Olympic Daze… “Please Stand by While Your Life is Buffering”

by Debra Chappell

View of Tower Bridge – London (from City Hall):

Mood Reading:    Z  —  (was up at 2am watching live-stream of Men’s Pole Vault Qualifying with the hubby – what the hell, can catch up on sleep over the next 4 years!)

I, like so many others, have been glued to either my laptop or the TV for the better part of 12 days now, enthusiastically consuming every morsel of the London 2012 Olympics that NBC Prime Time, Live Stream, Facebook, Twitter, and my youngest son (who’s in London) can offer.  I have found them exhilarating, inspiring, and totally addictive in every way, not only screwing up my daily routine entirely, but also any hope to write a simple grocery list much less concentrate on my novel.

From the scenic shots of London, to the fabulous venues, to the various athletes from 204 countries competing in a wondrous assortment of 26 sports as different from one another as Beethoven and Bongo Drums, there is absolutely something for everyone.

So….can someone please explain to me why in God’s name it is that every single time I turn on the TV, all I see is Beach Volleyball… or so it seems.  Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE volleyball, and Beach Volleyball in particular, with its thumping rock music, royally star studded audience and abundance of buns and bikinis.  It’s a heck of a lot more entertaining then 6 sweaty guys digging and diving in a loud, smelly old gym. But really…Proctor and Gamble must be fuming in their own freshly Febrezed headquarters right about now. 

They paid millions and millions of dollars for exposure to an audience of over 36 million watching every day in hopes we’ll come away with “Tide”, “Cascade”, and “Old Spice” emblazoned in our national psyche’s forever more.  But the only names we’ll remember when it’s all said and done (at least if NBC has their way) is Misty Mae-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings – who together have had more play, camera, and face time then Proctor and Gamble, Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt, and Gabby Douglas combined! That’s why I was completely shocked when I discovered only this morning that there was not only another pair of Americans in the sport, but that what’s-her-name and who’s-it have qualified to challenge the famous duo in an all-American final for the Gold! Who knew?

So yes, call me crabby about the prime time coverage.  It must be because I was up at 2 this morning  watching the livestream of Men’s Pole-Vault Qualifying on the laptop, sans music, Costa commentary, and sandy bikini briefs.  THIS is where NBC has redeemed itself entirely.  (Watched the Women’s Live Final too and saw Jenn Suhr bring home the gold.)The Livestream is the greatest thing since peanut butter.  Pick your sport, choose your event, watch it live as it’s happening, where ever it’s happening, and best of all, you’re not at the mercy of some network mogul who thinks he/she knows and understands exactly what it is America wants.

Honestly, which one of those bright fat cats thought that a 22 minute fictional , pre-produced fluff piece about James Bond, smack in the middle of Olympic prime time, was preferable to featuring any one of the over 10,000 dedicated athletes competing in London through their own blood, sweat, tears, and years of dedicated training in their respective events? Don’t they listen to their own sponsors?  Some of these poor sods haven’t read a book, watched TV, or ordered dessert in years preparing for their moment, their time to shine on this once in a lifetime stage, but do we get to hear about them? No, we’re treated to what amounts to a 22 minute commercial for a movie we’ll soon be able to rent anytime, anyday on Netflix from now until eternity!

And finally, while I’m at it, (you really don’t want to cross me when I’m short on ZZ’s and not fully caffeinated) the ultimate offense came during last night’s prime time broadcast of the women’s 100 Meter Hurdles Qualifying.  In providing a bit of shall we say “colorful background” on Kelly Wells during lane introductions, the announcer explained that Kelly wanted to provide a positive role model to young athletes who had been abused as kids.  Fair enough, if he would have left it there.  But no, this veteran announcer saw fit to provide every last sordid detail to an audience of 36 million watching over national and international network television,  saying that “she had been raped by her mother’s boyfriend and didn’t tell anyone at the time” and after “her mother and this boyfriend we’re killed in a car accident weeks later, lived with the secret for years afterwards.” I ask you, is this really appropriate commentary, announced to the world, right before the most important race of this young woman’s life?  Did this announcer really believe it was “okay” to re-tell such personal tragedy to anyone, much less the entire world?  And yes, I get it, her story is out there by her own choice.  But that’s just it  – it is her choice…when, how, to whom, and in what forum.  It’s something that should be conveyed in her own voice and in her own way…NOT by some  impersonal talking head announcing it to the world like any run of the mill “filler” in the lead up to her debut performance in the 2012 Olympic games. The guy ought to be fired.

Okay, glad that’s all off my chest now.  Maybe I should go back to bed or better yet, pour myself another cup of coffee and log on to nbcolympics.com/livestream.  I think if I hustle, I can still catch the end of the Men’s Quarterfinal in Handball…