Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Olympics Stories NBC Isn't Showing You, Part 3

Did you know that under certain conditions, it is possible to compete independently in the Olympics? Three athletes came to the Olympics under the Olympic flag, otherwise known as Independent Olympic Athletes. They come from South Sudan and Netherlands Antilles.

One of them, Guor Marial, is a marathon runner born in South Sudan. Guor fled to the United States from Sudan at the age of eight after 28 members of his family were killed by the Sudanese government. He cannot compete for the newly formed South Sudan as it does not have a National Olympic Committee and is not yet a ratified Olympic state.

He cannot compete for the USA since he doesn't possess an American passport. For obvious reasons, he rejected Sudan's invitation to compete for them. (I wouldn't want anything to do with the government responsible for wiping out so many members of my family.)

The men's marathon will take place on August 12.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

If I Were In Charge...

I've been saying a lot of things about the NBC coverage to the United States of the 2012 Summer Olympics Games, none very positive.Lest any of my (four) readers think that I'm being a negative Nelly, here are some of my reasons for not being complimentary:

1. Coverage primarily of only events featuring competitors from the United States. Show us sports that we don't get to see, with competitors we don't already know. This is a world-wide stage with people guessed it! All over the world. Let's see some of them.

2. Ad nauseum coverage of beach volleyball, especially Misty May-Treanor and her partner. 

3. Ad nauseum coverage of swimming, especially Michael Phelps. I get that he has now claimed the title of "most decorated Olympian athlete ever," but that's really an unfair comparison for any of the other athletes. A person playing team volleyball, for example, has exactly one chance to win a medal every four years. Phelps competes in every event he can, and so the odds are more in his favor than for the majority of the other athletes.

4. Ad nauseum coverage of Missy Franklin, another swimmer. Sure she's young, and it's amazing she's able to win as much as she as. But I'm tired of hearing about her size 13 feet and that she can out-eat Michael Phelps.

5. The inane questions that the on-the-scene "reporters" such as Lewis Johnson and Andrea whats-her-face (the NBC website is frustratingly silent on the name of its reporters) ask athletes as they're coming out of the pool or off the track. "How do you feel now that you've qualified for the next event?" That's a big no-no straight out of Basic Reporting Skills 101. Don't ask obvious questions.

6. Ryan Seacrest. Really???? Ryan Freakin' Seacrest. And he has added nothing of value unless I want to know what people are tweeting about. (I do not, in case you were wondering.)

7. Mary Carillo. I actually really like Mary Carillo. She is a former pro tennis player. She is witty and intelligent, and the poor thing always has to play second fiddle to Bob Costas. (Bob Freakin' Costas, for the record.) She gets stuck with stories like, "What does latitude and longitude mean and what is Greenwich mean time?" That might be interesting if it had anything whatsoever to do with the Olympics. (It does not.)

8. NBC (male) commentators' persistent usage of the word "girls" when referring to women athletes. "The girls are doing a great job..." or whatever. I have not seen any event titled "Girls' Gymnastics," "Girls' Cycling," or "Girls' Basketball." All those sports for that particular gender are appropriately prefixed with "Women's"  for a very good reason. They are all, shockingly enough, women. And you can bet that if a woman announcer referred to men's basketball as "Boys' Basketball," some man somewhere would get his panties in a bunch.

9. Their annoying habit of saving the popular events until after 10 p.m. I'm usually toast by that time, with thoughts of sugarplum fairies dancing in my head. To be forced to wait to watch gymnastics, or the next world record potentially being broken in track - all for the sake of ratings - is ridiculous. It's not like any other networks are really going up against them to try and compete for an audience share. It's the OLYMPICS. It comes around once every FOUR YEARS. Show us the good stuff, let us go to bed.

10. Padding. Padding. Padding. Too many human-interest stories that are less about being interesting and humans and more about giving some fluff-head intern something to do.

11. Not knowing any results about anything. I learn more about the day's medal count and other countries' accomplishments from the Coke and Dodge commercials than I do from NBC.

12. The non-stop blathering on about the 1996 women's USA gymnastics team. I agree that revisiting those moments is good....once. But I've seen more coverage of Keri Strug this year than I did in 1996.

I'm not the only person who is less than charmed by NBC this year. Guy Adams works as a writer for The Independent, a national newspaper in Great Britain. He lives in Los Angeles. Throughout the Olympics, he's taken to Twitter and ripped NBC repeatedly for its coverage of the Games in America.

