Wednesday, August 8, 2012

And Now, My Quadrennial Rant

Ah, the Olympics. That amalgam of sporting conquest, inspiring back stories, the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat .... and the NBC color commentators.

I know that those who have previously played, participated, trained and/or coached a sport or activity have knowledge about what they are supposed to cover that the rest of us don't. That brings the potential for a reasoned and informative commentary. It can also provide a little excitement for when someone does something great, even at the risk of being a little too Ameri-centric. But what it ultimately does is ruin the amazement for the rest of us, to the point that in normal conversation we sound pretentious:

Me: "Did you see that awesome gymnastics thingy by Zelda Rheumatismansky last night? It was one of the most amazing things I've ever seen!"
Someone Else: "Yeah, she was good, but her feet were a little apart when she did the tripple-axel-Molotov-Hamill-Camel-extension-with-a-drop-loop-Aye-Caramba on her dismount. Really disappointing. 
Me: "Oh, yeah, I ... noticed that ... too ..." 

I have a new definition of "The 99 Percent:" It's the percentage of the worlds population who CANNOT DO ANY of what an Olympic gymnast does in competition. And I'm going to speculate that it's probably a higher percentage. So, "I am the 99.98 Percent," which means I am just in a lot of awe that a body can self-propel itself to fling, run, swim, spike, tumble, throw, shoot, and goal as much as I've been seeing in London.

While I appreciate the explanation of rules and technicalities, I don't think using descriptors such as "devastating," "catastrophic," or "horrendous" is right when a highly trained athlete makes a bobble. I can understand why an athlete will feel that way when things don't go well. Training for four, eight, or even twelve years to attain an Olympic medal only to come up short will illicit empathy from all of us watching. We want our people to do well, and to realize their goals. We cheer with them when they do well, and we may even cry with them when they miss their opportunities. What I don't want to hear half way through a routine or a match is that "it's over for him/her." Thanks, expert color commentator! Now I don't have to tediously watch the rest. I'll just turn the channel now to see what whacky things are happening in Judge Judy's courtroom. Now if we can just get Turner Classic Movies to flash the graphic "Rosebud is the sled!" right in the middle of Citizen Cane, we could spend more time watching reality TV.

(Oh, spoiler alert: I may divulge a critical plot element of the film Citizen Cane at some point during this post.)

I would like for color commentators to keep their hyperbole in check, or at least in the realm of reasonable. When I think "devastating," it conjures up scenes from Joplin, MO after the EF-5 tornado last May. "Catastrophic" is the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina or the Haitian earthquake. The human tragedy in Darfur is "horrendous." I really don't think that a highly trained athlete with sponsorship and endorsement deals missing out on Olympic medals is "tragic." It's disappointing, discouraging and heart aching - and we need to allow them to have these feelings. But please, don't try to get me believing that our world is a little worse off because someone else triumphed and is celebrating their victory. And don't tell me that someone is "done for" in the middle of their match. It's like seeing a graphic in the middle of Godfather III that says "Michael Corleone dies at the end, old and lonely, in one of the most laughable death scenes in film history."

(Spoiler alert: technically, this is not a spoiler, because very few people have the stomach to watch Godfather III to its conclusion. Think of this as me saving three hours of your life for something far better. You're welcome.)

There is a lot of other nonsense that NBC is doing: using winter Olympics athletes to promote summer games (I'm looking at you, Apollo), getting Matt and Al  to "humorously" attempt and make a mockery the events that most of us don't watch, the six-hour tape delay that requires Brian Williams to urge the NBC Nightly News viewers to "turn away from the screen because we're just going to 'show' the results and not 'talk' about them" (Spoiler alert: big tall swimmers win some medals ... again ...), and of course, the contest to see who can be the first one to really piss off Michael Phelps by asking him for the umpteenth time "how does it feel," and "you're really not going to retire this year, are you?" All of this is fair game, but alas, I don't have time to write about it.

I have to watch the horrendous, devastating catastrophe that is the final of women's beach volleyball, as it is certain that one American team will fail miserably and be forced to take home the silver. Oh, the humanity ...


  1. Love this!! I quit watching and started reading Tolstoy's War and Peace. It's far less painful and much better written :)

    1. Wow. You really have had it with the Olympics. Poor dear! :)

  2. so, we have a little David Sedaris on our staff. I enjoyed your commentary. What I find personally amazing is that I can't stop myself from looking at the spoiler alerts on google. It's like when I used to read the end of the Nancy Drew books before I finished. But I still watch the athletes because they deserve an audience and I can't walk across the school parking lot w/o falling over a weed. The reruns are bad and it's only every four years. And do we really think Subway is the food of the Olympians...and Lochte...well. ya know. Marlyse

    1. Oh, I am all about the viewing - especially the sports that we see every four years because no one will cover them. I just can't stand that the commentator realizes that this is his or her only shot in the spotlight for the next four years, so has to be "expertly expert" in what they say and do.