Monday, June 25, 2012

An Open Letter to NBC as The Olympics Draw Nigh

Dear NBC,

This evening I tuned into some pre-Olympics coverage.  Coverage of time trials as young Americans in Omaha, Nebraska who had been working their whole lives (or some short period of time between adolescence and now) to become world class athletes competed against their countrymen in very silly activities like seeing who can swim fastest for400 meters, but changing directions something like 8 times to do so (just imagine if we asked 400 meter runners to keep changing directions.  I'd watch that.)

I can almost sense the impending failure just from the official NBC logo.
As we do every four four years, I saw Andrea Kremer hopping about in a golf shirt (a sports-casting garment reserved just for the Olympics.  Why is that?), trying to interview hairless, genetic freak men with excellent musculature.  I can see why anyone for whom that's a thing would be as excited as Ms. Kremer.

I also noticed the color commentators relishing the opportunity afforded them for a few weeks every quadrennium to seem something like relevant, instead of finding themselves filling time on CNBC at 3:00 on a Saturday in February.  They seemed very interested in odd minutia about very specific individuals, talked about how the nation's hopes were pinned on this seventeen year old girl who is supposed to swim faster in a switchback fashion than other people, and then had very little nice to say about her once she was in the water and not breaking laws of space and time.

If I may:  Planning a meeting or a conference or even a party takes an incredible amount of work.  I get this.  I do stuff like that often.

You work and work and work to get to the event, you struggle through it, and then its over and all you want to do is celebrate.  The last thing you want to do is show up again on Monday and consider what maybe you could have done better.  I also get that when only do something once in a while, say, every two to four years, its hard to remember what worked and what didn't and get better at doing what you're doing.

So I am going to help you out.  You can skip the notes you misplaced after 2008.  I got you.

Topic 1

The Olympics can be about stories of athletes, but (if I may) how about if we wait til they win something?

When you run the five minute package of treacly piano music and about how she's overcome Granny's plantar's wart and then Little Suzy Twinkletoes chokes and falls off the balance beam-  in four minutes you've, yes, built up the expectations of millions of viewers and then had them dashed, creating a psychic resonant wave of disappointment that far outweighs the achievement of just making it to London.

In a pragmatic way, you've also just wasted the time of millions of brains who could have just been watching the athlete perform and then watching MORE athletes perform other than just the five Americans you've decided to follow around and tell their often heavily edited stories (and, my GOD where do you find so much tragic sounding piano music?  It is AMAZING.).

And, hey NBC, if you ran out of athletes to show, then you might have time to show other sports instead of just "women's" gymnastics* and swimming.

How about some awesome tae kwon do?  Or fencing?  Or weightlifting (I actually like Olympic weight lifting.  That @#$% is intense)?  Or dressage?  If we're going to pay to get the horses all the way to London and train them to dance, can we get frikkin' 30 minutes of dressage in primetime?

Topic 2

Rein in the color commentators.

The only people involved who seem to have no perspective about the Olympics are the commentators.  This is the Olympics.  Really, all that we need is a basic explanation of the sport and maybe why the athlete scored how they did.  Criticizing the athletes before they even walk into the room is largely unnecessary, as is speculating about what a huge disappointment it will be if the athlete fails.  They know that.  I know that.

At some point the commentators just sound like bitter jerks.  I think they can't help themselves, but the fact is, most of us care about, say...  rhythmic gymnastics only because its the Olympics, but we know a mistake when we see one.  We don't need someone blubbering about "how could she have let that happen?" when her heel goes 2 mm over the line.  In many ways, it just points out that this is not a real sport like, say, the 100m dash.

Topic 3

Shut the hell up during the opening ceremonies.

Talking about various athletes = okay.  If your name is Katie and your last name rhymes with Boo-rick, you can reduce it by 75% and you're still talking too much.  Shut up.  Just... shut up.  There's 150,000 people in the stadium getting by without your blow-by-blow explanation of what the brightly colored clowns symbolize or what sort of foam was used in the manufacture of a hat.  You sound like Ron Burgundy reading everything put in front of you.  They wrote lovely music for these things...  let's just watch them as the director intended.

Topic 4

The post failure interview.

So, you're the come back kid at age 38 having finally mastered the one-armed hammer throw.  But you trip and it hits you in the face, disgracing you before all your peers and a TV audience of a billion eyes.  You pull yourself off the ground, knowing that somewhere the color commentators are having a cow, and you walk away from the... field, I guess.  

What do you throw a hammer on?

Anyway, there's Andrea Kremer in a golf shirt carrying a mic with that look in her eyes like she's been doing blow for five days straight.  She sidles up to you, and smiling like a drunk co-ed she blurts:  "SO HOW DOES IT FEEL TO SPEND YOUR WHOLE LIFE GETTING HERE ONLY TO FAIL?"

That's just not cool.

So there you go, NBC.

I am sure there are literally a couple hundred more things I could suggest you do, but as you head into the Olympics, it's yours to ruin for a couple hundred million Americans.

If I could make one suggestion:  Don't you ever remove Bob Costas from the equation.  That man is a broadcasting deity of some sort.

*13 year-olds are not "women".  Let's just call it "wee girls who don't go to real school so they can learn tricks".

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