It took an Olympic effort just to watch these games

Craig Hall

At least that’s my take on the every four years spectacle we call the Olympics. Well, except the new COVID calendar has it in a five-year (and who knows what’s next) cycle this time around. I’m just glad I get the chance to take a political, social activist break from the craziness in the world to appreciate the efforts of athletes who compete for the joy of sport and competition. 

NOT. 

And that not applies to quite a few athletes; the coverage; the advertisers; and, yes, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) itself. And also to a guy who sees bias and wokeness in darned near everything. 

I don’t know why announcers can’t just call the games or sports as they play out. But ever since Howard Cosell, dead air is a no-no. It’s now made worse by the fact airtime has become social movement time for broadcasters and networks. 

I’ve never been a huge fan of the vignettes about athletes that take up 10 minutes while we’re chomping at the bit to see them perform. I will admit some of them are very well done. Let me provide a couple of examples of over doing and under doing. 

My first example comes from men’s tandem diving. While I appreciate Great Britain’s senior diver and his long quest for Olympic glory, (as I do all who struggle, strive and endure to chase their dreams) I’d have to say his home life is lowest on my preferred list of coverage. That’s not to say his relationship with his husband or adopted child aren’t a huge part of who he is. They are. But it’s not all he is. He’s a world-class diver. As far as the Olympics go, that’s really all that matters. 

But for round after round, the announcers said time and again how “perfect” his personal life now is and that’s why he’s performing so well. Perhaps to a degree. But I’d say his hard work, dedication and choosing his dive partner were a tad more important. Why the other mattered more to NBC, I don’t know. Well, I kinda do. 

In women’s volleyball, we had the backstory of a top American player who suffered health setbacks after the birth of her child and how it would have been a struggle to compete if the games were held last year. The extra year enabled her to get back into shape and earn her spot on the gold medal-winning roster. And with a beautiful baby boy to boot.

What wasn’t shown in her vignette was the missing piece to the story, also known as her husband. He’s a top-tier volleyball player and coach in his own right. The puff piece didn’t even say his name. Because volleyball is a close-knit community, the announcers did a great job of supplying his name and supplementing the story where it lacked on the husband. Why this mattered so little to NBC, I don’t know. But I kinda do. 

Of course, I must address the Simone Biles situation. But my take is a little different. I can’t put myself in her situation, so the mental health aspect and her doing what she thought was best was a decision only she could make. Overall, it seemed to work out best for her and her team given the circumstances. 

I’ll only say this, and it’s to the IOC: Shame on you for targeting one athlete because she’s so damned good she literally has no competition. And spin it how you’d like, but the Olympics didn’t want Simone competing even though she’s possibly the best thing to happen to international gymnastics in history. And that’s how we got the “Biles Rules.” Anyone involved in that decision should be removed. As for NBC’s take? Eh. 

I’ll make a brief comment on the ads. Sad, woke, virtue-signaling pablum. Except for the Toyota ad about the double amputee who was adopted and will swim in the Paralympics. That was a record-breaking gold medal performance for me.  

As for the rest, once blocking out the politics (because let’s face it, the Olympics has been political since before I was born) and wokeness, there was some great television, time zone difference aside. And yes, I stayed up late and got up early to watch live. While it was fun to see the watch parties while the competition was going on, the videos from home were painful when shown to the winning athletes due to poor quality and the uncomfortable-ness of spending way too long on them.  

So, yes, I enjoyed almost all the winning and competing by American athletes as well as those from other countries. And, quite frankly, I didn’t bother watching more than a few. But those athletes lost me well before the Olympics. Hell, some of them lost me before the last Olympics. To their credit, they not only ruined the Olympics for some, they also ruined their sports entirely. 

If you know me, you know who those select, special folks are. Then again, my viewership isn’t down 50 percent from last time. But I don’t change my coverage to suit an agenda, so maybe I’m onto something. “Higher, Stronger, Faster—Together” still means a lot to some of us. 

NBC might rethink that before 2024, or whenever the next Olympics comes along.