JESSICA: Welcome to episode one of GymCastic, the best gymnastics podcast on the web. I’m your host, Jessica O’beirne from Masters-Gymnastics.com, and I’m joined with…
BLYTHE: My name is Blythe Lawrence, and I write the Gymnastics Examiner.
SPANNY: I’m Spanny Tampson, from Spanny Tampson’s Big Fake Smile.
UNCLE TIM: And I’m Uncle Tim from Uncle Tim Talks Men’s Gym.
JESSICA: So welcome to our first podcast. Today we’re going to talk a little bit about what’s going on, and the latest in gymnastics news. We are going to have a tour review by Uncle Tim, who went to the San Jose Show. And then we have the first part of our epic, fantastic, and incredibly exciting interview with the one and only Tim Daggett. So we’re going to go ahead and get started. Let me first tell you first when you can find us. You can always find us on our website, at Gymcastic.com–and that’s gym as in gym as in gymnastics, cast as in podcast, and tic and in fantastic. And you can also find us on Twitter, we’re @GymCastic on Twitter. We have a Facebook page. And if you want to get in touch with us, give us feedback, let us know who you want hear from and what you think of the show, you can contact us at Gymcastic@gmail.com, and you’ll soon be able to subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, and of course you can always get the Podcast on our website. So, um, let’s get started with Blythe. What’s going on in the news?
BLYTHE: Well, we’re kind of in the post-Olympic portion of the year, where there’s not a lot of competitions coming up immediately on the horizon and so the gymnasts that we saw in London are focusing on other things. In the US, there’s the Kellogg’s Tour of Gymnastics Champions, and there’s been a bit of news that came out of the tour this week. We had injuries unfortunately to McKayla Maroney, who has just had surgery for a broken tibia, and Aly Raisman. A lot of people saw that video online as well where she unfortunately smashed her knees on cement, falling off the uneven bars during a group routine. Gabby Douglas as signed two book deals with Zondervan, a Christian publishing arm of HarperCollins, and the first one will be out by Christmas. It’s going to be more focused on inspirational messages rather than gymnastics according to her agent, Sheryl Shade, and she also said that it is already half done. Internationally, the Romanians say that Catalina Ponor and Sandra Izbasa will continue training. That’s the word out of the Romanian Press. Great Britain’s Jenni Pinches has retired from gymnastics. She sent out her retirement tweet as she was getting on a plane to go and do some volunteering in Ecuador for several months, so she definitely seems to be moving on with her life. Stateside, also, Danell Leyva has apparently been considering joining the Spider-Man show in New York City. He said that show business is something that really interests him and it interests John Orozco as well, but Orozco’s on tour and Leyva is not. Other than that, it’s been a pretty quiet week. Oh, one other thing. The Russians are having a sort of post-Olympic briefing in Mallorca in Spain and hopefully they’re getting some fun as well as doing some conditioning. There were some videos online of Maria Paseka doing something other than vault—she appears to be training a markelov to gienger combination on bars, and that’s kind of exciting.
JESSICA: Mmm, cool.
BLYTHE: And that’s about what I’ve got.
JESSICA: Alright. So, I have heard that Kathy Kelly has descended upon the Kellogg’s tour in order to make sure that there is someone on safety watch. You know, it looked like…I mean, we knew that Maroney already had a broken toe, she already has the stress fracture in her leg, and she was still doing—I mean, it wasn’t a hard trick, but it was, you know, she’s landing from, like, whatever, ten or fifteen feet in the air and then ended up, you know, breaking her leg again, so–cause it’s the same leg, right or is it the opposite leg? I can’t remember.
BLYTHE: The tibia. She broke her left tibia.
JESSICA: Yeah, ok. So Kathy Kelly it sounds like has come down to the tour that has maybe existing injuries is doing anything that could exacerbate or cause another injury, and then hopefully is also making sure, in my opinion, you know, that having mats on the floor that are regulation length. Cause, to me, I don’t know, you know, Tim was there so he could tell us, but to me it looked like that mat was shorter than what the regulation length is and she had peeled when—I’m talking about Aly Raisman—it looked like when she peeled, if that had been a regular regulation mat she wouldn’t have half landed on the cement. So anyway. That’s what I’ve heard about the tour. Does anybody know why Leyva is not doing the tour? Does anybody think it might have something to do with his sexy tweets?
UNCLE TIM: I haven’t heard anything. I mean…I think you were the one who mentioned that it could possibly be because he couldn’t earn money going on the Hispanic shows on television and radio, but yeah, I haven’t heard anything definitive. Anyone else?
