I’ve decided the Winter Olympics kind of suck. Not the events themselves, but the coverage we’re getting here in the States. I realize by making that statement I’m offering the most obvious and repeated opinion possible, but it’s true. The fundamental problem with the Winter Olympics are that there are so many fewer events than in the Summer Olympics it is difficult to fill all the TV hours. Thus, as NBC tries to save all the marquee events for prime time, we’re left with watching all kinds of crap during the day. I’ve actually watched about 10 hours of curling just because it was on. There’s no good reason for me to watch that “event.” In the summer, we can watch the preliminary rounds of events or pool play sports like volleyball, basketball, etc. during the day and convince ourselves that the finals we watch at night are kinda-sorta live. Other than hockey, there’s little in the Winter Games to make the daytimes pass.
Worse, when NBC holds an event for the evening they edit the crap out of it and ruin the drama. Example: Sunday night they were showing the men’s cross country pursuit event, which was fun to watch. Halfway through, though, Bob Costas says “We’ll get back to the cross country action in a little while, but first, we go to to the ice dancing competition.” I believe the proper internet term of the day is WTF?!?! We’re dealing with sports that the average American has minimal interest in, and you really want us to hang around for an hour to see how it turns out? No thanks.
NBC’s problem is doubly complicated because in the summer there’s really not a lot of reason to check sports web sites during the day. Most baseball games are played at night, and even then you can go directly to mlb.com if you want to avoid Olympic results. In the winter, though, I’m following college basketball and the NBA, so I’m checking scores throughout the day. Need to see that Texas-Oklahoma State score? What’s this? Bode fell down again? No reason to watch tonight I guess. It’s really a no-win situation for NBC, but I’m all-too-willing to pile on. Their job is to lure me in, and they’re failing.
I thought the buzz that was developing last week about how new sports like snowboarding are “saving” the Winter Olympics was interesting. The sports picked from the X-Games world are in many ways the opposite of the traditional sports. No further proof is needed than the reaction to Lindsey Jacobellis’ gaffe in the snowboard cross final. If you missed it, she grabbed her board to showboat on her final jump, bit it, and ended up staggering to a silver. Immediately the press attacked her, saying she was the ugly American, she demonstrated what’s wrong with sports today, or just playing up her failure. I think they miss the point. From my limited understanding of the sport, that seems like part of it. A little extra flair here and there. In regular sports, it’s seen as showing up the competition. In extreme sports, it’s seen as part of the event, done out of the excitement inherent to the sport rather than an attempt to denegrate opponents. In traditional sports, rivals are supposed to be fierce but good-natured, a balance that is often lost. The extreme sport athletes do seem to care about each other, focus on enjoyment of the competition rather than the competition itself, and, for lack of a better term, keep it real. Funny that they were being hailed at winter sport’s saviors and as soon as they act like themselves, get hammered.
Why did CBS have snowboarding on Sunday as well? Were these competitors not good enough to make the Olympics? Did CBS think it was smart to counter-program with the same events? Did they think NBC throwing the Daytona 500 in the middle of its coverage might lead legions of winter sports fans to search for their sports on a different channel?
Best thing about the Olympics is listening to the hockey announcers. There are no better announcers in the world of team sports. These guys talk 1000 miles an hour, have to track rapid changes in lineups, and react to plays that are difficult to see with the naked eye. They do all of this and make it all perfectly comprehensible and entertaining. A counter to listening to a certain pair of basketball announcers from the midwest on Saturday who managed to miss play-after-play because they were too busy talking about things that had nothing to do with the action in front of them. I don’t think they could ever handle hockey.
BTW, hockey should use my recommendation for Olympic basketball. Go with under-22 teams. I’m sorry, Chris Chelios isn’t playing solely for the honor of his country. He’s playing to fill a spot on his resume. That’s true for all the NHL veterans. Let’s give the game back to the kids. Even if they’re playing in the NHL or European pro leagues, at least they’ve not been jaded by the professional game. There are plenty of opportunities for the veterans to play for their country: the World Cup and Canada Cup being two examples.