By ROB BRODIE -- Ottawa Sun
Maybe it's a hockey thing.
Maybe we can blame Don Cherry.
But Ron MacLean has shown at these Sydney Games that he's much more than a pun-master or somebody else's straight man (hmmm ... who could that be?).
While Brian Williams continues to set the standard for Olympic Games hosts, the man best known for his Hockey Night in Canada work keeps proving he's no poor second cousin in that regard.
The CBC's early morning host was shoved into the middle of the Eric Lamaze mess over the past two days, and responded with some of his best work of the Olympics so far.
Tuesday morning, MacLean was called upon to handle the initial interview of Lamaze after an Ottawa adjudicator overturned his lifetime ban. Mac-Lean's interview was solid and, almost as important, set the table for Williams to grill Lamaze much more strongly in the evening.
Yesterday, in the wake of the Canadian Olympic Association's decision to ban Lamaze from the Sydney Games, MacLean sat down with COA executive director Mark Lowry for what turned out to be a fascinating little get-together.
The interview's best moments came when talk strayed to Canada's low medal count at the Games, and the problems ailing amateur sport in Canada.
This exchange was particularly memorable.
MacLean: "If we come home with two medals or even half of (the 22) we won in Atlanta, there's going to be complaining."
Lowry: "I hope so."
Viewers appreciate that kind of frankness. Credit MacLean for bringing it out.
THE OVERNIGHT SHIFT:
Why it must be the Olympics -- Part 3. Where else could calling someone "nice jerk" be considered a compliment? Ah, yes, that would be CBC analyst Aldo Roy, referring to a successful attempt in weightlifting ... CBC reporter Tom Harrington said it all for those who have found Dutch swimmer Pieter van den Hoogenband's name to be a mouthful. "He may be the biggest name in the Olympics -- literally," he said before an interview with the five-syllabled one after his win in the 100-metre freestyle ... Give NBC credit for this: The jingoism has been toned down, and the U.S. network is paying much more attention to non-American athletes this time around.
DOWN UNDUH TALK:
You might be thinking this and yes, it's true -- the Sydney Games are literally on TV every minute of the day. CBC takes care of 18 hours. Watching TSN from noon-6 p.m. and 8-9 a.m., and NBC from 11 p.m.-midnight takes care of the rest of your day ... Speaking of NBC, this is how bad things are getting ratings-wise: There is already talk about the network giving extra spots to advertisers who were promised a 17.5-18.5 rating and aren't getting anywhere near it. NBC is on pace for the lowest-rated Olympics ever on U.S. television.
"All my friends are getting crazy. I hope they'll get drunk again." -- Van den Hoogenband, after his 100-metre freestyle victory.