JESSICA: Yeah, I guess it’s all speculation at this point. I was really hoping to see him, but maybe we’ll find out. Maybe we’ll get him on the show. Danell, give us a call, let us know when we can interview you, and we’ll discuss this at length, and you can tell us all about Spider-Man. So Uncle Tim went to the tour in San Jose, and he’s going to give us his review now.
UNCLE TIM: So, my tour experience was sponsored by Gordon Biersch beer. After seeing Nastia do a rhythmic balance beam routine, I thought I would need a little something-something to help me out. So every time I heard someone yell, “Go Gabby!”, and it was Elizabeth Price, the other African-American girl on tour, I took a sip. Every time I heard someone yell, “Go Nastia!”, when it was Mary Sanders, the other blonde girl on tour, I took a sip. When I saw the men come out with mushrooms in hand, I took a sip. I mean, pommel horse isn’t really a strong for Team USA and not really the most interesting either. And on top of that, they were wearing clothing at first.
UNCLE TIM: So I took another sip. WTF. Anyway, the men circled a bit, did a few back tucks off the mushrooms, and they did a scale while standing on the mushrooms, which was when half of my beer magically disappeared. The rest of it disappeared when the men tried to do grapevines during the dance. They were, they were not very good at that. They were ok when they just had to stand there and pose and flex. So when it came down to, you know, a grapevine, which isn’t even like a tour jete or anything, it wasn’t very good. I think could have used a few lessons from Abby Leaden-Norr, and she probably could have ridiculed them until they cried. So fresh out of beer, I was a little concerned after seeing a couple dances, and then the magic happened. The men took off their shirts.
UNCLE TIM: It was like poetry in motion. Seriously, let me read a few of the lyrics for you. “When I walk in the spot (yeah), this is what I see (ok) / Everybody stops and they staring at me /
I got passion in my pants and I ain’t afraid to show it, show it, show it, show it / I’m sexy and I know it.” I mean, isn’t that pure poetry? Honestly, I can’t tell you why the members of LMFAO aren’t poet lauretes yet? But, I don’t know. Anyway. So, unfortunately, the men didn’t actually show us the “passion in their pants”, but you know who came close on several occasions? Nastia Liuken. So, all of us on this podcast are old enough to remember the year 2000, and you might recall that Britney Spears wore a little blue bra and jammies number with rhinestones to the VMAs and sang “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction” and “Oops…I Did It Again”. Well, Nastia wore that same outfit, but the unitard version of it. Twice. Not just once, twice. And there’s this one really moment featuring the unitard, so—let me set this up for you. The Fierce Five head to the balance beam, and they’re wearing white, flowy, angelic numbers, and there is some classical music playing in the background, and the beams are in the shape of a cross. Ok? And each girl, minus McKayla Maroney, mounted the beam. And Kyla did a lovely aerial front walkover into sheep jump, and Gabrielle Douglas also did a lovely aerial front walkover—side note, aerial front walkovers are the new front layouts. They’re lovely until you have to see a million of them. Anyway, thankfully Jordyn didn’t do an aerial front walkover, because she did her lovely front handspring walkover, whatever that is, and then Aly did her sheep into her layout stepup, ok? After that the Fierce Four walked toward the center of the cross, and then, that’s when the magic happened. So the girls looked up, into the sky, and suddenly Nastia Liuken emerges and ascends up, and she’s holding onto the scope and she’s ascending up and she’s doing some splits, and then suddenly, as she is descending, her hands go all into the shape of a cross. I’m not even making this up, ok? So I’ve travelled the world a lot in my life. I’ve been to many a cathedral, including the Vatican, and I have yet to see a stained glass window of a female, blonde, rhinestone beauty Jesus. That’s what Nastia was, ok? And it is a little bit sacrilegious, but I think that Lady Gaga and Madonna are probably [unintelligible 11:15-17]. Anyway, all snark aside, I’m giving four shushunovas out of five. Like I said, I came in with really low expectations after seeing the rhythmic balance beam routine, but it was pretty great. I mean, there are a few little adorable kids doing gymnastics—I mean, they did, actually, the senior elites did really big tricks; there were double layouts, there are ishabeedos on floor, there’s a huge Gabby Douglas Tkatchev on bars, there were rhythmic gymnasts, and acro gymnasts, and trampoline, and there are men performing on parallel bars in see-through silver and lame pants…There’s something for everyone, and that’s why I’m giving it four shushunovas. So now, my big question for everyone here is would you go see the tour? And, considering the fact that Gabby is going to be dropping out early and McKayla’s not performing—what do you guys think? Would you guys go see it? Let’s start with Blythe.
