As the Olympics approached this year, I told all my friends I wasn’t interested. I didn’t want to watch gymnasts twirl around in underpants to classical music like something out of David Bowie’s nightmares. I didn’t want to watch people run really fast while an “expert” commentator makes a clever remark like, “Well Bob, he’s running really fast.” I didn’t want to watch the endless kitsch melodramatic stories about Americans succeeding despite some ridiculous obstacle, like their mom losing a foot to leprosy. Bottom line: I wanted nothing to do with the Olympics. But I watched anyway. I watched the first night after the opening ceremony, and I hated it. It was exactly what I had anticipated, only with more advertisements. There was no way I was watching that crap again. So the next night, I watched again. This pattern of masochism continued for about a week.
What I was amazed by was the complete lack of variety in what NBC chose to air from Beijing. Out of 35 different sports and nearly 400 events to choose from, NBC chose three: diving, volleyball and Michael Phelps.
I know Michael Phelps isn’t technically a sport, but that didn’t stop NBC from treating him like the entire Olympics rolled into a single merman.
I looked into what other sports are included at the Olympics, and I was surprised to discover just how badly I had been screwed over by NBC’s obsession with aquatic sports. I didn’t learn any of the following information from NBC. I got most of it from the International Olympic Committee’s Web site.
The Olympics has football, softball, BMX racing, Judo and Taekwondo.
The Olympics has Olympic ping-pong-you know, the crazy kind you see on YouTube, where the players are twenty feet from the table smashing it back and forth. There’s an Olympic sport called handball, which is like basketball with soccer goals and vast amounts of intensity.
There’s even Olympic badminton. That’s right-the game you played in your grandparents’ backyard when you were five is an Olympic sport. And apparently when the players serve the birdie, their rackets are moving at close to 200 miles per hour. The grandchildren of those players better stick to building blocks and bocce, or grandpa’s gonna knock their teeth in.
Besides missing the train on all of these sports, NBC picked the some of the worst possible sports for television viewing. Take diving, for instance. It may be pretty to look at once or twice, but as far as sports-watching value goes, it sucks.
I have come to the conclusion that diving is simply too complex for any normal person to understand. I watched one diver do a dive that looked like someone wrapped him in string and spun him off the platform like a top, and he got a score of 7.5. The next diver might as well have jumped in the water holding his nose, but he got a score of 8.3. Watching diving is like watching a panel of nuclear physicists decide which particle accelerator has better sprockets. I have no idea what they’re talking about, so why not just let them decide on their own and turn on some hardcore badminton instead?
If I’m going to watch sports, I want a clear goal and score-keeping system. I want to watch sports I can judge myself. I want the ball to go in the net, the glove to tag the runner or the biker to cross the line.
I’m not saying diving and swimming aren’t worthy of attention-they both require skill, dedication and large amounts of physical training. I think they deserve to be in the Olympic games. But it would be nice to see something other than Michael Phelps’ half-naked body at the next summer Olympics.