Robert Sherman: A disappointing Olympics


Published: Friday, February 21, 2014 at 3:06 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, February 21, 2014 at 3:06 p.m.

I’ve watched my last Olympics. That is my vow if the current programming does not change. They are such a disappointment that I hope to spare myself future aggravation.

I’m not talking about the athletes and their competitions. They do their best under conditions set for them by others. I am talking about Olympic Organizing Committee (OOC) choices and decisions and television programming of the games. If what we have seen in the recent games are the best they can do, then they should let someone else take over.

I’ve just watched the winter games (or tried to). I like the winter games best perhaps because I’m from a northern clime and like to see what athletes can do on snow and ice. Hockey, and speed skating, and high-jump skiing are my favorites And, yes, even curling.

Alas, the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) promised for days, in heir advertising for the Olympics, that we would see the US and Russia play hockey on Saturday morning from 7 to 10 a.m. I was up, breakfast eaten, and ready. What did we get? Everything but the game itself. Touting the big players and their background lives, but little or nothing of the hockey game. I didn’t even know who won until reading the newspaper the next day. It was a great game, decided by shootouts, but you wouldn’t know that from watching NBC.

Let’s be honest: NBC’s programming is “entertainment” (if you want to call it that), not sports. The aim is to manufacture an audience interest and make money. We hear everything about the athletes and their lives, about the venues and their amenities, about what they had for supper and what time they set their clocks for wake-up calls. But we didn’t see much of the sports competitions themselves. NBC told us about some of the athletes’ parents, how they got to the games and what they felt about their sons and daughters participating. Can’t we imagine what the parents would feel about their sons and daughters? Do we expect them to say, “I’ve paid a ton of money to get over here, and if you don’t win you’re toast”?

There also is the chopped up programming. We can’t see an entire event, or even a significant part of it, because it interferes with the advertising. And the “commentary” of those sitting around the newsroom. And the opinion makers on the slopes and in the rinks. You just get settled into seeing one event, and, boom!, we’re off to another. The next time around will it be a change in program while a skier is in mid-flight from the high jump? Don’t the advertisers realize that aggravating the audience is not a good way to encourage sales? I have my checklist now of advertisers (and NBC) from whom I will not buy because I am so aggravated.

And then there is the rah, rah, rah for Team USA. Of course we want our local athletes to do well, but this is an international competition with skilled athletes from every where, who we want to see as well. The constant emphasis on national pride detracts from appreciating skill wherever it may be found and is, it seems to me, the opposite of old-time Olympic intent.

“Cheapskate,” you will call me. Pay for a TV package and programming that will let you watch all of the Olympics all of the time. Are you telling me my local provider and NBC don’t care for my business? So now it’s out in the open! I pay for what I can afford. Besides, it was the local programming that promised to show the hockey game. Does NBC have any evidence that its viewers want to watch the pabulum it provides? The Olympics happen only every four years (every two years if you divide the winter and summer games). Television programming can’t schedule time to see an event to its conclusion?

Now for the OOC. Why in the world did it agree to have the Olympics held in Sochi? To curry favor with Vladimir Putin? Because there was money to be made for the OOC? All evidence suggests this will be the most expensive winter Olympics ever and the community, not OOC, will pay the cost. Look at the views of Sochi No snow in the streets and the temperature is 60 degrees. There are palm trees along the road sides! Yes, there is snow in the mountains behind Sochi, but it is melting and the athletes have complained that the snow quality prevents their best performance. Once the snow all melts we’ll be able to hold mud wrestling there.

An NBC correspondent tells us that the OOC decision to meet at Sochi was in the interest of extending its influence. In other words, money. What will it be next, beach volleyball championships in Bangor, Maine? Why can’t the OOC live with the fact that winter Olympics imply winter. Meet where it is cold and where it is snowy, and let other places compete for the summer Olympics. And shut up the announcers and opinion gurus and let us watch Until they do, I have seen my last Olympics.

Robert R. Sherman lives in Gainesville.

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