BLYTHE: Oh yeah. It’s coming to Seattle on September 24th, I think, and I’ve already got tickets! Really excited. As far as, you know, two of the five maybe not performing, it doesn’t bother me that much. I mean, it’s show gymnastics, and so you kind of, you don’t sign up thinking it’s going to be an elite competition. And it’s nice to see the girls just hanging out, having fun, being teenagers because in the Olympic run-up they didn’t have much of an opportunity, and so it’s good to see that now.
UNCLE TIM: What about you, Jessica?
JESSICA: Well, I have to say that I have not seen the tour since ’96, and I never saw it again after ’96 because it was so bad. And so I’m going, but this time around I am going on, I’m going actually to the one tonight in LA where the LMFAO guy is actually supposed to be there with his own super lyrics and then going tomorrow to Anaheim. But I have to say that I did get free tickets, and that’s really much the only reason I’m going. [[LAUGHS]] Cause otherwise…I don’t know, I just, it’s expensive, oh my God! Like, the front, like the lower levels here there, like, 100 bucks. Like, for 100 bucks I can go see Cirque de Soleil for that, and like I love to support gymnastics like, obviously I totally love it, but, you know, like for 100 dollars, like I want to see hard skills. But I’m excited to see the tour, and, you know, from what I’ve heard they’re doing some real skills and I’m super excited to see—I don’t wanna, ok, spoiler alert, cover your ears for the next ten seconds if you don’t want to hear this, but—apparently Anna Li and Chellsie Memmel do a high bar routine at the end, and that is like what I’m really excited to see. But in general, you know, I just find it, I don’t know, kinda boring but I’m really excited to see this and it sounds like they’ve really stepped it up with this tour and there’re doing more higher levels skills and they have, like, a really professional choreographer putting the whole thing together and dancers and so, you know, I’m looking forward to seeing it.
UNCLE TIM: And Spanny?
SPANNY: I am with Jessica in that, one I just magically have happened to stumble upon tickets. Paying hundreds of dollars for prancing Sexy and I Know It probably wouldn’t fly. Also, in that the last tour I’ve seen was after 1996, and that was it for me, that was my life. I took like five rolls of film and waited for weeks to get copies of those to get made. Nothing is going to live up to 1996 to me. But that also means that I’m excited to see it. To see, you know, how it holds up, I am—I have very low expectations, but that said I’m not spending any money, you know, aside from booze, and so it’s a win-win situation
UNCLE TIM: And do you guys have any questions about the tour, I guess, anything that—any rumors, any clarifications that you need?
JESSICA: Some people are saying that, like, they thought that the floor was a little bit unsafe because it had…like, people were bouncing off the floor and there was, like, no mats around it, like, do you feel like that…did you see some of that, or did you agree with that at all?
UNCLE TIM: Yeah, so there is a routine, of sorts, when the gymnasts cross-tumble, and I guess it seems unsafe because a lot of gymnasts over-rotated their routines, but at the same time, I have gone to a lot of college gymnastics meets, and that’s the setup. You have the floor, and then you have the cement or wood floor of the gym next to it, so I guess I wasn’t too surprised by that, and even in the competition you don’t necessarily have matting all the way around, you have the podium. So I can see how that would be a concern. My bigger concern would be when the gymnasts do, not really a routine, but they grab on to these Olympic rings and they are shot up into the air and then are kind-of just climbing around it. The women just sit, but they go pretty high up in the air, and the only thing below them is the spring floor, and they’re not strapped in, they don’t have harnesses on or anything, they’re just kind of there in the air, and if they fall, it’s a long way down, so that would be one of the bigger safety concerns. And then, in terms of the bars, they do have one set of bars that have regulation-size mats, and then another set of bars that doesn’t, and the set that doesn’t have the regulation mats is where Aly Raisman fell, at least from what I saw on the videos—I wasn’t in Ontario. But, I mean, I think there are some safety concerns, and it looks like USA Gymnastics is looking into it to see that the apparatus is safe, so we will have to see what it is like tonight in LA.
JESSICA: If we are ready to move on, then, to our next segment, Spanny, I hear that you have something special for us?
