Monday, July 30, 2012 at 04:29PM
Like that thrill no longer going up Chris Matthews' leg when he thinks about Barack Obama, I suspect the thrill is gone for many of us when it comes to devotion to Olympic coverage.
Those old enough to remember the black power salute at Mexico City in 1968 (I was watching through snowy reception with rabbit ears back in Vermont) or the horrors of the slaughter in Munich in 1972 (I was watching from the student union building at Plymouth State) or any number of more mundane Olympic moments undoubtedly mark passages in our lives with references to great Olympic moments. Like zombies in Dawn of the Dead drawn back to the shopping mall (because that's what they did when alive), we are drawn back to the Olympics every four years.
However, primarily for two reasons, the thrill will never return.
Unlike in Barack Obama's America when individual accomplishment takes second place to the communal good, in sports, individual effort counts for everything. These athletes did indeed build it themselves, through the type of hard work and dedication that no nanny or big brother could ever come close to matching. As fans, we should continue to honor athletic accomplishments for individual sacrifice involved.
Still, the demise of the Cold War accounts for half my waning interest in the Olympics. As much fun as it might be to root for the American swim relay team against those Frenchmen or Australians, it just doesn't quite seem the same as rooting against the "evil" Russian or East Germans.
Maybe it's just me getting older, but I find it exceedingly difficult to put patriotism ahead of individual achievement (hey, I remember when I was devastated when the "evil" Keene would beat Plymouth).
I began seeing good in Russians even before the Cold War ended, but the ability to do so does little to add to the Olympic spirit--no, not the spirit of higher, stronger, faster--but that spirit of Go USA!
NBC will claim that it sees value in all Olympians regardless of country of origin, but that's just part of the big lie.
In fact, NBC is even more responsible for the demise in Olympic interest than the Cold War's status on the ash heap of history.
More than any other endeavor, sports appeals to us because of its spontaneity. We watch the Super Bowl or the Red Sox because we never know what's going to happen next. We can't know because it hasn't happened yet.
However, not just this year with the five hour delay between here and London, NBC has long since drained every ounce of spontaneity out of the Olympics by replacing live coverage with pre-packaged highlight reels.
For me it began in Atlanta in 1996.. Great, i thought, at last we have an Olympics in our own time zone, so we'll get to see everything live, as it should be in sports.
Wrong! Preferring to package events within an ounce of their life, NBC even then decided that in this Show Biz Era, we don't need live sports any more.
NBC was wrong then, and it's even more wrong today.
Take last night for example. Even with a taped delay basis, it could have covered women's (dare I say little girls) gymnastics as a great even unfolding. We were told that competition was proceeding on four apparatuses at the same time, yet did NBC go back and forth, a floor here, a floor exercise there? Not at all. It stuck with American competitors. It gave us newsreel footage at the expense of live sports drama. Even when it took minutes to get a score for an American woman (little girl) were we allowed to glimpse another event. Of course not. That would be contrary to NBC's packaging guidelines.
But it's even worse than that. NBC has devolved into actual deceit, doing everything it can to make us beleive we are watching some live event. Yesterday afternoon for example, we may have thought the men's beach volleyball game was live, but I certainly could not have been the only person to note that at a critical point the score suddenly jumped ahead several points. That could not have happened in a live event; NBC had obviously edited the package to make it fit its time constraints, kind of like ABC did when rather than provide the traditional Breakfast at Wimbledon, the network decided to serve up a great match on a taped delay basis and cut out one entire set!
How stupid do network sports executives think we are?
Very stupid indeed apparently.
This bastardization of sports must stop!
NBC has forever ruined the Olympics for me as ABC did with Wimbledon and the British Open Golf tourney.
Fortunately, I'm a fan of bike racing, and it's such a minor sport that NBC deems it not worth of the big package treatment. We got to watch six hours of it live Saturday morning and four more hours far away from prime time in a great women's (not little girls) race Sunday.
Shh...don't tell NBC or they'll attempt to ruin what little they haven't already spoiled of live coverage. Apparently the bigger the event, the more NBC decides to ruin it be pre-packaging. It's a midsummer night's outrage.
I trust the ratings will verify what I say. The demise of the Cold War and live coverage have combined to take the thrill out of the Olympics for this former partisan who looked forward to the spectacle every four years.
Now, two days of packaged pablum is quite enough for me. Back to reruns of Frasier please.