an anecdote, and a complaint

Posted: August 3, 2012 in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

First of all: I love the Olympics.

I mean, a lot. They’re one of my favorite things to watch ever, and they’re one of the few sportsball events that I ever watch at all (the other three being Giants baseball games, the World Cup, and the X Games).

I remember the first time that I caught the Olympic fever. It was 2002: the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. I was nine years old. I can remember seeing the Olympic torch coming through Santa Cruz, passing down West Cliff Drive. My dad took my brother and me down there before school started so we could see it go by.

A few days later, we were in South Lake Tahoe, along with some friends and neighbors, going on a ski trip. We were staying in a cheap-ass motel that at least had a heated swimming pool. I was swimming in the pool, when there was a commotion over on the street, so I got out to see what was going on. It was the Olympic torch, passing us again. I watched and cheered, shivering in the 35-degree cold, wearing just my swim trunks and a thin layer of rapidly-cooling pool water.

I got in the pool after the torch went by. I’m not a goddamn idiot, and I wasn’t at nine years old, either.

Later that evening, my mom, dad, brother, and I went out for pizza. When we left the pizzeria, there it was again: the Olympic torch, going down the street.

So, yeah. In 2002, I saw the Olympic torch three times, two of them accidentally.

I find myself amused by that.

I really do love the Olympics, though. The thousands of athletes, coming from around the world to compete at the height of their careers, while the whole world watches them. The stadiums hung with flags of dozens of nations. The bizarre sports that people do, from weightlifting to dressage to modern pentathlon, which I can’t even pretend to understand. The thousands of shades of skin. The fact that they played Pink Floyd at the opening ceremonies. The tiny bikinis that the women’s beach volleyball players wear.

It’s not a rational love. But what kind of love is?

I will, however, point out one thing that I can really do without: the stupid goddamn TV coverage that NBC gets to do.

It’s pretty clear to me that NBC really doesn’t give a fuck about the Olympics. They treat it like it’s some sort of product that gets to be packaged with all the dignity and grace of a hybrid Super Bowl halftime show and jingoistic propaganda piece. NBC doesn’t care at all about athletes from anywhere other than the US. Yeah, they occasionally do one of their insipid little biopics about an Australian swimmer, or a Chinese gymnast. But ninety percent of the bullshit that they spew is about a homespun Midwestern gymnast, or a track star who ran her way out of the slums, or Michael Phelps.

And really, how much Michael Phelps can anyone stand? I don’t have any fucks left to give about the bastard. He swims real good. That’s about all that matters, really. We don’t need to have him put out there as a packaged product meant to sell NBC ad time or tasteless sub sandwiches or anything. We can admire him as a swimmer, shake our heads at his freak-of-nature proportions, and move the fuck on.

Watching Olympic sports in primetime is hardly fun anymore for me. I watched the women’s all-around gymnastics final last night, and it was painful. They focused exclusively on the American and Russian gymnasts– and I’m sure they only cared about the Russians because they were the Americans’ competition. Is that really the message that people want to get out of the Olympics? That it’s us against the rest of the world? That nobody matters unless they’re the best at their sport? I would have liked to see a Japanese gymnast, or a Ukrainian, or a Romanian, or a German, or anyone other than the two All-American Girls that NBC was pushing at us as Extruded Sportsball Product. The Olympics are supposed to be about world peace and international friendship, not AMERICA FUCK YEAH.

Blech. This is getting kind of ranty. I will finish by saying this, though: when we reach a tipping point, and streaming online video for sports finally becomes as easy to do as watching NBC’s endless marketing parade, I will be only too pleased to see the big TV networks implode like some big, gassy star.

That is all.

Carry on.

~ Ian

  1. […] Olympics are over, which makes me sad. However, that means that NBC’s jingoistic not-coverage is also over, which makes me happy. Because in the United States, all the Olympics we got were All […]

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