SPANNY: I have a little segment I like to call “That’s Too Bad”. If you remember a magic time, before we started winning every world title there is, 2003, our first world title for the US gymnastics team, a little snippet was caught, I’m sure you’ve all seen it, Carly Patterson, it’s pretty legendary. These five ladies on tour are going very high in the air without harnesses, and now, seemingly, their shirts. We’ve all seen the pictures. Ladies, those are your bras. And that’s too bad. Speaking of the tour again, the organizers seem to disagree on the lengths of the JO mats, and so, surprise, Aly Raisman peels off of bars, and then while she face-plants the mats, she then chest-plants, hip-plants, knee-plants, ankle-plants the cement floor of the arena. And that is bad. Poor Aly, sweet, sweet Aly. She thought it would be smart to snuggle up and take pictures with super nice guy, totally not a girlfriend beater, Chris Brown. That’s too bad. Speaking of crimes, John Geddert’s back tattoo. Now, not just visually, but also legally a crime in that plagiarizes the NBC Olympic logo, and it is not a small tattoo. We have seen the pictures. It is an entire back tattoo, from his neck to his buttcrack, back tattoo. And that, my friends, is too bad.
JESSICA: Awesome. Alright, next we have the first part of our incredible interview—and yes, I am saying that it’s incredible, that’s my own personal opinion and you’re going to agree after you hear it—of a two part interview with Tim Daggett. So we’ll get started and bring you that interview right now.
JESSICA: Ok, so two things I want to ask you before we get started: is there anything that you want to talk about that no-one ever asks you that you would love for someone to ask you in an interview?
TIM DAGGETT: You, I mean, it’s just…one of the frustrations that I have is, when you see a broadcast on television, unfortunately you’re really not, it’s not being put together for a group like you guys.
TIM DAGGETT: You’re hardcore fans, and you want to see every routine, and I mean, you know, NBC is a business, and so they obviously want to get the best ratings possible, and so sometimes I know it is frustrating as all getup, because you don’t get to see things and you get a lot of the drama, and the drama repeated and repeated and repeated, and that’s to build an audience, you know?
TIM DAGGETT: And so it’s hard, because there are some really great things that always get missed, but I try my best, and at this point I do have some impact on what we can see, and we do get to see more variety, because I know what’s going on out there, so I do fight for it.
JESSICA: Totally. Got it. And with that, I’m going to hand it over to Blythe.
BLYTHE: NBC Gymnastics Commentator Tim Daggett attended UCLA during the Golden Years, with greats like Mitch Gaylord and Peter Vidmar. As an elite gymnast, he has won almost every title you can imagine. He has been US National Champion, NCAA Champion, won the American Cup, and also won the gold medal at the 1984 Olympics with the team, and bronze on the pommel horse. He owns a gym, Tim Daggett’s Gold Medal Gymnastics, outside of Boston, and is a full time gymnastics coach. Tim, it’s an honor to have you here, and thanks for coming on the show.
TIM DAGGETT: Great, great to be here.
BLYTHE: OK, so I have a sort of fun question to start off with. Other teams in US gymnastics have a gold medal. The women’s team in gymnastics has come up with cool nicknames: “The Magnificent Seven”, “The Fierce Five”, and do you ever think about if your team from 1984 could have a nickname, what it would be? Or maybe you had one?
TIM DAGGETT: [[LAUGHS]] Yeah, I know. We weren’t that cool back then, that’s the problem. You know, there was a big song that came out, Don Henley had a song called “The Boys of Summer” right around that same time, and some of the press kind of called us that, but really what we got compared a lot to was the hockey team in 1980. You know, The Miracle on Ice. And some people called us The Miracle on Mats, too. But that was the closest had to a “Fierce Five” or a “Magnificent Seven”.
BLYTHE: [[LAUGHS]] And as a gymnast, you were quite a gymnast, and one thing some of our listeners might not know is you have a pretty incredible comeback story, from a knee injury, correct? And according to Sports Illustrated, it said you tore your ACL at the 1987 Worlds, but is that exactly what happened, and can you tell us about that?
TIM DAGGETT: No, not exactly. What I did was, competing at the Worlds in 1987, I landed my vault, and there was back then, they used to have a base layer of mats like what you see now, and then they had an inch-long cover that ran the entire length of the mats, and I guess part of the lower mat had separated, but you really couldn’t see that, because you had this cover that went the entire length of the landing area, and so I landed in the crack, and so it’s kind of like a fracture. And it just really snapped my leg, I shattered both of the bones in my left leg, and it was pretty messy because I ended up tearing an artery as well, which required about five different emergency surgeries, I lost pints of blood, you know, and in Rotterdam, Holland, the doctor told me, basically, his hope was to save my leg. Not to ever walk or run or certainly ever do gymnastics again, it was, you know, somehow to save my leg so they wouldn’t have to amputate, which was pretty surreal at the time, and I was very fortunate. I got out of there and went to UCLA, and they hooked me up, and it was a very, very long process. Because all the surgeries, the vascular injuries, but I did compete again, which I’m very proud of.
