I want to take NBC out back and shoot them.
In 1994 the Winter Olympics were in Lillehammer, Norway. The internet was baud modems and, if you were special, a 28.8 kbps modem. Webpages were often grey backgrounds with black text, and most people put all their information on one page. Folders? Not very common. Subdomains (like blog.ipstenu.org)? What are those? Essentially, if you wanted to know about the results for a sport, you picked up a paper or turned on the television that night. Instant news feeds weren’t a thought.
Back in 1997, when I moved to Chicago, the Winter Olympics were but a year away. I spend the winter of ’98 at the now gone Skate-On-State, spending every lunch hour on the ice talking to a woman about skating, and Michelle Kwan being robbed, and US Women’s Hockey. One of our conversations began with her asking me if I’d read the news yet. I had not, and she said she didn’t want to spoil me about the Figure Skating results. I said I don’t believe in spoilers in sports, and to carry on.
In 1998, it was believable that not everyone had access to the Internet, and that sporting events held in Japan could be tape delayed and shown later without great loss to the public. CBS aired the Olympics with the understanding that some people wanted to know and some didn’t, but I have a generally recollection of more often than not, knowing who won and who lost before I saw the events.
In 2002, the Olympics were held in Salt Lake City, Utah, and for the most of the Americas, ‘tape delay’ didn’t happen, since they put the ‘best’ events on during prime time TV. Sure, they wanted to prevent Nipple Gate and used the 5 second buffer (or whatever they use now), but you got your results live. For the US and Canada, and really this is for all whom I am permitted to speak, the Olympics happened in ‘Real Time.’
This year, they’re all fucked up in this nebulous future-past-present, that makes my head swim in Orwellian dances.
Before the opening ceremonies, NBC showed us qualifying runs of mens skiers. We all accept that the ceremonies are on tape delay, but what was the point of the skiing? Sure, I watch it once in a while, but we’re waiting for the Olympics to start. Give us some history of Italy and Torino (or… is that Turin?), mention the controversy of that shroud, tell us how they prepared for the games. But … qualifying runs for skiing?
Follow this up with them showing a lot of boring moments in the Olympics in general. With Michelle Kwan out, the interest in figure skating dropped down to nill, I’ll grant you, but last night Russian Evgeni Plushenko’s short program hit 90.66, which was the highest for any short program since the current scoring system was adopted in 2003. And when did they air that? Around 8pm ET when most people are just tuning in. They didn’t re-air it, or even show you highlites. What the fuck?
This brings me to my suggestion: Treat the Olympics as highlite reels. Show us the best and the worst. Show us the crashes and the surprises. Show us the kids who over come a crash and win. Show us the great skier who flops, with a Super Ski image to show where he fucked up. Bode Miller straddled a gate? Show me that part! People say that Americans can’t concentrate at length? Okay, then, pander us. Show us clips instead of whole programs.
Also, stop pretending we don’t know who won what, when, where and how. Okay? It’s two-thousand-fucking-oh-six, you bastards. DSL/Cable internet is huge. I only have a couple friends on Dial up. Everyone goes to websites and checks the scores. Bring us the best as free downloads off your site. Bring us content.
Get some more color commentators like Dick Button. As much as I mock him, when a skater screwed up a jump, Scott Hamilton was full of ‘Oh! Ow!’ and drama queen moments. Dick? Right away he said ‘Looks like he bent his ankle in there.’ A quick replay showed you Dick was on the button again. If all the commentators knew a front side grab from a luge runner, and could explain it so those of us who don’t know can keep up, then we’d probably enjoy things a lot more.
Admittedly, NBC is doing some things right, but they’re all technical. For snowboarding, they used stop motion photography (Stromotion) to break down a snowboarder’s run and explain the tricks. For skiing, they’ve been superimposing one skier over another (and calling it ‘Super Ski’), to demonstrate how the smallest difference can make or break your ski run (or jump).
Still, I’m snoozing my way through the Olympics this year. And so are a lot of people.