Saturday, August 13, 2016

Not So Golden Moments

I have watched the Olympics since they were broadcast in black and white.

Let me clarify that. 

I have had the TV tuned to the Olympics since they were broadcast in black and white.

Nobody watches the entire menu of Olympic events, not even in 1960 when CBS first offered American viewers 20 hours of highlights from Rome.

It was pre-satellite days so they had to fly the tapes from Rome to New York to put them on the air.  Talk about delay of game. Talk about anti-climactic.

Certainly not now when NBC is bombarding us with 6755 hours of coverage on multiple channels.

Nobody in their right mind would watch the entire thing.  But I almost did.

It seems I was required to have hip surgery recently, an act that required me to rehabilitate at home for what seemed like forever plus.

So what do you do to pass the time?  You read a book.  Or you watch TV.

I watched the political conventions while taking powerful prescription pain medicine which led to numerous surreal experiences, very strange and difficult to understand. I’m sure if I had not been medicated, it would have all made perfect sense.

 I did get my head cleared in time to watch Donald Trump’s acceptance speech.  Then I quickly reached for more pain pills.

Hillary Clinton’s address was about as exciting as a PTA treasurer’s report.  I needed no medicinal help.  I fell asleep after 15 minutes.

So much for the future of our country.

I quickly devoured the books I had set aside and was faced with the vast wasteland that is daytime TV: “Dr. Phil,” Dr. Drew,” “Judge Judy,” “Naked and Afraid,” “My 600-lb Life,” every “Law and Order” ever made and lots of shows about UFOs and Nostradamus, sometimes combined into one blockbuster.

My salvation was the Olympics and because of my circumstances I was ready to embrace every minute.

That didn’t last long. NBC broadcast the opening ceremony on a one-hour delay on the East Coast. The West Coast was delayed by an additional three hours. While the rest of the world was watching, we were waiting.

And while we were waiting, we were subjected to endless commercials, mindless happy talk and constant promotional reminders that we have a really good women’s gymnastics team.

The Brazilians, not surprisingly, put on a heck of an opening show. Then came the parade of athletes, always interesting, but this time so disorganized it looked like commuters being disgorged from a subway station.

If was after 9 p.m. when the parade began. It ran so long I was off to bed before Lichtenstein strolled into the stadium.

But I’m all about second chances so I tuned in again and again.  Again and again I was awash in commercials wrapped around profiles of people and places.

It also seemed that every time I decided to watch, somebody was doing something in a swimming pool. What did they have, about 10,000 events? Or maybe NBC focused on swimming because the U.S. had a superior team. Nothing like a winner to boost ratings.

I also became increasingly irritated by the way NBC bounced around between events that gave little time for the viewer to get interested.

If you’re going to get me hooked on the canoe slalom or taekwondo, I need time to understand what I’m seeing.

Of course, we could have anticipated this.

NBC’s chief marketing officer John Miller explained the network’s approach this way:
“The people who watch the Olympics are not particularly sports fans,” he told recently. “More women watch the games than men, and for the women, they’re less interested in the result and more interested in the journey. It’s sort of like the ultimate reality show and miniseries wrapped into one.”

That brought this response from Sally Jenkins writing in the Washington Post:

“The Olympics is the most prominent competition in the world and 53 percent of Team USA is female, which means American women likely will bring in more medals than American men. Yet they will be presented in packaging aimed at a Ladies’ Home Journal crowd.”

Maybe that's why we heard commentators like NBC broadcaster Dan Hicks, who after Hungarian swimmer Katinka Hosszu won gold and set a world record in the 400-meter individual medley, immediately started talking about her husband and coach, calling him “the guy responsible.”

Or the Chicago Tribune, which referred to two-time trapshooting medalist Corey Cogdell as “wife of a Bears’ lineman” in a headline, rather than using her name.

We lagged badly in the sexism competition, however. The winner was a German equestrian commentator for ARD TV, Carsten Sostmeier, who opened an interview with rider Julia Krajewski with, “Let's see what the blondie has to say.”

He went on to call her a “scaredy-cat" and said she was so afraid of the course that "there was a brown stripe in her panties."  

Or maybe this is what passes for German humor.

I’m walking unaided now and getting out and about. That means my Olympics viewing will occur in fits and starts.

I’m sure in the future I’ll watch but, baring medical complications, it will be selectively.

If there is a future.

 In 2015 the US nominated Boston for the 2024 Summer Games, until Boston withdrew because of low public support. Germany nominated Hamburg but it pulled out after the local government lost another referendum. Toronto’s mooted bid was scrapped when its economic development committee voted against it.

Right now, the four candidate cities are Rome, Budapest, Los Angeles and Paris. In Hungary, the supreme court has just blocked a proposed referendum. And in Italy, Rome’s new mayor, Virginia Raggi, has repeatedly said she opposes the bid.

It looks like Our Fair City may win by default, maybe permanently. And if it does, I’m betting NBC will still try selling us the journey rather than the results.

Robert Rector is a veteran of 50 years in print journalism. He has worked at the San Francisco Examiner, Los Angeles Herald Examiner, Valley News, Los Angeles Times and Pasadena Star-News. His columns can be found at Robert-Rector@Blogspot.Com. Follow him on Twitter at @robertrector1.

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