn!
-Sadly, as far as fluff pieces go, this one is a little normal, aside from the seriously bizarre script. "She didn't care that time heals all wounds. She just wanted time to heal hers." Babbling nonsense. Zero.
-They didn't even make her try to get on an innertube with that huge boot. Useless.
-Anyway, it never had a chance to live up to the Schwikert fluff from day 1. We really could have used a physical therapist telling her that this rehab center isn't no city championships. 

-Kupets was too focused on getting through "pie in the face" cleanly, which is why she screwed up that double arabian. Though both "pie in the face" and "funky silver polishing" were career-best in this one. So that's something. Funky silver polishing is going to be a D in the 2020 code.

-Al, after Kupets finishes floor: "Well, we have seen some weird stuff." Yes, we have. True. Al's on fire tonight.

-"Now guys, I don't understand Courtney McCool." That was Georgia's team motto in 2010. They're getting slightly pitchforky that McCool didn't get a 9.650, like she's the damn Ponor or something.  

-"Sheeeeeee's waaaaaaaatching......."
-Hey, Al. If possible, could you make the entirely mundane fact that the national team coordinator is viewing the competition sound just a little creepier? 
-That's also the tagline for the latest Martha horror movie, Camp Carcass 4: Verification of Blood.

-For reference, "going through the emotional wringer" consists of having a bad warmup and then hitting in competition. Such a roller coaster!

-Al's notecard that says "Mohini Bhardwaj: A) Pamela Anderson, B) Super old, C) See A" must be in tatters by this point. Time for another 64-minute visit to Pam's Luxury Suite to remind us what's important. BYE TIA ORLANDO.

-There's a lot more to this story. Still. Apparently. God.
-OH GOOD ANDREA'S HERE. The moment we've all been waiting for.

-Pamela Anderson, totally loving everything about this moment. 
-"You would think that Pamela Anderson would be related to Mo." Literally no one has ever thought that. 
-"Everyone has been very, very interested in your famousness. Tell us more about famous."
-Give credit to Pam for trying to turn the interview around to be about Mohini's accomplishments, which Andrea immediately interrupts to go, "Who? Yuck. MORE FAMOUS PLEASE."

-"Al, if you need a guardian angel or fairy godmother, this one's taken!" God, get off her jock, Andrea.
-"And Al, one time she saw John Stamos on a plane. And he told her she was pretty."

-Oh yes. Excellent. The overtly lecherous post-Pam-Anderson-interview comments, day 2 edition. "Let her know we have adult classes at my gym......HA HA HA APPROPRIATE."
-Elfi thinks that's even more hilarious than McCool driving a car. Also, I've never heard that sound from a human person. 

-"How awesome was it? Awesome." Awesome, bros.

-Ah, Martha's "I really thought that would suck more" face. We know it well.

-Nope. Scrape me up off the floor. I've just been rendered smithereens by Al's wildly labored attempt at a Baywatch pun. "Bhard-watch." No.

-Tim's "melt me please" laugh after that pun is even more delicious contrasted with Elfi's "WE'RE HAVING FUN, ALMOST LIKE REAL FRIENDS" laugh from a second ago. 

-What, now we have to do Terin Humphrey's housekeeping? Better get six glitter vacuums. It's going to be a long night.

-"If it stays that way, they go to Athens." Immediately. Tonight. Do not pass the ranch, do not collect 200 ankle sprains.

 -"Andrea Joyce is alongside too doing some fun interviewing up in the luxury suites." Yeah. Fun. Al said the word "fun" exactly the way I would in the sentence, "Wow, what a fun newsboy cap."

-We haven't seen a routine in exactly 50 hours. So, let's talk about whether tonight's competition has changed anything. It hasn't? Great update.
-I love that they're not even bothering to try to put teams together or talk about who might make it. It's just like, "Yeah, I've got nothing." Because 2004.
-They also didn't yet have the fancy technological advancements to help them make sense of things that we'd see in 2012.

-Yes, "the emotion she stirs up in the crowd" is why Mohini would be put on the team. That's a reason.

-Tasha is praying to the gods of SHUT UP AND SHOW SOME GODDAMN ROUTINES.

-"Not just good, not just great, but like a sparkle." That's the scale. Poor, Fair, Good, Great, Sparkle. Tim just explained gymnastics in 10 words.

-Really. Looked. Tired. What if every time you looked in the mirror, Al popped up to go, "Really. Looked. Tired."?

-I know 11 years is a long-ass time, but it's still remarkable to me how much things have changed on vault. Here, a 1.5 is a relatively impressive feat, and a DTY is staggering magic. Fast forward even to 2009, and a 1.5 is already WHY DO YOU SUCK MORE THAN CHOLERA?

-Look! We've once again arrived at the quadrennial C-team, "hope you enjoy NCAA so much" portion of the trials broadcast. Tsk tsk tsk. Used up all your Carly routines and Carly speculation and Carly closeups way too early, and now you have to show random nobodies who don't even know a famous person. Maybe now Tia Orlando can...NOPE.

-At Olympic Trials, "verge of tears" is just the general resting expression.

-You know the trio had a bet where the last person to shout "OUT OF BOUNDS" had to pay for dinner. You know it.

-Sam Sheehan's "malfunctioning robot maid" choreography is worth another look. "The Dust-a-Tron 3000! She's going haywire!"
-Elfi thinks it "didn't feel alive." Yeah. That's because it's robot-themed, Elfi. Keep up. "There wasn't a spark." I disagree. That robot maid was sparking all over the place.

-It's also worth heading to 1:11:36 to hear Al go through puberty during Kupets' vault score.

