Monday, February 17, 2014

Just Let Them Play

Desperate for the "emotional" storylines that are the hallmark of its Olympic coverage, NBC finally struck gold on Sunday as skier Bode Miller took Bronze in the Super G--becoming the oldest skier to ever win an Olympic medal.  However, that kind of historic achievement wasn't enough for the folks at NBC.  Instead, reporter Cristin Cooper repeatedly questioned Miller post-race about the death of his younger brother nearly a year ago from a seizure--until he finally broke down into tears on camera.  Hello top story for prime time coverage!!

It was nice to see others in the media who have also become fed up with this manipulation of sports into some sort of perverted reality TV--with a flurry of on-line articles taking Cooper (and NBC in general) to task for always trying to turn Olympic athletes into characters in Shakespearean tragedies.  I'm surprised that Dan Jansen--who is on the NBC announcing staff for these games--didn't come bursting into the control truck to demand an end to the Miller interview after he was crushed by ABC Television in not one but TWO Olympic games as "skating in memory of his dead sister".

Contrast that with the beauty of what played out at the end of the USA-Russia hockey game on Saturday morning.  A tie game after regulation time and four on four overtime (which I hate) became must-see TV in a shootout (which I hate even more than four on four overtime)--as Team USA Forward TJ Oshie scored goal after goal--and Jonathan Quick made just enough spectacular saves on the other end--until the Russians could no longer answer.

You may have noticed that there were no little vignettes before Oshie took all those shootout attempts.  No feature on tiny Warroad, Minnesota--which has sent a disproportionate number of players to the NHL over the past 60 years.  No tearful interviews with TJ about a sick/dying/dead family member/coach/special friend/former teammate that is "inspiring him for these games".  There wasn't even a semi-humorous look at the "art of the penalty shot" and Oshie's freakish ability to totally confound goaltenders with the widest array of breakaway moves that many long-time hockey fans have ever seen.  (By the way, how about a huge pat on the back to Team USA General Manager David Poile and Head Coach Dan Bylsma for selecting Oshie for the team for that very purpose--since he does lead the NHL in shootout success percentage.)  It was just pure competition and sport delivering the kind of drama, emotion and joy that only live competition can provide.

And you know what?  Just presenting the game as it is was still a huge ratings success!!  Saturday morning's USA-Russia contest provided NBC Sports Network with its highest ratings ever.  Imagine that--a record number of people turning in just to watch a game--not to "have their heartstrings tugged" or to be filled with "American pride".  It kind of makes you wish you could watch Canadian Broadcasting or the BBC Olympic feed--instead of the garbage NBC foists upon us every two years.

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