The Spectacle Blog
Jed, I'm with you on style points. Wlady, see my column to come on the World Match Play. I think the TV-Oprahfication of the games began in earnest with the summer games in Australia, where the time zone shift made anything live impossible. NBC reduced that entire Olympics to a series of personality features. I miss the early days of ESPN, when you could watch unpolished rugby and Australian rules football. Nowadays, the major Olympic event seems to be the TV interview.
Jed, I sympathize with you totally, to such an extent that I watched next to nothing of the Turin Olympiad. Sports competition is that last thing TV is interested in. The problem goes back decades, to whenever the "Up Close and Personal" segments began. (I'm afraid Roone Arledge might share the blame.) Moreover, once the winter games were switched to off years, for purely commercial reasons, who in heckfire could have possibly cared about any of the proceedings? Which is why we now have snowboarding and Sports Illustrated covers honoring our leading snowboarders, even the goofy gal who threw her gold medal away by trying to hotdog at the finish. It's a weird new world out there for anyone over 30.
John: That's the whole point. If they want ratings, give us sports not some frozen romance novel. The reason women's figure skating gave them their best night is that guys tuned out days before, and stayed out. The NBCing eye dogs should take a look at the ratings Monday Night Football gets, and take a lesson. Full contact Olympics would mean all the diff.
Jed: Your views on what makes a sport a sport have very little to do with ratings, and ratings are the only reason anyone is fretting over a disappointing Olympics in the first place. Women's figure skating is, by far, the most popular event at the Winter Olympics; it gave NBC its best night. Move it to daytime? Dream on.
John: No matter how you slice it (or edit it) objective results are what make sports different from soap operas. Subjective scoring is inherently inconsistent with sports. If you add enough style points, you could make NFL football into a sport the ladies would play.
I wouldn't be so hard on sports that include style points, especially now that judging is moving toward more objective measure. But the real problem with NBC's Olympic coverage has been the editing. Instead of showing one event start to finish, they cut back and forth between two different events. I guess this is supposed to keep the audience for both events glued to the TV, but it seems more likely to leave fans of one or the other sport too bored to stay tuned in -- particularly since they mix sports that appeal to different demographics. I'd imagine that a mix of figure skating and freestyle skiing aerials or ice dancing and snowboard cross pleases very few viewers.
The Winter Olympics -- thanks, mostly, to NBC -- have been a crashing bore. For all the bad ratings they've been getting, even worse have been earned. Now they're talking about how to fix it by breaking what little is left in one piece.
You may have seen some of the idiocy being touted on AOL, such as "athlete confessional rooms" for failures to wail away the hours and a new version of the Olympic Village. Great. Guarantee more touchy-feely junk and make Oprah the ever-present anchor. All this needs is Dr. Joyce Brothers debating Alan Dershowitz about the significance of failure.