Archive Opinion The Orion

Olympics one big reality show

August 1, 2004

I came to a conclusion while watching the Olympics; the Beijing games in 2008 will be much longer than four years away and will be even more painful to watch.

NBC confused me royally with their mammoth 24-hour 7-channel lineup. Unlike the Nagano Nightmare CBS provided with the 1998 Winter Olympics, there are events broadcast live, as well as taped and tinkered and fortified with artificial drama.

When I looked online to figure out when events would be happening, I noticed there were two schedules (actually three, including the Pacific time zone). There was a list when the actual events would take place, then a list of when they would be broadcast along with the channel they would be on.

Since these events weren’t live and there was so much to cover, there was only one answer. No, not showing the events in their entirety. We needed to edit and sanitize. We must script what we say and what we show. We can make reality bend to our whims. Oooh, oooh, we can even make our own breaks more attractive to advertisers. Yay, money!

I can’t come up with any better explanation. Why else did NBC wait to show their events until 8 p.m. on the West Coast, instead of at 5 p.m. when the rest of the nation was watching?

In case you couldn’t tell, one of my pet peeves is watching prerecorded sports. In the beginning, the networks weren’t showing any of the games because there were no networks.

Now we live in the 21st century where we can watch games safely from the comfort of our own homes. The only downside is the fact that we miss out on the experience of being in an actual ballpark or stadium. Of course, in our post-9-11-terrorists-hiding-in-our-pillows society, there’s always the thought of a big explosion getting in the way of the games.

According to the anti-terror people, we shouldn’t give in and not do things because we’re scared of terrorist attacks. According to many people’s common sense, the comfort of a television set beats trying to weave your way through security and forking out a couple hundred dollars to be one of the three people to watch the men’s badminton semifinal.

The most fun part of the Olympics is hearing about the results before the events “happen.” I love the fact that our 24-hour news networks keep us abreast of everything we should care about, and we end up with meaningless prime-time replays. There may be little nuances that might be interesting, but there’s no big reason to watch it. I haven’t watched a Devil Rays-Orioles game before. Why? Neither team has a shot at the playoffs and they’re on the other coast. And where is Team USA baseball? We couldn’t even qualify in our own national pastime.

To get our attention, NBC had to find some controversy to get people to watch. Thankfully, this was like finding mud in the dirt; add a little water and enjoy.

The big stories they used were the failings of our men’s basketball team, the failed drug tests and sudden withdrawals by athletes and the continued inability of Olympic judges to learn their numbers. I’ll address these in reverse order.

The South Korean protest in the men’s all-around gymnastics program should never have been looked at. The grievance was filed after the medals had been awarded and they reviewed videotape to help their decision. This tape, according to the Federation Internationale de Gymnastique, is only to be used to evaluate judges. I missed the part where they can change the results of the competition.

The only way to settle this is for American Paul Hamm to keep his gold. Of course, that makes too much sense. Thankfully the U.S. Olympic Committee is showing some backbone by refusing to even deliver the letter from international gymnastics officials telling Paul Hamm to give up his medal.

The big story for the Greek Olympic team was the motorcycle accident their top male and female sprinters had coincidently on the same day as their drug test. After an investigation began, they withdrew.

To add to the fun, three American men swept the 200-meter — the same race sprinter Kostas Kenteris won in 2000. The crowd was rowdy at first, but after a respectful celebration by the Americans, the games returned to normal — whatever that means.

To sum up the performance of our “Dream Team” (a term that needs to go away quickly), I think Habitat for Humanity needs to give them a call. There’d be no more homeless people with all those bricks being laid up.

In short, the ratings are misleading. These were far from the best games played. Then again, I can’t really say that until we get to see the closing ceremonies around Christmas.