The first full week of competition is over at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio and the games have not come to a screeching halt, no athletes have been murdered (just robbed at gunpoint), and nobody appears to be so sick that they’ve failed to show up for an event (even with the green pool filled with mystery chemicals).

I love watching the Olympics. Summer or Winter, doesn’t matter. Seeing people compete at the absolute highest level is incredible. I used to like it more when I was younger and had the illusion that the athletes were pushing themselves to their limit because of their passion for their sport and their obsessive need to be the best of the best. As an adult I realize that the Olympic Games are more about greed, corporate sponsorship, money, corruption, etc., and far less about the athletes. Oh well, they’re still incredibly fun to watch. Usually.

Perhaps it’s just me, but I’ve found NBC‘s coverage of these Olympic games to be absolutely atrocious. They’re tape delaying just about everything. Before the internet this was a perfectly acceptable method of broadcasting the games. Unfortunately, in the internet age, no matter how hard NBC tries, they cannot prevent the audience from knowing the outcome of the events before broadcast.

Bob Costas is horribly smarmy and comes off as a know-it-all. Al Michaels seems to be mailing in his daytime spots. I cannot stand Ryan Seacrest and have no clue how he remains employed. Fred Roggin has fallen into the black hole of alternate channel has-been. NBC’s “A” team is awful and driving viewers away. I cannot stand the set spots. And don’t get me started on Michelle Tafoya‘s pool-side train wrecks that are called “interviews.”

Actually, I am going to use that as my jumping off point. Can NBC go more than 2 minutes during the swimming coverage without mentioning Michael Phelps? Look, the man is the greatest swimmer of all time. I get it. But, not every damn swimmer is “Swimming for Michael Phelps.” Some of the swimmers are swimming their own races and have no interest in what Phelps is doing. Between the constant references to Michael and the stupid fluff pieces featuring him (I didn’t need to see him learning how to use a BabyBjörn), NBC is in Michael Phelps overload. The entire week 1 Olympic story line has been Michael Phelps and whatever he is up to.

I seriously hope that NBC’s singular focus on Michael Phelps is killing their ratings. I’m sick of hearing about him. He has been the main story line since the start of teh Olympic Games and, now that the swimming events are over, we might actually get a reprieve from NBC’s poster-boy.

If you watch the main NBC channel, you’d think that there are only about 7 sports being contested. NBC has focused almost exclusively on swimming, gymnastics, basketball, soccer, tennis, golf and beach volleyball. There is rarely any mention of other sports. Have you heard any of the announcers interview a shooter? What about an handball player? Or maybe one of the water polo players? Did you know those sports were being contested at the Olympics?

One positive has been the alternate channels, like Bravo, where NBC is broadcasting some of the less mainstream sports. Last night I had a blast watching indoor volleyball, women’s weightlifting, field hockey and track cycling. None of the events I watched had a prominent American competitor, yet I was still engrossed. It also helps that the alternate channels rarely mention Michael Phelps. THANK GOD! Those channels keep it simple and focused on the sport being broadcast.

Another big positive for me, and this one has happened during prime time, is the emergence of Dain Blanton as an amazing commentator.  He brings the sport to life and educates me to the nuances of the strategy being employed. I’d love to see NBC expand his role beyond the beach, I think he could have a strong TV presence. Besides, there’s no way he can be as bad as Ryan Seacrest or Bob Costas. Dain actually has personality! Plus, The Wife thinks he’s “sexy.”

From the stories I’m reading, I’m not alone and the general audience is unhappy with NBC’s lackluster coverage. Some tips I have for NBC:

  • You are employing a broadcast model that is outdated in the internet age. Nothing should be tape delayed. Show me events live because I’ll see them online before you get around to “packaging” the event for my weak mind.
  • Stop the singular focus on Michael Phelps. I used to think he was awesome and through no fault of his own (I hope), I’ve come to loathe seeing his face on TV. You have killed any future Michael Phelps had for me to take him seriously when he ends up taking over the swimming broadcast duties from Rowdy.
  • Show me some fringe sports during prime time. I’m not saying that you should spend a huge chunk of time broadcasting an entire game, but showing a quarter from a handball match might entice me to seek out other broadcasts. I’m sick of seeing swimming and gymnastics each night.
  • Hire better announcers. Bob, Ryan, Al, Matt Lauer, et al SUCK! They are horrible. Get some announcers who are passionate about sports and the Olympics. I know it’s likely impossible, but try to find an announcer or two who isn’t so obsessed with their own ego that they place themselves before the sports. You’ve used the same announcers for over 20 years, it’s time for new blood.
  • Please stop the packaged fluff pieces. I’m sick of seeing Michael Phelps learning how to become a dad. Or Dana Vollmer doing mom things. I don’t fucking care about these athletes beyond them winning a gold medal. I don’t need to hear their entire horrible backstory to root for them. Are they wearing the red, white & blue? Yeah? Then I’m rooting for them.
  • Addendum to the fluff pieces item above – The Wife agrees. NBC claims that the fluff pieces are done to attract a female audience. Besides being horrifically sexist, that statement is totally untrue. The Wife and her friends don’t give two shits about the backstory. They just want to cheer on the Americans to victory, the exact same as me and my friends. You are doing yourself a disservice thinking women aren’t passionate sports fans in their own right.

I’m sure broadcast experts can provide far better ideas for improving. What NBC is doing in Rio is terrible and should be used as a case study for future Olympic broadcasts. It is “How not to broadcast the Olympics 101.”

Only one week to go! Who will NBC force down my throat at every opportunity? I’m guessing we’re years away from Bob Costas not mentioning Michael Phelps every few minutes on a Summer Olympics broadcast. If Michael announces swimming in 2020 I may not watch any Olympics because NBC’s Michael fluffing might be even worse than it is now. PLEASE MAKE IT STOP!

 

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