I’ve railed both here and on Facebook about NBC’s truly awful coverage of the Olympics in London. And as I’ve continued to watch, probably the most depressing aspect of all is the extraordinarily jingoistic and America-centric nature of the coverage.
Sure, it’s great to root for the home team – but what about celebrating (or even acknowledging) the athleticism and competition of some of the rest of the world? In fact, for me, the chauvinistic nature of NBC’s coverage has found me rooting against some of the home team, simply because NBC’s constant (and often incorrect) hype makes some of the competitors seems like juggernauts, steamrolling all in their path to win gold. They almost seem like bullies.
Take the women’s beach volleyball competition. Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings have been telecast ad nauseum by NBC – hour upon hour upon hour of boring beach volleyball. Of course, not a single match has been shown in primetime in which May-Treanor and Jennings aren’t competing. NOT ONE – not even the other American team, who ultimately met May-Treanor and Jennings in the gold medal match.
The fact of the matter is, winning gold medals for three Olympics in a row is pretty impressive stuff – but NBC’s bludgeoning, heavy-handed coverage just made me wish the Americans would lose, if only for a little variety in the competition.
The saddest part of all is missing out on some really great stories. The other night, NBC was kind enough to broadcast the gold medal competition in short track cycling – presumably since one of the competitors, Jason Kenny, was from the UK (i.e. an honorary American in the NBC world, thanks to English being his first language). The five minutes of coverage were among the most exciting I’d seen during the Olympics. Yet that was all I that was shown. Not a single bit of the competition leading up to that final. And no doubt, if the two finalists had been from France and Trinidad, NBC wouldn’t have shown the race.
Plus, while NBC was limiting their swimming coverage and interviews solely to American athletes, we missed out on this, which I read in the NY Times:
(Chad) Le Clos, 20, said he watched Phelps win six golds and two bronzes at the Athens Olympics and was inspired to become a champion swimmer. It was not a coincidence that Le Clos swam six events in London, including the same four individual ones as Phelps. After watching Phelps win a record eight golds in Beijing, Le Clos added more events to his program to be like Mike. On Tuesday, he pulled off a monumental upset when he handed Phelps his first major international defeat in 10 years in the 200-meter butterfly.
“That’s why I was so emotional afterwards,” Le Clos said. “He was the reason I swam the butterfly. It’s not a joke. If you think about it, it’s kind of crazy.” He added: “That’s why I swim the 200 freestyle, both the I.M.’s. I don’t swim it for any other reason than just because Michael does.”
Phelps got choked up when he heard that he was Le Clos’s hero and role model, Bowman said. “It means Michael’s done what he wanted to do: affect the sport of swimming,” Bowman added.
I mean, that is great stuff – and truly what the Olympics ought to be about! NBC’s myopic focus on a select few athletes is actually the antithesis of everything Olympic competition is supposed to represent – and I say that even in spite of all the corporate sponsorship and the politics and the shift away from amateur athletes. There are still feats occurring at these games that are awe-inspiring and moments of sheer wonder. But NBC will only share a chosen few and then beat them to death until they have lost any semblance of meaning. So, congratulations again NBC for your truly terrible job of broadcasting this wonderful event!