-Al just threw some powerful shade at people who go crazy for t-shirt guns. Good job. When faced with any sort of live-event coerced enthusiasm, it's important to intentionally adopt a lack of enthusiasm out of protest. Otherwise how will they learn?

-Although, Al's Pamela Anderson Tourettes is also really acting up he more tired he gets. If this competition went three days, he would have started shouting "Pamela Anderson!" at random moments during all routines.

-"And then there's Annia Hatch." WHAT WHO IS THAT?
-13 minutes before the end of the second day, we get our first Annia Hatch sighting. But not a routine because she's totally on the F Team.
-Also a huge missed opportunity to talk about how elderly she is. 

-Why did every single piece of American floor music in 2004 consist of a billion-decibel brass marching band? Because you know what's a fun sound? A thousand trumpets.

-"I'd say it's impossible." Terin falls. "YES I WAS RIGHT."
-Hey, remember how amazing coaching allowed Terin to hit this vault on night one? What about now?

-Special invitations to the selection camp. I wish they were actual invitations, like with calligraphy. The Honorable Lady of Karolyi would be honored by your presence at the Palace of Broken Dreams in the year two thousand four AD.

-"Carly Janiga, a 9.275 on whore." It's what he said.

-Tabitha's floor music is so ominous. It's very "foreshadowing a natural disaster." It's the music you use right before the tornado hits the trailer part.  

-"Do they call that a stick?" Let me think. Because it wasn't. This isn't Utah, and she's not Tory Wilson. Pull it together, Tim.

-This is really stretching the definition of "comeback." Hitting after a fall isn't a "comeback." 

-Speed demon Andrea rushed all the way down from combing Pamela Anderson's hair and telling her how fierce she is so that she could sift the Courtneys for emotions like a damn prospector.
-"Kupets, please stop acting normally. I'm going to need you to lose your shit. This is television, not a tea party. Why didn't you act like like a children's clown after you finished vault?"
-"McCool, can you do a little better job bursting into tears than old Iron Eyes Kupets?"

-Elite McCool and Georgia McCool are completely different people. Was this like a Parent Trap situation, but no one ever noticed?

-"You can't drive to the Olympics. All you can do is fly...through the air..." What? What is this? What are you even saying?

-Let's compare the really-important-that-you-have-a-camera-in-here locker room shenanigans from 2000 to 2004.
2000: 50 weeping nervous breakdowns in the corner.
2004: Signing a commemorative t-shirt. For a walrus, apparently.
-Let's watch more of this awesome television. I love seeing people sign autographs for 81 hours. Aren't there any closed doors you could be showing?

Team announcement: Hollie Vise's gymnastics legacy

-This is serious. Because office work.
-"In this very room...someone might send a fax. Or file a document."

-Remember how they made them sit on those goddman janky old bleachers and those 70s plastic patio chairs, like they all arrived late to a softball game? What is this production?

-"This disgusting dirt road...with the middle of nowhere." You can tell within the first few seconds that Andrea has already decided that she's never coming back. Put that in her contract. Where's the Four Seasons?

-But for most of them...their dreams will wither into nothingness right in front of us. Yessss. No vultures here!

-In 2004, NBC was really into turning everything into the opening credits of a reality show.
-Hollie "the situation" Vise.

-Oh. My.
-Elfi walked in going, "Talbots in the HIZZY!"

-But the big thing to watch is who is going to get the bars specialist spot. Oops.

-Really? A round of applause for the selection committee? "Hooray! You walked three steps to these bleachers! YOU DID IT!"

-You can tell they really tried to get Martha to drag this out and read the names with reality show suspense, but her timing was all over the place. No pregnant pauses at the proper moments to build the drama with corresponding closeups of essential people. She'll never host a signing competition with this attitude.

-I'm completely dead at these pageanty almost-hugs as each person is named. Let me touch as little of you as possible while leaning my chin two centimeters forward. Because of BEST FRIENDS. I guess my wrists can touch your back, but that's all.

-Practicing the Hollie Vise closeups before Annia is even named #6. 

-Ugh, Carly Janiga, not even bothering to cry or anything. What is the point of her? PASS.

-In my memory (it had been maybe 6-7 years since I last watched this), and after all the years of hearing people talk about it over and over again, I had the impression that the Hollie-tears-cam was way more extreme than it actually is. They don't focus on her for all that long. It's still bizarre and completely exploitative, but in my head it was way worse. 


-"Now, we'll send you back to Tom Hammond in Sacramone." Nailed it. Really fitting conclusion there.

-It's easy to second-guess this team because of the extreme disgrace of winning an Olympic silver medal, but to me this was the most logical selection option. It made sense to load up on vaulters rather than add bars/beam routines that weren't theoretically going to add all that much to the team score as long as everything went to plan with the chosen 6. Obviously, it didn't go to plan, and some of the lineups decisions in TF were pretty ".................," but this team makes the most sense at this point in time. 


  1. You really missed out on an opportunity to photoshop a dong in Pamela Anderson's hand. It's OK, there will be others.

  2. i had a really shitty day and this made me laugh for the first time in actual many days. what i am saying is, for my mental health, please please please do more of these.

  3. "The "TJ Maxx tour of champions" is also what I call the grocery store on a Sunday morning."

    This is my favorite. I haven't even read past it yet but I loved it so much I had to stop and comment.

  4. also please do 2001 trials next because they are amazing on every level.

  5. just loved this. thank you!

  6. "the bubbly personality of Liz Tricase" cracked me up. This continued into her NCAA days, when her butt became even bigger. Announcers would always say things that were almost double entendres. They'd say like, "Watch her, she has a HUGE... vault." Her personality certainly wasn't why they went right to the word bubbly.