Olympics: Yay or Neigh?

The Olympics are back. Again. It feels like we just had them, because we pretty much did. (Hard to believe this used to be the norm: having the summer and winter Olympics back to back. The new way is much better.)

My family and I are watching them quite a bit, but I’ve seen just about no chatter about them online anywhere. I have my own theories about why that’s happening, but I’m curious to see what other people think as well. I’ll run down the possibilities:

  • The fact that the Olympics are taking place in China is a big turn off for some. There are the political ramifications and the human rights issues, and people don’t want to support something they don’t think should be happening where it’s happening.
  • With COVID happening, people just don’t care about the Olympics. There are much more important things to focus on, like Russia possibly invading Ukraine and breaking the whole world.
  • People are burned out over the Olympics. It was too soon to bring them back, and so they just don’t care all that much.

Personally, I think the main reason Olympics coverage isn’t doing so hot in the US can be laid at the feet of NBC and they way they’ve continually handled them. I really (really) dislike the America-first message of their shows, and the huge amount of pressure and “importance” they seem to want to place on these athletes. They constantly seem to be more interested in an individual story than in covering the excitement of the games.

The Super Bowl’s on Sunday. Imagine if its coverage was like the Olympics. Instead of celebrating an awesome play, they tell us the back story of the wide receiver. Then they go on and on about the coach and cut away to people’s families huddled in front of the TV in their living rooms. They cut away from the action in the middle of the first quarter and jump over to tell us what’s happening in golf right then. We see a few highlights of that, and then someone in the studio shows us all what a “football” is and talks about its history. They come back to the game just in time for the halftime show, which they show in its entirety without any commentary at all.

And on and on it goes.

These days, I’d really like NBC to give up it’s insistence on trying to build a Big Audience, and instead just let us easily choose what sports we want to watch, when we want to watch them. Yes, it’s somewhat possible to do that now, but through my YouTubeTV account, it’s very hard to actually figure out what event I’m going to see. Perhaps it’s better on the NBC app, but what’s up with that? They’re holding the Olympics hostage so they can sell us their new whatever?


Going into the games, Mikaela Shiffrin was held up as this unstoppable force. “She will likely win 5 gold medals. Count ’em: five!” Coverage of the giant slalom was all focused on her, with some mention of Petra Vlhova (from Slovakia!) as the person who might foil our fair heroine. And then . . . Mikaela wiped out on like the fifth turn, and the coverage was forced to hem and haw their way, trying to justify what happened. Then last night, Mikaela fell down again in the slalom. It was so upsetting for NBC’s coverage, that they completely changed sports.

And Mikaela? She sat down on the course after she fell, and stayed there for 20 minutes. And then when she came down, NBC shoved a camera in her face and asked her to detail what went wrong and why. You can watch her reevaluate her life decisions LIVE! ON CAMERA!

You want to know what happened? She fell down. Twice. It happens. The fact that she fell down in the Olympics doesn’t invalidate her being an awesome skier. And she shouldn’t be made to feel like a failure, especially when she’s got 3 more events to race.

I might be biased (spoiler: I am), but I was really happy to see Petra win Slovakia’s first alpine medal, and have it be gold. It was just a great story that naturally arose from the way the event played out. She went into the second run back by .72 seconds, which is a big chunk of change in the slalom. She came from eighth place to win it all. Drama, without any need to tell us why it’s dramatic.

One of my current favorite events is the biathlon. I don’t know anything about the skiers. I don’t really have a dog in the fight in terms of me caring who wins. But to see all those Nordic skiers go out and race their hearts out, and then have the drama of watching them shoot for 20 different targets . . . it’s fantastic. And I don’t need NBC to tell me the back history of everyone’s grandmother and the time they got their first puppy.

But NBC does all of that every. single. Olympics. I keep tuning in, but the way I do it now is to generally avoid watching them live. I watch them delayed, so I can skip all the ads and skip all the sob stories. I watch the events I want, even though it takes some effort to find them. What would be super helpful for me would be if NBC were to provide a site where they said “Watch this event, it ended up really good.” Don’t spoil the outcome. Just tell me it’s particularly noteworthy.

Somehow, I doubt that’s going to happen.

Anyway. That’s my take on the Olympics. How about you: are you watching? Why or why not?


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