Sunday, August 10, 2008

The 2008 Olympics on the Tee-Vee

I've tuned in to a fair bit of NBC's Olympics coverage over this first weekend, and I say they've done a surprisingly good job presenting the games. They've shown us a pretty wide variety of events -- water polo, soccer, basketball, fencing, handball, cycling, gymnastics, swimming, tennis, volleyball, rowing, shooting, badminton -- and have highlighted events and athletes in which the USA is far from #1. The ugly USA-centrism of previous televised Olympics is, happily, much reduced. They've also focused the airtime on the games to an admirable degree, rather than on on heart-tugging profiles of the athletes and their personal hardships. Kudos to that.

Some miscellaneous snarks and comments:

  • NBC is working hard to whitewash it, but the air in Beijing looks terrible. I cough just seeing it on the small screen.
  • I'm always interested in the very poor showings -- the athletes who finish a swim race several seconds behind the winners, the cyclists who cross the line barely in time to watch the medal ceremony, etc. This morning's broadcast featured a badminton match between a Chinese woman and a Mauritian woman, and they really didn't belong on the same floor (China defeated Mauritius if you're scoring at home). When we think of Olympic athletes, we tend to think of the glories of winning, or coming extremely close to winning and "settling for" silver or bronze; but there are a great many athletes who enter the games with a very different expectation and hope: don't embarrass myself, my family, my teammates, my country. The experience for such athletes must be quite an interesting mix of pride and fear.
  • Water polo players really can't avoid succeptibility to head or shoulder fakes since that's all they can see. I would expect them to have a very difficult transition to other sports, such as basketball and soccer, where seeing through these fakes is critical.
  • Specialized swim strokes. Sigh. I know I'm tempting the ire of the swimming geeks with this, but all the swim races other than freestyle bug me. Back stroke, breast stroke, butterfly stroke, medley, blah blah blah -- the moment these introduce spats over whether an athlete, upon further video review, performed one too many forbidden "dolphin kicks" after the turn at the wall or whatever, my eyes start rolling. Just name a distance, set up some lanes, fire a gun, and give a gold medal to the first swimmer to finish. (I have the same complaint about track and field events -- speed walking? Please.)
  • I love that the Dutch national team embraces orange. Orange is a tragically underrated color.
  • Beach volleyball makes indoor volleyball seem static and dull. Clear some of those bodies off the court and play like they play on the sand!
  • Here in Oregon, Wide Stance hopefuls Gordon Smith (Senate) and John McCain are breaking the bank on non-stop TV commercials. Their opponents, Jeff Merkley and Barack Obama, don't seem to be matching them. I have no idea which side is using the campaign war chest more wisely here, but I am really tired of Smith's and McCain's ads.


Ian McCullough said...

McCain has to spend money now because he has accepted federal matching funds. As soon as he accepts the nomination, he is bound by the ~$86million spending cap. After the Republican convention expect to see Obama ads outnumbering McCain 2:1 given his fund raising advantage. In the mean time, it is good to remember this is why Obama turned down matching funds, because of soft money leading up to the "official" acceptance of the nomination.

Dale said...

Thanks for the clarification, Ian.

I didn't even mention the two most interesting things about Gordon Smith's TV ads: 1. He assiduously avoids mentioning that he belongs to the Republican party. There is no mention of John McCain or George Bush and much talk of "working across party lines" (without naming the parties); 2. He is working hard to "inform" low information voters that Jeff Merkley is the incumbent, when in fact Gordon Smith is the incumbent. His ads rattle on endlessly about what dastardly deeds Merkley is doing in the legislature. It's not lying, exactly, since Merkley is in the state legislature, but he definitely wants to create the impression that he, Smith, is the outsider, and that Merkley is the horrible, no good, very bad incumbent we're all sick of.


mikesdak said...

dale, did you see the Latvian men's beach volleyball duo beat a US pair? The Latvians looked like a couple of beach bums who were absolutely overjoyed just to be there.

I think that's the attitude of many of the athletes like that Mauritiun(?)woman. They're just happy to have the chance to travel and comptete on the biggest international stage against people they probably idolize. If they happen to win something they can look forward to being a huge deal back home. I recall a swimmer from Belize at a past Olympics who won a medal. He was flown home via their presidential plane and commemorated on a postage stamp.

Dale said...

Mike, I suppose I should state clearly that I think anyone who has earned the right to compete in the Olympics -- no matter the sport, no matter the country -- has achieved something in which they should be immensely proud, whatever the final standings.

I know I would be overjoyed to be there. I wouldn't like the smog, but ...