I understand the fact that you need to keep advertisers and sponsors happy by showing popular star-studded Olympics finals in prime-time, but, were you an Olympic athlete, last night’s performance wouldn’t have even got you through the preliminaries, let alone a spot on the podium. Last night, I think we saw more of Bob Costas, Ryan Seacrest, various parents, and the Olympic advertisers than the actual sporting events and the athletes themselves.
Once again, we were treated to yet another Phelps interview with Ryan “how high can my hair get” Seacrest. How on earth a singing competition host was awarded a spot interviewing Olympic athletes is beyond me. Was there really no-one else even halfway qualified for the job? Perhaps Seacrest has a sports background I’m unaware of. I know, he played ping-pong one summer camp.
I settled into my seat at 8:15, rewound (so I can skip commercials) to the beginning of the coverage of events that happened about 12 hours ago in a country where it was already tomorrow, looking forward to seeing swimming and gymnastics. Apparently there were only three countries competing in women’s gymnastics – USA, Russia, and China. Of course, we were reminded at least a dozen times how Jordyn Wieber failed to qualify for the individual all-around and was now relegated to “leading her team” to a Gold …her only hope of a medal at this Olympics. There were more close-ups of the gymnasts’ sparkly make-up, hair pulled back so tight their eyes were popping, and chalky hands than of anything else. We watched them putting their wrappings on and taking them off. We watched them hug each other after every event, and of course we watched Wieber’s mother clutching her rosary in the stands and slumping back into the laps of the people behind her once Jordyn had safely completed each event.
Now, I like a P&G moment as much as the next person, but athletes’ parents featured so much in last night’s coverage that I wondered if the program’s editors found this more interesting than the events themselves. We were treated to Phelps’ family clutching one another in the final 50 of his 200m butterfly event and his mother’s facial expression as it went from elation that he had won to realization he was only second, upon which she composed herself and applauded politely. I’ll admit, that was quite fun to watch.
NBC, I’ll give you credit where it’s due. We did actually get to see women’s platform diving, even though the USA hadn’t qualified, something that wouldn’t have even been covered a few years ago. Apparently diving is popular. At one point we were informed that Malaysia (at least I think it was Malaysia, it was so fleeting I could be mistaken) was in 2nd place, but apparently they weren’t worth showing on screen as they soon dropped down out of the medal spots. Once Great Britain dropped from 1st place to 5th or 6th with a lackluster dive, we didn’t see any more of their dives either, which removed the opportunity to see Tom Daly’s hilarious reaction to every free-fall.
I caught up with the coverage around 9:30pm (after putting my kids’ to bed at 8:45 I resumed watching but quickly skipped through the commercials and additional fluff) but at 10:30 was still waiting for the mens’ 4 x 200m relay. I waited until almost 11:00 but with a track workout scheduled for 5:30am the next day (yes, some of us get up early for our sports, too) I had to bag it and get some much-needed sleep. I should have just looked up the results online. 8 hours earlier.
NBC, you can do so much better. I know this, because as I type I’m watching stellar coverage of the men’c cycling time trials. It’s uninterrupted, well commentated, devoid of hype and hyperbole, parental reactions, and pithy interview questions. It’s sport.
NBC, the Olympic Games are a sporting event. Yes, they’re a spectacle, but at the end of the day they’re about finely tuned, highly trained ATHLETES who have come to the world’s biggest stage to show what they can do. I’d like to see some of that. Please.
A Sports Fan.