Two decades ago, I covered the Winter Olympics in Japan, and it was great. But when I gushed about the ski jumping, women’s hockey, and speed skating, my readers had no idea what I was talking about.
I soon figured out why: the folks back home weren’t watching the same Olympics I was. What they did see was tape-delayed, over-produced, and cut short by an endless stream of “up close and personal” profiles, almost all of them Americans.
But now that I’m one of those folks back home, allow me to grumble about the Olympic coverage – and suggest you turn your TV to CBC. The Canadians have this crazy idea that when you’re covering the Olympics, you should show the Olympics, including the most interesting athletes from all over the world, and show them live whenever possible.
Good idea. NBC should try it.
If you can’t get CBC, try going online, where you could see Norway cross-country skier Simen Hegstad Krueger crash at the start of his long race, break a pole, then proceed to pass all 67 skiers for the gold medal.
But here’s some good news, TV fans: luge and the bobsled are even more boring in person. On TV, you see them run the entire course, you get their splits, and you know what’s going on. In person, you get to see some dude fly by for a split second and say, “Wow! That guy’s going pretty fast!” then watch him finish 25th.
Curling is also better on TV. Seen live, curling is just shuffleboard on ice. Seen on TV, with that great overhead cam, it’s like watching a lava lamp of slow-moving, colorful blobs bouncing into each other and sliding around. Forget the competition. It’s a great way to chill after a stressful day.
Curling is also the only Olympic sport all of us think we could do. If you can’t cross-country ski full speed for an hour, or fly off a ski jump, or land a triple axel, you can look at the curlers and think: Yeah, I could do that. I don’t need to work out or anything. I just need to buy a silly pair of pants and a broom. Target’s got those things, right? Be right back.
Curling looks silly, but it’s not stupid, which is more than I can say for the International Olympic Committee. When it comes to corruption in sports, the IOC takes the silver medal, trailing only international soccer. Having discovered rampant cheating among Russia’s national teams, the IOC decided to come down hard and ban them from the Olympics. Except, okay, the figure skating team, and all right, the curling team, and sure, the men’s hockey team, and the women’s hockey teams, and, okay, 168 athletes – and that’s it!
But no, you can NOT use your nation’s uniform, name, or flag. That’ll teach ‘em!
On the fun side, we have U.S. snowboarder Red Gerard, a 17-year old kid from Colorado – yes, born in this century – who was binging on Netflix the night before his big event, then slept through his alarm until his roommate woke him up.
I imagine the conversation went something like this:
After Gerard woke up, he couldn’t find his coat, so he borrowed his roommate’s, and dashed to get to his event, while his parents were sending out Snapchats of themselves riding up the mountain while shotgunning beers.
Gerard blew his first two runs, but on his third and final attempt, he nailed it, and won the whole thing. Gold medal.
His reaction? “Holy [BEEP]!”
Now this, NBC actually broadcast live, so his words got through.
John U. Bacon is a freelance sports commentator. His views are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management, or its license holder, the University of Michigan.