Let’s just cut to the chase and say it:
Our pals at NBC always fail at Olympics coverage. Every single time.
NBC announcers are terrible. Their point of view is mawkish and cloying. Their time delays are annoying.
The whole thing seems to be set up for people who know nothing about sport and don’t want to know.
The sponsorships are beyond the pale. Here in the U.S., McDonald’s is the official restaurant of the Olympic Team.
We wonder how many Olympians eat at McDonald’s when they’re training for the gold.
In the Twitterverse, the yammering is almost overwhelming (#nbcfail).
The yammering is the same every four years, and so it will be the next time around, and the next, and the next.
And yet … we love the Olympics.
Our own first memory of the Summer Games was from Rome. We watched Wilma Rudolph win and everybody wanted to be Wilma Rudolph. Even the boys. We watched Cassius Clay win, and everybody wanted to be a boxer. Even the girls. Tape-delay was non-existent. We arose each day with the can’t-waits.
But it was worth it. The Olympics are almost always worth it.
One of the staples on our bookshelf is David Wallechinsky’s “Complete Book of the Olympics.” Our copy gets dusted off every four years, but we’d recommend highly the 2012 edition published by Aurum—a 1,334-page record of every event at every Summer Olympics since the first modern Games were held in Athens in 1896.
Here, we remember—and learn—of champions such as Rudolph and Clay, along with American gymnast George Eyser, who won six medals in one day in the 1904 Games, including a gold in the vault, with a wooden leg.
There is Jim Thorpe, Babe Didrikson, the Bulgarian-born, Turkish weight lifter Naim Süleymanoğlu, and Aladár Gerevich, of Hungary, who won a gold in team sabre in six straight Games. There’s Sweden’s Oscar Swahn, who, at 72, won a silver medal in the 1920 Games in team double-shot running deer shooting (long since dropped, like baseball).
This week, the pure Hellenic sports get underway with three Mammoth athletes in competition: Meb Keflezighi in the marathon, Amy Hastings in the 10,000 meters, and Morgan Uceny in the women’s 1,500 meters (see P.1).
It will be great to see the Mammoth Track Club stars on the world stage, even tough NBC will botch it. The announcers are sure to be insipid, at their best.
But we’ll have Wallechinsky’s book at our side. During the endless Visa breaks and McDonald’s schmaltz, we’ll hit the mute button and re-visit Czech runner Emil Zátopek, in Helsinki, in 1952, winning the men’s 5,000 and 10,000, then entering the marathon and winning it, in spite of never having run a marathon before in his life; Abebe Bikila winning the marathon and running it barefoot in 1960; and Dave Wottle passing seven runners with less than a lap to go to win the 800 meters by three one-hundredths of a second in Munich, in 1972.
Not even NBC can screw that up, no matter how hard the network tries.
And NBC will fail. You can take that to the bank.
Every four years, like clockwork.