So… The Olympics

Well, I did in fact tune into the Olympics to watch the Opening Ceremony. I did so with distinctly mixed feelings, given that I’m rather supportive of the idea of boycotting watching the games, since I think NBC has not adequately responded to concerns that their $800 million wall-to-wall broadcast is whitewashing the very serious human rights violations going on in Russia – particularly those affecting the gay and transgender community.

Though, with that being said, I did take some comfort in the fact that my decision to cut the cable with Comcast (NBC’s owner) means that they actually have no idea that I’m watching, since I’m using that sweet over-the-air, old-school broadcast system (and in HD that I’m quite sure is of a better quality than that throttled crap I used to get over the cable). Of course, Comcast is also my broadband provider, so my hands aren’t all that clean.

Anyhoo, the Opening Ceremonies were, for lack of a better word, dull. I actually wondered a bit about who the intended audience was – and I suspect it was actually the people of Russia rather than the rest of the world, here seeing live and in color the glories of what their leader has wrought. I don’t suggest that’s either a good or bad thing – though perhaps it’s different than what we’ve come to expect from these spectacles, which typically aim to wow the globe with the majesty, the grandeur of the host country. And this one? Not so much. It was really long and felt enervating; and perhaps it’s just a reflection of my innate American philistinism, but much of the subject matter was simply not engaging (though perhaps more people like ballet than I do – but it’s always acted on me like a powerful narcotic).

Of course, I didn’t really watch the festivities without my own preconceived agenda, namely that, even in spite of the deeply corrupt nature of the Olympics, this was an especially egregious example; and that it was being put on to glorify and entrench Vladimir Putin. Did it succeed? Well, to hear the fawning Matt Lauer and Meredith Viera breathlessly describing the goings-on, apparently so. But for me? Not so much. Plus, we’re still seeing bits like this:

Now, it’s pretty baller that a member of the U.S. bobsled team just stone-cold kicked his way out of the bathroom he got locked into – though the door made from corrugated cardboard is not exactly screaming high-end facilities.

At any rate, I really only posted about the Olympics as an excuse to post a couple of videos. First, a really spot-on show of support to the LGBT communities in Russia from a group of Swedes – singing the Russian national anthem (in Russian!). “Kind of insanely subervise,” as one of my good friends put it.

And then this. Not only because it’s fabulous – but because I think that, while mockery alone can’t bring down a tyrant, laughing at one can both diminish him and point out the absurdity of his views. Good luck gays, on Gay Mountain!

Fuck You, NBC: Part II

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!

Fuck you, NBC

Here is a list of all the  disciplines of sport that make up the current Olympic Summer Games:

  • Archery
  • Athletics
  • Badminton
  • Basketball
  • BMX
  • Boxing
  • Canoe/kayak (slalom)
  • Canoe/kayak (sprint)
  • Diving
  • Equestrian (Dressage)
  • Equestrian (Eventing)
  • Equestrian (Jumping)
  • Fencing
  • Field hockey
  • Football
  • Gymnastics (Artistic)
  • Gymnastics (Rhythmic)
  • Gymnastics (Trampoline)
  • Handball
  • Judo
  • Modern pentathlon
  • Mountain biking
  • Road cycling
  • Rowing
  • Sailing
  • Shooting
  • Swimming
  • Synchronized swimming
  • Table tennis
  • Taekwondo
  • Tennis
  • Track cycling
  • Triathlon
  • Volleyball (beach)
  • Volleyball (indoor)
  • Water polo
  • Weightlifting
  • Wrestling (Freestyle)
  • Wrestling (Greco-Roman)

Here is a list of the sports I have seen on NBC prime-time over the past six days (many hours after the competitions have completed and results reported not only by every online, broadcast and print news organization, but frequently by NBC itself during its own promos):

  • Diving
  • Gymnastics (Artistic)
  • Swimming
  • Volleyball (beach)
  • Volleyball (indoor)

Oh, and I don’t suppose I need to add, the only competitions NBC was gracious enough to air were those in which Americans participated. Don’t even get me started on the jingoistic nature of the coverage. We were treated to hour after hour of the U.S. men’s gymnastic team having a terrible time in the team competition – yet we saw virtually none of their competitors’ (i.e. the winners!) routines. The rings exercises were not shown once. It’s really disgraceful. And I haven’t even mentioned the valuable airtime wasted with Ryan Seacrest (RYAN SEACREST!) “reporting” on which athletes are trending on Twitter. AAAUUUGGGGGHHH! The worst.

Here’s an interesting piece about the whole debacle. The sad part is, ratings are through the roof apparently. So we can expect more of the same in 2016 and 2020. I think at this point I ought to spend two weeks in London for every Olympics, just so I can enjoy the apparently marvelous BBC broadcast.

And did those feet in ancient time…

I’m thinking maybe London should host every Olympics. Or maybe the IOC just needs to hire this lady to work the opening ceremony for every Olympiad – she is  brilliant.

Hey NBC – Cut It Out

Go on with your bad self...

I’ve only been dabbling in my watching of the Olympics, sticking mostly to the homosexual events (figure skating and men’s nude curling).  Yet I must nonetheless lodge several complaints:

  • “Medal” is a noun.  One may indeed win a medal, but when I hear references to somebody’s potential to “medal” or the act of “medaling” from one of the jackasses on the TV, I can only assume that they’re referring to someone who is trying to get all up in someone’s grill, i.e. meddling.
  • Yes, to some extent the raison d’être of the Olympics is to celebrate one’s pride in one’s country and the sporting abilities of one’s fellow citizens of said country.  But, Jesus, NBC – your jingoism is as subtle as a sledgehammer.  “Shaun White wins the half-pipe gold medal! His teammate Scotty Lago gets the bronze!”  Apparently, there was no silver…  Or maybe they should have just added, “Some godless commie squarehead from some other country that is not nearly as awesome as America somehow came in second! WTF? USA! USA!”
  • Enough with the code words when describing Johnny Weir. “Flamboyant.” “Outspoken.” “Controversial.” “Pillow biter.” OK, I made that last one up – but it sure is implied…  Seriously, NBC, it’s just so sniggering and juvenile.  Would you be referring to Shani Davis as “dusky” or “articulate”?  Actually, you probably would…  Apparently, homophobia trumps the jingoism…  Oh, and Scott Hamilton can kiss my (and Johnny’s) ass – besides being a shitty announcer, his antipathy towards Weir (and his fabulosity) and his rah-rahing for Lysacek is vomitous.
  • Please show competition live on the West coast…  I don’t want to stay up until midnight watching skating – plus I have to forgo any use of the internet at all in order to preserve a total news blackout on the already-known results.
  • Finally, I suppose it’s not really NBC’s fault that I’m a crotchety old coot – but I find snowboarding to be a big snooze.  “Get off my lawn, you dang whippersnappers!”

The thrill of victory, the agony of the stupid.

What with the tulips, the legal prostitution, the charming canals and now this, how could one not love the Dutch? Congratulations Sven Kramer for your Olympic speed-skating victory and your gold medal performance in the post-race interview.

from Gawker.tv