BLYTHE: And the World Champion that year was Dmitry Bilozerchev, who had gone through something similar after a car accident, is that correct? Did you know about that at the time?
TIM DAGGETT: Oh, sure. I’m actually a good friend of Dmitry’s, and, you know, post 1984, I don’t know why, but USA and the Soviet Union, we had a whole bunch of competitions, and we even had training camps together. And so, we all knew each other quite well and we were very friendly, and I don’t know why this was, but as you guys know, there are many competitions outside of Worlds and the Olympic games, and for whatever reason, you know, all of the meets I went to around the world, Bilozerchev was always there. And so, we got to know each other well, and his coach at that time, the person who really made him who he was, was Alexander Alexandrov, who was the coach for the Russian team now, and my coach at that time was Art Shurlock, who was from the Soviet system, and so there was a translator component, and so we really got to know each other quite well.
BLYTHE: I see. And so, you now have a son, Peter, who is named after Peter Vidmar, is that right?
TIM DAGGETT: Yes.
BLYTHE: He is quite an up and coming gymnast, and he has been to a couple of level 9 national championships, is that right? And he has already had ACL surgery, I read this in an article a couple years ago, and if I can ask, what is it like being the dad of a gymnast who has a knee injury like that, and how do you help him get through it?
TIM DAGGETT: Oh, it’s horrific. [[LAUGHS]] You know, because he had it at such a young age, and it really was such a fluke accident, you know? One of the things—and if you hear my broadcast, we always, when somebody lands with locked legs, it’s really scary. And you know, the likelihood that something really bad happens isn’t all that high, but the potential is there. So when I see somebody, on the air, land with locked knees, I’m always like, “Bend your knees!” And, that’s what my son did. He was doing a dismount off of high bar, and he landed with locked knees, and yeah, tore his ACL. But he worked really hard, and did a lot of rehab and came back, and since that injury he made the Junior National Team, so very proud of that little man.
BLYTHE: That is quite an accomplishment. I think some of the fans may wonder what vault you were doing when you hurt your knee?
TIM DAGGETT: Well, actually, it was a highly rated vault back then, but it was a piked Cuervo. Very few people do it nowadays, because it really isn’t an efficient way of flipping and twisting. What you’re doing is you’re doing a forward handspring—it’s basically a handspring pike front with a half turn, but you do it at the wrong time, so it’s a little inefficient, so you do a handspring and you immediately do a full half turn, where you kind of have to stall your rotation a little bit, and then you do a piked back somersault after that. So, that’s what I did.
BLYTHE: And obviously, when you came home from the Netherlands, you probably thought your career was over, and at what point did you think that you could begin to do elite gymnastics again?
TIM DAGGETT: You know, it took so long, because I was in the hospital for a couple of weeks in Rotterdam, and I came back and at UCLA for another week, and home care for a couple of months, and I was in a wheelchair, literally, until, I don’t know, mid-January, and I don’t know what happened, but one day, I used to go outside because it was healthy, it helped, and my apartment in Los Angeles sat atop a big hill, and if it went to the left it was very flat a long way, and if you went to the right, you went down the big hill, and one day I just said, “we’re going to go this way”. And my aide was like “no, you can’t do that, you’re going to have to come up and it’s going to be very hard,” and I said “no, it’s a beautiful day, I want to see what’s going on this way”. And so, I went down the big hill, and I didn’t really realize it at the time, but I got to the bottom, and she said “ok, it’s time to go back up”, and I said “I got it and I can get up”, and she said, “I’ve got to help you, I’ve got to push you uphill”. And, you know, my body basically hadn’t moved for months. And I said “No”, I said “Do not touch the chair.” And so I peddled my way—well, I didn’t peddle, I used my arms—pushed my way to the top of the hill, a couple of times I almost went out into the road because I had no strength at all, but she didn’t touch the chair, and I made it to the top, and for some strange reason, when I did that, I knew I had to try and come back.
BLYTHE: That’s fantastic. And once you were back in the gym, was it any harder than you expected?
TIM DAGGETT: You know, I knew how hard it was going to be. It’s just a mid-shaft tibia shatter like that is one of the slowest healing bones, and when you compound it with a vascular injury, with the artery and losing all that blood, I had a couple other different surgeries, it’s called a fasciotomy, to release the pressure in my lower leg, and I knew it was going to be really hard. And it wasn’t my first time dealing with a surgery. I had fallen and hurt my head, ruptured some discs in my neck, so I really knew it was going to be hard. I thought it would be less painful after a while, but really it just never lost that intense pain, it was there, the day I competed at the Olympic Trials.
BLYTHE: After something like that, to go back to the Olympic Trials after having won a Gold Medal, what was driving you?
