The Olympics, Take 1

So, it has been over a week since my last contribution to this blog, and I am going to put blame where blame is due — the Olympics. I have been obsessing majorly over the Olympics throughout the past ten days, and, as they wind down here throughout the week, I want to record the duality of my feelings toward them (and, particularly, NBC’s coverage of them). Today, the good…

The Olympics are thoroughly compelling, both as emotional and physical drama. From the little-seen hockey games that must be sought out on CNBC to the ratings-grabbing figure skating competitions, from the slow-moving cross country skiing to the adrenaline-rush of short-track speed skating, the Olympics are engaging, appointment television. The commentators for the individual events are complemented by the recorded pieces giving more detailed background about particular athletes, and they combine to give real substance to the experience of watching an event.

A typical evening watching the Olympics combines taped events from earlier in the day with live events. The live events have a sense of urgency, while the taped events jump right to the highlights of lengthy events that most of us would rather than not sit through. Think of it as NBC gaining control of your DVR – you get only the highlights, with none of the boring stuff.

Overall, NBC’s coverage of the Olympics succeeds more often than it fails, providing expansive coverage (particularly on the cable channels) throughout the day while cherry-picking the events to cover in the all-important primetime hours.

The last thing to note in favor of the Olympics is the sense of patriotism that I feel during these two weeks. In a way that I rarely feel throughout the rest of the year, my patriotism rises to the surface and I obsess about things like how many medals Germany gets on a particular day. For example, I think I woke my wife when Evan Lysacek won the gold… her annoyance at that decision was a bit deflating, I must admit.

But the point of course is that the Olympics provides this tremendous lightning rod for conversation every two years. Like the Super Bowl, when people who care nothing about football pretend to for about six hours, the Olympics becomes a meeting ground, a site for conversation and debate (I mean, the one guy did a quad!!!!), and, just as importantly, something that demands only as much attention as we wish to devote to it. I love the Olympics, and even in years when I plan to spend very little time watching (like this year), I always become entranced. And I’m glad that I do.

Tomorrow… The Olympics, Take Two (Or, Mary Carillo Cavorts with Polar Bears)

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