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Note to NBC: Stoke The Border Rivalry

For TV networks, most big-time TV sports involve going to the usual venues with cameras in the same places and showing familiar action.

Prime-time Olympic TV is totally different. Athletes nobody has in their fantasy leagues need introductions. Sports that most viewers don't watch outside the Games need to be sold. And features, interviews and action, above all, need to create story lines.

Some unsolicited advice to NBC for its Vancouver show:

Whoa Canada.  Bad enough that the best thing for Olympic TV ratings - the Cold War - is long gone. But consider host Canada's downright nationalist push to win the most medals.

What do we really know about our neighbors to the north? (Can you name their prime minister?) NBC could remind viewers we share the world's longest undefended border. And remind us that nobody knows what could happen if we don't stand up to them in Vancouver.

Free Bob.  After host Bob Costas seemed trapped in studios at past Games - was he blinking a rescue code? - NBC let him get out and about in Beijing in 2008. It was fun. Costas doesn't have to ride with Mounties. Just show us he's not trapped in the studio where they filmed the moon landing.

Go live a lot. Vancouver doesn't present the time-zone complications of Beijing, when NBC sometimes left its "live" onscreen graphic on-air even when annoying sticklers pointed out it wasn't exactly live. But given that precedent - and life went on - why shouldn't NBC label stuff "live" pretty much whenever it could use a pop? Especially when we're eye-to-eye with Canadians.

Have fun. You can laugh about the Games without hurting anybody's feelings. That comedian Stephen Colbert is supposed to appear on NBC seems promising. Bringing back Dick Button, so saucy in 2006, seems smart. Hey, America needs grins right now.

Don't be too coy or slick.  Yes, prime-time Olympics TV can't be explicit about what's coming up later on-air and exactly when, but lots of hints are helpful. And use live action as much as possible. It can look choppy. But we'll just assume that Canadians are tinkering with transmitters.

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