TIM DAGGETT: You know, it’s funny. I just, I really felt that, I could be better. And I was the youngest guy in ’84, and I…before the injury, I fully knew I was going to continue on, you know, for another 4 years, and I just really though that I could be much better than I was in Los Angeles. And I made that commitment to myself, and even though it was hard, even though there were lots of people who said “You should move on”, it’s just not the kind of person I am, and I had to try. And, kind of remarkably, I made it, all the way to the Olympic Trials, and after the compulsories, I did a pretty good job, and I think I lead two of the events after compulsories, and I think was seventh—I was either seventh or eighth after the first day, and it just…I know what it took to get to the Olympic games, to win a gold medal, and it was hard, and I had to make sacrifices, and I had to be committed, but getting back to the Olympic Trials and having that first day, and even that second day, it was a higher mountain to climb, and in many ways—nobody knows about this—but for me, as a person, I’m more proud of that than of winning a gold medal.
UNCLE TIM: So, shortly after your comeback, you started your career as a commentator. Could you talk briefly about how you became involved with NBC as a commentator?
TIM DAGGETT: Sure. You know, a lot of people, especially the younger folks today, they just think it happened, and in a certain amount they do, but I always wanted to do it. It looked like it would be the coolest job ever, and I couldn’t figure out how to. I thought about it a lot, and I don’t know anybody in TV, really. So I thought to myself, what’s the best shot of finding an agent? So I said to myself, they’re probably all in New York. And of course, there was no internet then, you couldn’t just Google it, so I got on a bus from Springfield, Massachusetts, and I went to New York City, and back then, of course, pay phones and Yellow Pages. So I get off the bus in Penn Station of wherever, and find a phone booth that actually has a Yellow Pages still there, and I’m just looking through it and looking through agents, and of course the agents are all theatrical or singing or whatever, and I find a section that I think is for television broadcasters in sports, and I see a listing, and it’s one of the first, it was called Athletes and Artists. And so I figure, athletes, what is that? I did a little more checking, and it actually was started by one of the pioneers in the industry, a guy named Art Menskey, who represented so many different broadcasters throughout the years, so I put my quarter or dime or whatever it was in the phone, and I called Athletes and Artists, and I said to the lady, the receptionist who answers the phone, “Hello, my name is Tim Daggett, I was a gymnast in the Olympics and I won a gold medal, and I want to do television broadcasting. And she was like, oh. She sounded a little flustered, and she put me on my hold, and a couple minutes later Art Menskey came on the phone, and he said “hello Tim, I’m a big fan, I’d love to meet you.”
TIM DAGGETT: And he said, “When can we get together?” And I said, “Well, I just came down here now, and so I’m right near Broadway, can I come over now?” And he was flabbergasted by that, and so I went over, and I met the crew, and was assigned an agent named Alan Sanders, and have been with Alan ever since.
UNCLE TIM: Great. So, something that we probably don’t really understand is how much time and effort you have to put into preparing for a competition. Could you talk about how you catch up on the news on the athletes, are there websites you visit, are there blogs that you visit, can you talk a little bit about that process?
TIM DAGGETT: Anything and everything. And you know now, it’s actually easier, obviously, but so much harder, because there’s just too much information. People ask me, how do you get ready for an Olympics? See, I never stop, that’s what it comes down to, I just never stop. I did take a couple week break after the Olympic games, cause I was just so exhausted, but I do, on average, about an hour a day, every day, even when nothing is coming up. I’m just visiting sites, I’m talking to people on the telephone, and then, when we get closer to an event, I ramp it up a lot. Three months before the Olympics, I was probably doing eight hours a day. And, a month before the Olympics, I was in front of my Olympics or on the telephone twelve hours a day. And I really—one of the things I really want to be able to do is, I want to know all of the players in a bunch of different areas. I want to know, obviously, something about them personally, and I want to know their past accomplishments, and then I want to know what they do. So basically, I want to know going into the Games, I want to know the routines of all of the players, men and women, on all the different events, and I do know that. And then I also have to, in my brain—because you have to access everything pretty quickly—I want to have perspective. Like, you know, when somebody from Romania is going, obviously I have to know facts in my brain of all of the accomplishments of Romania, and to be able to, if something becomes relevant, to be able to talk about that. So it’s a lot to know, but I love doing it.
UNCLE TIM: Great. And I think something else that a lot of gym fans think is, we tend to think that you have a huge role in the production, and everything that happens on NBC’s broadcast is because of you, because you’re kind of the figurehead that we look to. So could you talk about how much of a role you have in the production, and what you think, maybe, NBC is trying to do with their broadcasts?
