Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010
Nonplussed by the Olympics as an educational tool
NPR did a decent job of summarizing how “NBC’s broken Olympic coverage manages to annoy absolutely everyone.”
My own take is quite simple. I find the way sports are covered in America to be viscerally grating as TV reporting covers the action at a glacial pace and seems compelled to spend as much time as possible showing you interviews and other content that isn’t actually the game or competition you sat down to watch.
Case in point, the subject of the Olympics came up one morning as our daughter wanted photos in the newspaper explained to her. So, we decided to show her the figure skating competition that would be aired early in the evening on TV.
That NBC was delaying the broadcast past her bedtime and that it would have been more convenient to watch it earlier in the day live was beside the point.
NBC’s idea for covering figure skating was to show one couple’s brief performance and then 30 minutes of several other sports (luge, speed skating and I believe a third I can’t recall, plus interviews), then one more figure skating performance and then 30 more minutes of not-figure-skating.
I yearn for the day when enough homes are wired with true fiber optic broadband Internet access (not cable/DSL) and the Olympic Committee realizes it can bypass TV networks to deliver every competition in its entirety to individual customers and reap tremendous profits directly in the process… while maintaining the integrity of the Olympic spectacle.
Currently, the value of presenting the Olympics to my daughter as a competition bringing the nations of the world together in a common activity… well, it completely fails… not just because of the annoyances mentioned above, but because, as NPR calls it, we are shown a “USA-Plus” edition of the Olympics.
We see the US teams plus a handful of other teams that happen, in hindsight, to be visually interesting (re: mistakes are made) or (again, in hindsight) are known to be among the 2nd and 3rd place finishers. And, of course, if America isn’t expected to win a medal, the competition is much less likely to be aired.
As an educational tool, NBC has ruined the Olympics. Here’s to hoping World Cup offers a better job of presenting a global perspective.