We're on day one thousand of the Summer Olympics and having
just watched Argentina skunk the American Millionaire Basketball
team, I can safely say, I'm done with the games.
It's been bittersweet for me, because every Olympics I get
caught up in the human condition—the athlete's struggles
are a perfect story metaphor, and the press knows it. That's
why we see all of the come-from-behind stories, the overcoming
of personal tragedies and obstacles, etc. Even if the athletes
aren't playing for team USA, if the story is epic and moving
enough, we'll root for them.
I'm not saying this to make light of the achievements of the
athletes, not at all. I think it's inspiring that 40% of the
athletes are women, and that includes the Iraqi and Afghan women
who are competing for the first time. Nor am I sneering at the
universal spirit of brotherhood that typically envelops the
games and the audience. It's nice to take a break from the political
finger pointing and cheer honestly for our hopefuls as they
compete in the caber toss. Really! That's at least more honest
than who was or wasn't in a boat in Viet Nam.
No, what I'm through with is the unadulterated bias that
occurs every year, without fail, during the Olympic games. For
the American audience, the games are all about sex.
Think I'm wrong? Real quick, name the two winners of the
woman's beach volleyball gold medal. Good job. Can you name
the American who won the gold medal for women's saber? Yeah,
I didn't think so. We had two women fencers win medals.
And I never saw it. Oh, sure, I could have seen it if I wanted
to add a hundred dollars to my cable bill. No problem. It wasn't
until the games started that I noticed there was full coverage
on every cable channel NBC owns. And of course, fencing got done
right away, to get it over with. For that matter, I didn't
see any boxing, either. Or any other martial arts. We have top-ranked
athletes in all of these sports. So what did I see?
Well, I saw what we always get to see: swimming, diving, gymnastics,
track and field . . . and this year, women's
soccer (in case someone took her shirt off again, don'tcha know),
synchronized swimming, and a new event: the trampoline! Oh yeah,
this is exactly what I think of when I consider the
majesty and grandeur of the Olympic games. If only Bruce Jenner
had been able to compete in the trampoline.
It's no coincidence that the majority of these sports, by
virtue of necessity or decorum, also feature lots of bare midriffs,
tight shorts, and perfectly formed bodies. That makes for good
TV, you know. That's just a fact, folks. It doesn't
matter how cool a sport is; in Olympic terms, if they ain't
nearly naked, they ain't getting that prime time coverage.
Boxing was on cable. Too violent. Ditto taekwondo. And fencing . . .
well, come on, the entire body is covered from head to toe?
Who cares how hot the chicks are if we can't see them? Now,
with the trampoline . . . that's something else.
Ten bounces, mind the plus sign in the middle, don't go off
the edge . . . it really recalls the travails
of the ancients, doesn't it?
Well, dammit, I want combat. I want more action. Screw the
interpretive dances. We've got too many events, anyway. Let's
combine a few and save some time, and up the action all at once.
Take this trampoline concept, for example. Some of the gymnasts
were getting maybe twenty feet high. Not bad. But think about
how much more interesting it would be if they were being shot
at. Skeet-Trampoline. Ten bounces, or two hits. Gymnasts flipping
over shotgun slugs. Streaks of blood arcing off of perfectly
formed arms and legs. I guarantee you, people would pack the
stadium to see that action.
Maybe they should just take the clothes off of all the athletes
and get it over with. Everyone competely nude. Most of the women
competitors are pushing the envelope of androgyny anyway, so
it's not like the competition would turn into a porno show.
If we're going to go Greek, let's walk it like we talk it.
I don't think we need to make fencing, boxing, and taekwondo
any more exciting. Just show them to us in the first place.
Is that so hard to ask? Can't we give the fencers the Former
Dream Team's spotlight, and just see if more people tune in?
Let's experiment, NBC. You're subjecting us to all of the games,
whether we want them or not, so why not take a few chances?
There are a lot of good reasons to watch the games, even if
you aren't a fan. The stories are inevitably inspiring, and
it's nice to feel a sense of pride for your country —
it's nice to remember what that feels like. Bob Costas does
a great job of keeping it all in perspective, and when they
let him talk, he's a consistently great sportscaster, one of
the few really good ones left in broadcasting. And admittedly,
the high-tech aspect of the games has been fascinating. Those
multiple superimposed shots, the moving cameras that pace the
sprinters, and all the rest of it, really up the tension and
the drama. Technically, the Olympics are cooler than ever. I'm
almost excited about the Winter Games. Give me a ski-cam and
I'll be there until the end.
You can play around with the Olympics coverage at www.nbcolympics.com,
and this includes videos of Mariel Zagunis, the new womens'
saber champion. And boy, is she a hottie . . .