TIM DAGGETT: Well I do have a role, now. Initially, you know, I was just a minion, you know? But, you know, the thing that a little frustrating is the company, NBC, is a huge corporation and it’s a business, and they’re trying to make money. And so, really there isn’t a gymnastics broadcast on television that is for the hardcore gymnastics fan. It’s not. Because unfortunately, there aren’t enough of us. So what it comes down to is, we have to make the sport appealing and interesting to the grandma in Topeka, or whoever. So, unfortunately, if you have a ton of different, cast of characters, it just…they lose interest. And so we’re always going to focus on the Americans, because it is the National Broadcasting Company. And, you know, and so that’s always going to be the case. And then we’re going to pick and choose the most dramatic stories out there, and you know, we’re going to tell the story and we’re going to tell it again, because it’s what the casual viewer, it’s what they want. And NBC has done so many, you have constantly, forever and ever, they’re doing research on what is it that these people want to see, and they want to learn about Viktoria Komova, and they want to know some of her history, and we’ve got to tell that story, and we’ve got to tell it again and again and again, and so, it’s not like going to a podium training at a World Championships. If you saw me at a podium training at a World Championships, I’d look just like all of the hardcore gymnastics fans, because I love the sport so much. I’m looking at and bars and then, oh, did you see that on beam, that was beautiful, that was gorgeous, and then I’m back over on vault and I’m like, “Hey, Pena’s going now”, and it’s…I’m all over the place, I love it! But, you know, to sell it for a show, that’s unrealistic and it’s really not going to happen that way, so…and one of the other things that is so frustrating to me is, you know, we show the great routines, we always do, and I love it. When it’s spectacular, I go crazy. I mean, high bar finals at the Olympic Games was just off-the-charts, and I was as excited and thrilled and calling Epke, of course, calling Hambuchen on high bar, it was just fantastic. I’m so positive and so passionate, and people always thinking I’m negative and so critical, but it’s like, the only thing that I do, is that I interpret for that grandma in Topeka, I interpret what the judge is doing through my comments. Because, it’s like, I have to let them know why it’s not going to be…I mean yes, it’s remarkable, it’s amazing, but in the context of the Olympic Games or the American Cup or whatever, it’s just not good enough. And sometimes, it’s not like watching quarterback throw the ball and get intercepted and run for a touchdown, it’s not that clear, but to you and to me, it is. Because we know, oh, that’s a full point she lost the, not just the deduction, but she also loses the element and she’s supposed to connect off of it, and it’s devastating. And so, they hire me to tell the truth, and I try to.
BLYTHE: And so, we are really the hardcore gymnastics fans, and we would love to talk to you a bit about, from fan perspective, from the hardcore fan perspective, about the Olympics, what’s happened.
TIM DAGGETT: Sure.
BLYTHE: Could you put it in context for us, what were some of the surprises, the best moments, the best routines you saw in London.
TIM DAGGETT: Well, you know, personally I just thought high bar was off the charts. I mean, it was unbelievable. What a final. I mean, Jonathan Horton did one of the best routines of his life, and he didn’t make it to the medal podium. He’s got a lot to be proud of of that routine, though, because it was tremendous, but Epke and Hambuchen were just phenomenal. I actually think that Fabian…I don’t know, I think he maybe got the short end of the stick, it was much cleaner, but Epke was just off the charts fantastic, you know, it was wild, and I set that up before the games in a production meeting, I said that in the qualifying rounds we need to show Epke Zonderland, and they were like, where is he from? Holland. Oh, we can’t do that, we can’t show that…and I go, he is going to do the hardest piece of gymnastics of every gymnast in the games, male or female, and we gotta show him. And they were like, uh, we don’t know. But we got to show him, and of course he didn’t do it in the prelims, but…so, high bar was a highlight. Obviously, the next most amazing thing, for me, was the USA women’s vault, the first rotation in the team finals. I mean, it was breathtaking, and dominant times ten. And then McKayla, you know, capping it off with the best vault that has ever been done by a woman, ever. And those silly judges, finding deductions, it’s just crazy. So that was an amazing one. Watching Gabby hold it together was phenomenal, in the All-Around finals, because if you’re a hardcore fan, you know how wonderful she is. You know how brilliant she can be. But you also know she is capable of really having a mental lapse, that’s all there is to it. And a lot of people don’t know this, but there were rumors that, in the first day of competition, Gabby wasn’t going to do the All-Around. And I heard that, and I said, that’s the craziest thing I ever heard, she just won the Olympic Trials, but she really, in training, had been struggling on beam. A lot.
