In Defense of NBC’s Olympic Coverage

Last Friday, I was snuggled up on my couch awaiting the opening ceremony of the Olympics. Last year, China commanded their populace with the detailed precision of zealous stage mothers, and I knew England would accomplish… nothing nearly as impressive. Other than the flock (gaggle, brigade, parliament?) of Mary Poppinses fighting a giant shower curtain with the face of the queen. That, I loved.

Your majesty.

Your majesty.

However, we have to be fair. In terms of terrible, the opening ceremony didn’t even get on the metaphorical podium. I bestow all the precious metals to the commentators at NBC, for timeless gems like…

“Djibouti- known for the name that sounds funny.”

“Kazakhstan’s anthem was mixed up with the fake theme from the popular movie, Borat.”

“Madagascar- for our younger viewers a country associated with a trio of animated movies.”

“While we had our cameras trained on the US, we obviously missed Uganda.”

And one of my favorites,

“Then we have Moldova… … … …”

Each of those ellipses represents 15 seconds of awkward pause. And they didn’t even get the name right (it’s the Republic of Moldova, you insensitive clouts). This long breathing break stood out egregiously, especially considering the previous two hours of broadcast. You know, where Matt Lauer and Meredith Viera CHATTED LIKE THEY GOT PAID BY THE SYLLABLE!

M&M preparing for broadcast.

M&M preparing for broadcast.

“Frankly, those children don’t look very sick to me.”

“Now the volunteers are leaving the arena, carrying sod with them. It’s sod, right?”

“And now a giant baby. Inspiring, or creepy?”

AAAHH! No they’re not sick, yes that is sod, and of course it is creepy! You had four hours to prepare and that is your expert commentary? You should have more to say than “Boy, are those lights pretty or what?” We can draw our own conclusions about the relative beauty of shiny things thank you very much.

Now that we’ve seen a week of event coverage, we can draw more conclusions about NBC. Some gripes were obvious from the beginning, like the complete inability to contain spoilers. With the internet, we can figure out who won the 500m anything via a few button presses. But NBC paid a lot for this coverage, damn it, so they will milk every moment until it’s as withered and dry as The Today Show’s viewership.

However, I have another gripe. Why do we only get swimming? As much as I like the fish people doing their thang, I would like a little variety. Hah, asking this network for variety… I see my own folly as I write this. Still, can’t we get a little non-swimming, non-gymnastics action up in here? Give me handball, give my ping-pong, give me kayaking and judo. Hell, even dressage would be interesting.

For ten minutes.

For ten minutes.

My gripes are not merely my own. These complaints have weeded their way around the internet, blossoming and blooming into commenter boards. Obviously my opinion is more valid, since I… created this free blog. Yeah yeah, I know I have no credence. Shut up.

So how do I defend NBC? Easy. They give us what we want. The complainers are the minority. So yeah, simple cynicism.

At least, they give us what they think we want. They believe we want simple commentary, a pure American focus (hence we only get the events we are likely to win) and a wan sneer against all the countries that don’t know we’re better than them.

A population of 905,564 silly people we will never take seriously.

A population of 905,564 silly people we will never take seriously.

So who can we blame in the end? NBC has reason to believe their analysis, and we fault them for applying that analysis. Vicious cycle. How do we end it? Well first, let’s admit that two of the three gripes are not that terrible. The hilariously bad commentary gives comedians something to poke, and Americans should be proud of American accomplishment (plus, we can watch the other events online). Only the ethnocentric sneers deserve rebuke, and that has been an American problem since our inception. Let’s not blame NBC for our own cultural doldrums. We can’t fault them for following a trend.

Most of the American-centric types don’t watch the Olympics anyway. They are happy to snuggle up to episodes of 2 Broke Girls. You know… because they are dumb.


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