Friday, August 08, 2008

change the channel, the olympics are on

So the Olympics are kicking off in Beijing on this 8th day of the 8th month of the 8th year (of this century). And I'm not excited.

No, this isn't an anti-China thing. Their human rights record sucks, true. Especially in Tibet. But it's not political - I didn't care about the Olympics in Athens or Sydney or Atlanta (and so on) either.

No, it's quite simple. Most Olympic sports are boring, and the exciting ones are not at their best in the Olympics.

Why watch the 100 meters dash or diving or the 400x4 relay or weightlifting or gymnastics or synchronized aquatic knitting NOW, when we pay precisely zero attention to them the rest of the time (unless your are unfortunate enough to have to drag your son or daughter to practice)? Just because there are a lot of events happening at once doesn't raise the enjoyment value of them. It's like reading a boring book while watching a boring TV show and listening to a boring CD - it's still all boring.

And all those "sports" (this goes for the Winter Olympics, too) where your score is based in part on what you are wearing and what music is playing in the background is hardly a sport. Why not include ballet? Or sheep-shearing? I can't stand things like gymnastics where the scoring is so non-transparent. Like it or not, you can tell in golf or tennis or soccer or volleyball (which actually I like to watch) who won without having to resort to a panel of judges who often as not vote for who they want to win rather than on the basis of the performance.

Yes, there are some good sports at the Olympics. But Olympic soccer does not compare to the World Cup, or the European championships, or the Copa America, let alone to top-flight European leagues. Baseball, now on Olympic life-support, doesn't include Major League players (part of the reason it's being axed) and this year has some absurd rules to speed up a game that hits the 11th inning. A regular season game between the Cleveland Indians and Seattle Mariners will have better players than the Olympics.

Basketball is somewhat an exception to this, now that the rest of the world has largely caught up to the US. But even for this sport, there are world championships that mean a lot. International basketball wouldn't suffer from the demise of the Olympics.

What would suffer are advertisers, who will again drop big bucks to get their messages onto NBC.

Which reminds me of another reason I can't stand the Olympics - our over-the-top coverage. It's all USA, all the time. It's a pretty good bet a sport won't get coverage if there isn't a good chance of the US winning a medal. Unless, that is, one of the US athletes has some inspirational sob story to tell, like his/her mother, formerly the father until the sex-change operation, fighting a rare disease that turns his/her/its knees into M&Ms, which makes it hard to walk and to keep the chocoholics away. Meanwhile, an athlete from Lower Slobistan could be breaking every record in existence for his/her sports and NBC won't devote more than 17 seconds to it. I swear, 20% of Olympic coverage as seen in the USA is devoted to the "Stars and Stripes" being played after an American athlete has won a medal, another 50% goes to more inspiration stories, like the one about the athlete raised by gila monsters in the Arizona desert and not even SEEING a swimming pool until she turned 15, but overcoming chronic sunburn, difficulties in adjusting to a diet that doesn't consist of bugs and small rodents, and speaking Lizardish better than English to make it onto the US swimming team to compete in the 666 meter reverse potato-stroke race.

The other 30%? About 4% to actually SHOWING events, and 26% for advertising.

Whoops, is that the Olympics? Quick, change channels - surely there's something better on TV, like a rerun of "Judge Judy".



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