TIM DAGGETT: A lot. She was, you know, that first sequence where she does aerial flip out, layout, step out. She was falling a lot, and there was talk that they weren’t going to put her up, which I thought would have been the biggest mistake ever, and I’m glad that they didn’t do that. So, let’s see, what else was amazing…I though Chen Yibing was better on rings, but a lot of people don’t know this either, the Brazilian guy, he…you got to hand it to him, because he took a risk of epic proportions, he knew the draw was done before, and he knew that if you came in as the leader on still rings that you would compete first in the individual event finals, and so he took either—I can’t remember at this point, but he took either two- or three-tenths of difficulty out of his routine, because he didn’t want to qualify in first.
TIM DAGGETT: Yeah, yeah. It was pretty gutsy, and it worked, he made it, and he ends up in the last position, and, you know, Chen Yibing going first and him going last, but…I think they got that one wrong, personally. I just think that Chen Yibing is poetry, and Zanetti’s great, but not quite at that level. Let me think, what else was amazing…I was really happy for Aliya on the uneven bars. You know, it’s been a tumultuous couple of years for her, as well, and she’s a beautiful gymnast and a beautiful person, and her bar routine—it’s gorgeous, it’s absolutely fantastic. The combinations, you know, she does Shaposh and Stalter and release to the high bar, it’s just absolutely elegant. Beth was phenomenal as well, though, and she went for it, she did that double double, and really what it comes down to is that that was a three-tenths step, there’s no question about that. And I don’t know if she needed that. I think she, as an athlete, needed that, because look at her routine, and you can see that, absolutely, she is all out, 100%, to finished, so she had to give it everything she had, and she won a medal at home and I’m sure she’s really grateful about that.
JESSICA: I have one follow-up question about bars, because I was so—this might sound bad—but I was really excited when I was watching the bar final, and when Gabby went up, you were trying to set the expectation because people were like, she’s the favourite for this, and you were like, no, not really, she doesn’t have the difficulty, and the people like us know that, but the people at home…
TIM DAGGETT: Right.
JESSICA: …were like, Gabby, she’s going to win! But when she went, there was something specific you said where you were like, “She’s the best”, and then you were like, “Well, she’s, you know, the best at this competition for the US”, and I totally knew you were talking about Anna Li.
TIM DAGGETT: Yes. Yeah. Yes. I mean, what we’re getting down to at that point time is, she is the “It” person of the Olympic games. I mean, I think she had 32 million independent Google searches during the Olympics.
JESSICA: Oh my god.
TIM DAGGETT: Something off the charts like that. And, you know, the American public, coming into each night of women’s gymnastics, they are craving for Gabby. It was even a little more challenging on balance beam, because she really wasn’t at that level on beam for the beam finals. And so, that was hard. And then, coming into bars, people really…if people fell, she could have gotten a medal, but everybody knew that that was most likely not going to happen. And I think when I said she’s the best, I was giving her props for she was, she is the Olympic All-Around Champion. I think that was probably what I was making reference to. And you know, it’s important for people to know that even though it was tape delayed, we called all of the routines live, every single one, we called them live. And we were, at the compound, until sometimes three in the morning, because what happens in television is you know, you’ve got this huge puzzle to put together for the primetime broadcast, and we start out with a plan, you know, swimming they’re going to be at for an hour and three minutes, and gymnastics they are going to be at for an hour and 26 minutes, and water polo, and all these things, but then, something happens dramatic at a venue that they didn’t anticipate, so they give that some time and they take away from somebody else, or gymnastics is off the charts, and so they take away from swimming, and so, when they do that, what we have to do is we have to either lose routines, lose replays, add routines, add replays, and so, we’re just doing those transitions, and that is brutally time consuming, but just for the folks who think that I’m manufacturing this stuff, and sometimes I’m looking at this and I know what happens, we’re calling it live, which is the way I love to do it, and we call edit live and I said that Chen Yibing after Zanetti went, I said, he’s the champ! And, you know, he wasn’t. so we didn’t take that out because that was what I felt, and, back forth, for people to know.
JESSICA: So, we’re going to stop our interview with Tim right there, and we’re going to bring you the second half next week. Next week we’ll have a little more of the same, so news and then our interview. Remember that you can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also reach us and give us your feedback, and we would love to hear from you and see what you want to hear. You can find us on our website or our Twitter, @Gymcastic, or on our Facebook page. You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, and you can always find it on our website. So until next week, this is Jessica O’Beirne.
BLYTHE: Blythe Lawrence.
SPANNY: Spanny Tampson.
UNCLE TIM: And Uncle Tim.
JESSICA: See you next time!