Namely, he's criticized the network's reliance on using tape delays, a frustration shared by millions of viewers. He actually had the audacity to suggest that other unhappy viewers should email the president of NBC. And Twitter, unbelievably enough, canceled his Twitter account. 

The argument could be made that NBC is doing what it is doing simply from a business perspective.It is a business out to make money, after all. And one could also argue, as NBC did, that viewership is up, so something must be working. (NBC said  that a record 28.7 million US viewers watched its primetime coverage on Saturday’s first day of competition. NBC said Saturday’s evening audience was 2 million more than watched the first day of competition during the Atlanta Olympics in 1996. An average 12.3 million US viewers watched the Olympics on television on Saturday morning – a 56 per cent increase over the Saturday daytime audience for Beijing in 2008, the network said.)

Pshaw, I say. Viewership is up because there are...wait for it....more of us. We also have no other recourse than watching NBC since NBC has paid 1.18 billion dollars for the exclusive rights to broadcast the London Games. It has won, in return $1 billion in advertising, so it may break even. 

Newsflash, NBC (you do remember what those are, right?): Make a few changes, make some more money, earn some more viewer loyalty. And with an DVR being in many American households, I prefer to start watching my primetime coverage well into the evening so I can fast forward through the fluff pieces and commercials. Winner? Me. Your advertisers aren't really getting that much out of it after all, are they?

Olympics Stories NBC Isn't Showing You, Part 2

Here's another story you'll probably never see covered on NBC. She's not American, she's in an obscure sport, and she's pregnant - three reasons we'll probably never hear more about her. Nur Suryani Mohamad Taibi is eight months pregnant making her Olympic debut in the 10-meter air rifle event. She is also the first woman to represent Malaysia in Olympic shooting.

Nur Suryani Mohamad Taibi - London 2012 Olympics: pregnant Malaysian shooter Nur Suryani Mohamad Taibi going for an historic gold

Pregnant athletes have competed at the Olympics before, but Nur Suryani will be the nearest to giving birth. Her biggest concern about this is that the baby won't kick when she pulls the trigger. To be able to compete, she is required to still squeeze her very pregnant body into a heavy body suit and jacket worn by all the competitors to provide stability.

How did she do you ask? She placed 34th out of 56 shooters.

When asked if she felt any pain during the morning's competition, Suryani cocked her head, raised her eyebrows, and answered the question with one of her own: "Is it pregnant women will feel pain?" The gaggle of male journalists suddenly stupefied into silence, Suryani responded to herself. "I don't think so," she said, "or, not yet." (Sports Illustrated.)

Monday, August 6, 2012

Today's Olympic Moment

Yes, medals were won, races were run, obstacles overcome, and many great achievements .... Achieved today. You can catch up on those from any news source. I am not that source.

Here is my favorite moment from today's events. This was in a crowd shot of the fans at the indoor cycling track venue, just after the athlete from Great Britain won the men's sprint gold medal.

Olympics Stories NBC Isn't Showing You

I LOVE the Olympics! I have since I was a kid. Back in the day, there was only prime-time coverage available. As technology has advanced, there are more ways to watch the Olympics. I have tried to not look at Facebook or other online sources so as to not avoid getting spoiled - I wanted to watch the coverage in my own timezone, savoring each moment.

NBC has let me down. They spend more time covering the 1996 USA women's gymnastics team than any of the other countries' teams for 2012. There's also apparently this guy named Michael Phelps who's winning a few medals.

Thanks, NBC. 1996 was 16 years ago, and Michael Phelps has been winning medals for three Olympics. We know about him, how much he eats, what size shoe he wears -- everything. I don't need another biopic on him.

I could go on and on, but it just makes me frustrated. (I have started watching more events during the day on my portable devices, though, knowing that table tennis, shooting and synchronized swimming will not get covered during prime time because the USA doesn't have any medal contenders in those sports.)

So here's an interesting story you may not know about because NBC, who maintains exclusive rights to USA Olympics viewers, isn't showing you:

South Korean fencer Shin A-Lam provided one of the indelible images of the 2012 London Olympics when she staged an hour-long, tearful protest after losing to Germany’s Britta Heidemann in an individual epee semifinal match. Shin’s coach claimed Heidemann’s winning hit came after the final second on the clock, which was being controlled by a 15-year-old British volunteer, had elapsed. Shin was required to stay on the piste while the judges considered–and ultimately rejected–her appeal. After Shin lost the bronze-medal match, the International Fencing Federation offered her a special consolation medal, which she reportedly refused.