Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Golden Moments

There are a lot of reasons to shun the Olympics.

A larger-than-life spectacle intended to showcase the very best the human race has to offer, it has been tainted too often by doping scandals, judging controversies, violence and boycotts.

The opening ceremonies have become orgies of extravagance whose cost exceeds the gross national product of some of the participating countries.

The games have been villified, politicized, commercialized and trivilized.

Yet, like California, we love it despite all its faults.

Where else can you see a finish as electric as the men's 400 meter swimming relay in which the U.S. beat the trash-talking, snail eating, bordeaux sipping French, an outcome that would have been more emotional only if we had edged out the Taliban. (Remind me: Why is it we are supposed to hate the French? Because they opposed the war in Iraq?)

Where else can you watch a Ghanian boxer named Prince Octopus Dzanie ply his craft?

Where else would you receive a press release from the Beijing Tourist Bureau announcing the serving of dog in restaurants will be suspeded during the games. "Restaurant staff should patiently suggest another entree," the release stated. Watch out, cats of China.

Where else can you see smog that makes Los Angeles look like Vail? Or as David Letterman said, ""There's excitement in the air over the Olympics...also lead, arsenic, benzene."

Where else can you watch a 9-year-old lip sync "Ode to the Motherland" because the real 7-year-old singer had crooked teeth?

Where else can see you Michael Phelps turn water into gold?

When else would you spend a weekend watching team handball, archery, synchronized diving, women's saber and weightlifting?

When else can you hear archery commentators make a match between Korea and Italy sound like the seventh game of the World Series?

When else would you look forward to the broadcast of events such as rhythmic gymnastics, race walking, modern pentathalon, table tennis and field hockey, all coming to a TV set near you soon.

Speaking of TV, NBC is in the middle of broadcasting 3600 hours of Olympic events. Or as one wag commented, just a few hours short of the number of "Law and Order" repeats running each week.

More than 34 million tuned into the opening ceremonies. An Associated Press dispatch pointed out that means some 270 million took a pass. I guess they were watching a "Law and Order" rerun.

One recent evening, I counted at least seven commercials running back to back during break time. Most of them seemed to be narrated by Morgan Freeman, who can make a credit card commercial sound like the Ten Commandments.

Some touted the candidacy of Barack Obama or John McCain, which means there is no escape from a presidential campaign characteried by tire pressure gauges and Paris Hilton.

Through all this thicket, NBC is doing a commendable job. The hype and overstatement are being kept to a minimum. The coverage extends beyond America competitors to those from other countries. Breaking news is being covered in a professional manner.

Let the games continue. And enjoy the ride.

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