Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Ciao Bela

Lugosi will always be my favorite Bela, but coach-turned-Olympics commentator Bela Karolyi is up for silver. We love his erudition and enthusiasm, and his no-nonsense crap-cutting. He and Bob Costas are an inspired team, and the cutaways to the booth get a lift when Karolyi is chewing the fat over this or that result or ruling. Personally, I miss the perfect 10s, but I can understand why they were dropped, as they emphasized showmanship over sportsmanship. The tie-breaking scoring makes a lot less sense to me and I'd say most viewers, and it was gratifying to hear Karolyi go to town on it.

As a coach, Karolyi was a controversial figure, trailing allegations of abuse and mismanagement, but also spirited defenses of his medal-winning tactics. He's been golden at the Games, but that's a temporary gig. Karolyi has been played at least twice on TV, including a 1984 TV movie about his legendary stewardship of Nadia Comaneci, and according to the Internet Movie Database did act in Romanian films when he was much younger. But now is the right time for him to go Hollywood. Not that I want to take any work away from Armin Mueller-Stahl, his near-lookalike, but Karolyi could at least pick from the available parts: I see him as wry defectors, bad guys, with or without hearts of gold, in Bond and Bourne adventures, Slavic grandpas with stories to tell of the old country, Russian kingpins in Coney Island, etc. Go, Bela, go!

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