The Tempest

Not Exactly Shooting For \”Miss Congeniality\”

Olympic Fever

Posted by Daniel on Saturday, February 11, 2006

I love the Olympics. Always have. Always will. Both Summer and Winter Games. Regardless of which games they are, my Olympic flag is proudly flying outside.

Ever since the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles, I’ve routed for the atheletes. Not just the Americans, but all of them. It’s humanity at it’s purest. Friendly – Munich in ’72 and Harding vs. Kerrigan in ’94 notwithstanding – competition mixed with a comradeship unequalled in any other part of life. Every two years we get 17 days of people at their best. The olympics embody the very meaning of sportsmanship wrapped in Peace.I even love the pagentry of the Opening Ceremonies. Each host country gets to show what it’s people are so proud of. We gain a better understanding of that country, it’s people and it’s history.

In my lifetime, so far, I’ve had the privilege of being able to actually attend the Summer Games in Los Angeles in ’84, Seoul in ’88, Barcelona in ’92 and Atlanta in ’96. I’ve attended the Winter Games in Calgary in ’88, Albertville in ’92 and Lillehammer in ’94. Yes, that was a very lucky time for me, as not a lot of people get to travel like that. And, thanks to NBC, I really miss those days more now than ever. I’ll explain…

Since the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney, I have been pretty much planted and unable to do the traveling I once found it so easy to do. When I was younger – and richer – it was nothing to just pick up and go to an Olympic event. There were years when it was what I looked forward to more than anything. And when I heard that Sydney would play host to the 2000 Summer Games, I about lost it. My favorite city in my favorite country. I was SO ready for that one.

Now, anyone who really knows me understands my love for anything Australian. The people there have the greatest attitude towards life and, of course, sports. Especially swimming. It’s my adopted country and I can never wait to go back for visits…which, unfortunately, have become fewer and farther between. Growing up sucks!!

Well, long story short, due to obligations both at work and home, I was unable to go to Sydney in 2000. Do you know how hard it is to get money you’ve had converted into Australian dollars converted back into U.S. dollars?! But I digress…

Okay, I can’t go to Sydney. Well, at least I can watch it all on TV, right? Even the opening ceremonies. Now don’t get me wrong, I would always prefer to be there in person, but there are a lot of things you miss by being way back in the crowded stadiums, as opposed to seeing every view from every angle on TV. Which brings me back to NBC.

I HATE NBC!!! If you’ve ever wondered why NBC can’t pull it together in ratings with such a big sporting event coverage, I’ll tell you, and I’ll start with the Opening Ceremonies. When I watch the opening – since I have to on TV – I want to SEE the Opening. Uninterrupted and without all of that mindless blather NBC WAY overpays Bob Costas and others to do during the show. I understand that half of what’s being said by the speakers at the Openings are in different languages, but even that is FAR more interesting than Costas and his assanine babbling. NBC insults the intelligence of those watching by basically saying, “You’re too stupid to know anything about the Olympics, it’s history, the atheletes, the flag, tying your shoes, etc. So we’re going to bore you with OUR version.”

And the commercials! Now, I understsnd a network has to make it’s money with commercial breaks. Fine, but there are an additional 16 days of events in which to rake in the advertising dollars. Can’t they give us at least the Opening Ceremonies uninterrupted? You might ask yourself, “Who cares?” Well, there are far more people interested in the Olympiad – from Opening to the individual events to the Closing – than you might think. Look it up on the blogs. We’re everywhere.

As an example, during the Opening Ceremonies in Sydney, NBC injected commercial breaks every 5 to 7 minutes, and when they came back, something else was happening, never having shown what had happened – in it’s entirety – earlier. When they were showing what was happening, Costas and his guests were talking so much about upcoming sporting events and stats that the very esscense of the Opening was drained out and reduced to very colorful screenshots. The only way I could see the Opening unedited and uninterrupted was to buy the DVD online. Sure, the Opening is about 4 hours long, with the Parade of Nations taking up a large chunk of that time, but that’s part of what we want to see because that shows who is participating.

Fast forward to the 2004 games in Athens. Now here was a chance to see the Olympics in it’s original settings. While it’s true they really had to borrow so much money to host these games that they doubled their countrys’ budget deficit, borrowing every drachma they could from anyone with a wallet. Of course, in doing so, they not only brought their infrastructure into the 21st century, but presented the world and it’s atheletes with sporting venues that were impressive, to say the least.

This would have been a great chance for NBC to redeem itself by televising the Olympics in a less, shall we say, verbose manner. After all, it was the first time the Olympics had been held in Greece in…oh…a thousand years!! So let’s see what they can do. “Hold on there, viewers. Greece is such a poor and backward country, we shouldn’t trust them to know what to show you and when to show it. Just sit back and let Bob Costas and his whacky gang explain all that technical stuff to you.” And that’s just what we got. On the televised Opening Ceremony, we actually saw more airtime of Costas than we did of the Opening or the atheletes. This, I think most pointedly, explains why NBC can’t pull their ratings up during Olympic events. They just can’t do it like it used to be done.

I remember when I was a kid, when the Olympics were being held, so many people were watching and actually interested. It was a big thing to sit and watch Nadia get 6 perfect 10’s. We used to rally around our tv’s and cheer on Bruce Jenner, Mark Spitz, Greg Louganis, and many others. Remember that little thing called the ‘Miracle on Ice’ with the Men’s Hockey – USA vs. U.S.S.R. – and all that hooplah? It really was something to see.

Now, you wouldn’t be able to watch such an event without NBC cutting away to 8 1/2 minutes of commercials, then coming back to Costas explaining the two goals achieved during the break. The network has been crowing about this Olympiad since the torch in Athens was snuffed out. And, lest you forget the Olympics are coming, as a constant reminder, the NBC logo and Olympic Rings have been burning a hole in the upper right-hand corner of my TV for what seems like forever! You’d think with all that visual reminding, the network would give me someting to look forward to, yes? NO!!

I’m looking forward to seeing Bode Miller ski his heart out this weekend. I’ve been a huge fan of his since Salt Lake City in 2002. I know he tends to spout off during interviews, but so what? Maybe that’s why I like him so much…I can relate to not holding back what I think and just saying what’s on my mind. He’s arguably one of the best skiers in his venue in a long time – if not ever. Well, that and he’s what I consider “eye candy”. My fear is that NBC will screw this up as well by talking more about Bode’s words, rather than his skiing. If Bode wins a medal (hoping for the gold!!), Costas will inject the ‘controversial words of past interviews’ into the medals ceremony. He can’t just let us enjoy the sport and the successes.

I know what you’re thinking, “If it’s so bad, why do you even bother watching?” Because, as I said earlier, I love the Olympics and NBC is, for the time being, the only way I can get some televised input. With so many stations owned by NBC (GE), you’d think that ONE of them could run the 20th Olympiad uncut and uninterrupted for those of us who actually want to watch them. They have NBC, CNBC, MSNBC, Bravo, USA, Telemundo and Universal HD, plus probably some I’m not aware of. Not even the actual all-sports channels on cable – and there are dozens – show the Olympics in it’s entirety. If only I could win that Powerball…I could just go back to seeing the Olympics the old fashioned way, attend them in person.

Let’s see, the next Summer olympics are in Beijing in 2008…
and the next Winter Games will be held in Vancouver in 2010…
and after that, it’s the Summer Games in London in 2012…surely I’ll either be able to attend in person or, if not, maybe I’ll be seeing it on a network that knows it’s audience appreciates seeing this sporting event in it’s entirety. Unedited…uninterrupted…and, most importantly, un-NBCostased!!

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