Saturday was a big night on the Olympics for NBC. Some would have you believe -- since it was the last night for Michael Phelps -- that it was the network's last big night of ratings. That may or may not be true, but if it is, NBC may have saved the best for last.
The women's marathon had plenty of drama as it unfolded over 2 1/2 hours. Truth be told, it was something I checked in on from time to time while also keeping tabs of the Dodgers' loss to Milwaukee. But it was fascinating to see the attention first paid to Britain's Paula Radcliffe and hear how the British tabloids had ravaged her after the Athen Games. Then as Romania's Constantina Tomescu Dita took the lead and built an enormous margin, we were told how she had employed a similar strategy at the world championships, flamed out and hadn't even been able to finish. Finally after she won, we saw the race for the silver and bronze medals, with Catherine Ndereba of Kenya outsprinting China's Zhou Chunxiu.
From a long, drawn-out story, we went to Dara Torres, the 41-year-old supermom, took the silver medal in the 50-meter freestyle, missing the gold by just a hundredth of a second to Britta Steffen of Germany. It was great to hear that another swimmer -- a 16-year-old Australian -- was young enough to be Torres' daughter.
Then we saw the final act of Phelps, as the third leg of the 400 medley relay, which the United States in 3 minutes, 29.34 seconds over Australia. Sure, NBC poured on the praise for Phelps, but you know what? When someone wins eight gold medals in one Olympics and becomes the all-time overall leader in golds with 14 -- it's impossible to go over the top.
But the eye-popping moments weren't done yet. Jamaica's Usain Bolt blew away the competition in the men's 100-meter dash with a world-record time of 9.69 seconds. It's no wonder Bolt's nickname is "Lightning." Usain was insane.
But even with that amazing performance -- think of it: the fastest any man has ever run -- Bolt's time could have been better. It's hard to believe, but that 9.69 could have been in the 9.5s.
Here's what Alan Abrahamson had to say about it on NBCOlympics.com:
"With a full seven strides to go, he dropped his arms and let them fall outstretched to his sides, appearing almost to run sideways as he played to the [sellout] crowd of 91,000 at the Bird's Nest. Just before the finish line, he started high-stepping and, for good measure, executed a chest-thump."
NBC analyst Ato Boldon said the same thing to Tom Hammond shortly after the race. It's mind-boggling to think how much faster that time could have been if Bolt hadn't decided to tell the world what it already knew: He was the best.
OK, maybe NBC's ratings have topped out, but I'm sure the great drama of the Olympics haven't.