Breaking2 could join the likes of Geraldo’s Mystery of Al Capone’s Vaults
No one remembers Geraldo Rivera for his career as an attorney or activist. We now know him as a pretty bad television personality whose biggest moments have been terrible comments about Trayvon Martin, bad reporting from Iraq and of course The Mystery of Al Capone’s Vaults.
On April 21, 1986, Rivera was reporting live from Chicago’s Lexington Hotel, which was once owned by mobster Al Capone, to try and uncover the place’s secrets. I’m too young to have watched it live but I’ve read about it and watched Youtube clips of it. Capone spent a bunch of time at that hotel until his arrest in 1931 and so the hope of the broadcast was to find any riches or dead bodies that may have been stored in the passages and vaults within the hotel. Rivera was also looking for a rebound after getting fired from ABC in 1985. It was time to get down to the truth as to what was in a reported secret vault beneath the hotel.
Here’s the report which is over 90 minutes without commercials.
If you sat through that entire thing and were extremely disappointed, that’s exactly how the estimated 30 MILLION people who tuned in felt. All they found in the vault was dirt and dusty bottles. Geraldo throws in the towel and settles for a nice classroom style picture with the team of excavators that spent weeks preparing for the big reveal. He has no idea what to do so he sings a line from Frank Sinatra’s “Chicago”, apologizes to the viewers and walks off.
It was a ratings hit and people on the West Coast decided to tune in even after knowing it after it was a disaster.
The same could go for this weekend’s Breaking2 project by Nike. Thousands of people will log onto their computers (at possibly absurd hours of the night) and watch on whatever stream may be available to view the race. And people who wake up to discover the results will go back to watch whether it happened or where it went wrong.
Note: More details about the broadcast should be revealed and finalized by Thursday or Friday.
Over the weekend, the thought was discussed among our staff that there’s been no promotion outside of the media for this attempt. It’s too big of a topic to ignore so the press does take on a marketing aspect. You would figure that if Nike really believed that Eliud Kipchoge would become the first man to break the marathon two-hour barrier that there would have been at least one commercial during the Penn Relays. The only clip that has been seen was a short Instagram tease that was promoted for a while before getting deleted from the Nike Running Instagram with a contest on how to watch in Monza, Italy.
There will be about two hours to explain to a viewer the science behind the two-hour marathon and what exactly they’re watching. It’s very much for the hardcore science and running fans. Something like an HBO mini-series like all their boxing lead-ups would would have been great to make figures like Kipchoge, Lilesa Disesa and Zersenay Tadese more endearing to the audience. Unless this turns out to be a four-hour special, the audience will know about the three runners just as much as a casual viewer of the New York City Marathon learns about Ghirmay Ghebreslassie before he wins the race.
Breaking2 is not going to be broadcasted on television so there won’t be as huge of ratings as something like the Capone vaults but it’s the same premise. (Maybe there could be a SportsCenter cutaway if the runners are close to accomplishing it.) Capone entertained and kept you on the edge of your seat as you expected the hotel to collapse or a skeleton to be found. This will be a show like David Blaine’s Drowned Alive, where someone looks to beat the clock while pushing their bodies to the known limits of human capability. Kipchoge Disesa and Zersenay Tadese will play the magician’s role.
We want to have a reaction like Kanye West, Aaron Paul and Bryan Cranston have to Blaine when he’s a success but keep in mind that failure is always an option.
Sure, Geraldo was a joke for a while after the Capone show but he did go on to have his own show that ran for 11 seasons. Nike could fall short but it is still going to sell a bunch of shoes and make millions. You may be left disappointed and shaking your fist at the television but at you were captivated for a bit.