I'm pretty sure most of the people who hate NBC's coverage of the Olympics are only watching the prime time broadcast. This is unfortunate, because the prime time broadcast is what NBC does the worst of all for the Olympics.
NBC is broadcasting the Olympics on eight different channels. By the end of the 16 days of the Olympics, they will have broadcast 1,000 hours of coverage on television and more than 3,500 hours live online. There is literally nothing in the Olympics you can't watch if you are determined to do so.
Clearly not everyone can take two weeks off of work to watch the Olympics. (Yeah, I have. I know. Don't start with me.) But you cannot fairly complain about NBC not covering the events you want to see. It's all there somewhere, and they do a pretty sterling job of it.
But for some reason, NBC has concluded that all we want to see in prime time is swimming, diving, gymnastics, track and field and Misty May and Kerri Walsh. To NBC, those are the "marquee events." They must have some test marketing to back this up, but to me it's a terribly narrow view of the rich diversity of sports that comprise the Olympics.
And if you don't like that and you can only watch the Olympics after work and before bed, you're out of luck because they do not broadcast any part of the Olympics on the other channels in the prime time hours because they do not want the NBC evening ratings cannibalized during those hours.
What's being broadcast outside of prime time is as good as sports programming gets. They broadcast every mile of the cycling road races, and if you're into cycling, it was thrilling. The cross-country equestrian today displayed everything beautiful about that event. Team sports, which are generally a couple hours of broadcasting and would represent a prohibitively huge chunk of an evening broadcast, are presented in their entirety in the way we are accustomed to watching team sports.
The Olympics are being presented brilliantly on NBC. Just not between 7 and 11 p.m. EST.
However, there is one thing that NBC is doing in the prime time broadcast that delights me, that they have never done before.
By the time the evening broadcast starts, the competition is over, since it is already past midnight in London by then. And so NBC can then pick and choose what they want to broadcast and when to broadcast it, and they stack their coverage accordingly.
In every previous Olympics, they saved all the American Gold Medals for the last hour of the broadcast. You would get the losing efforts early on, and then the last item broadcast would be a ringing triumph for America right before local news, to keep everyone tuned in until the end and send people to bed with fresh thoughts of American awesomeness in their minds.
This unimaginative programming led to predictability, which is death to watching sports on TV. If you know what's coming, what's the point of watching?
I remember during the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, NBC broadcast an American Gold Medal performance in the 8 p.m. hour, and I thought, "Wow, we must have kicked ass today!" Sure enough, that was the day the U.S. won golds in Speed Skating, Figure Skating and the Downhill.
However, this year, NBC seems to have changed this process. The events in the swim program were broadcast pretty much in the order in which they occurred chronologically at the swim meet. Thus, Missy Franklin's Gold Medal swim was broadcast before Ryan Lochte's disappointing fourth in the 200M Freestyle, and consequently produced what everyone wants when watching sports - UNCERTAINTY OF THE RESULTS!!!
Assuming you didn't hear Matt Lauer talking about Missy Franklin's Gold Medal on this morning's Today Show. You expect this of ESPN. But from NBC itself??? Ugh.
Man, did the American men's gymnastic team screw the pooch tonight. Really messed up the narrative, because they were prohibitive favorites going in, and I think NBC was all set to line up a couple hours of stellar performances on all the apparatuses (apparati?).
Instead we got about a half-hour of American fuck-ups, and then a thin slice of the Chinese and British performances that defined the evening's meet, and then that weird meltdown from the Japanese gymnast and the weirder appeal on his score that ensued.
They covered the drama, not the sport, which they always tend to do with gymnastics anyway. At least there was real drama, because if there isn't, then they have to manufacture it, and that always ends badly for everybody.
Speaking of messing up the narrative - I feel badly for Jordyn Wieber, and she probably got screwed out of the place for the All-around Competition. But this is just one more example of the favorite being over-hyped. In Athens, it was Svetlana Khorkina, so over-hyped and over-indulged that we hardly noticed our own Carly Patterson win the Gold. In Beijing, it was Shawn Johnson that got all the media and all the endorsements, and they hardly knew what to do when Nastia Liukin ended up beating her.
Why for Christ's sakes don't they just let the competition unfold without the predetermined narratives? If Jordyn Weiber hadn't been so heavily hyped, Aly Raisman's triumph last night might have been less bitter and more sweet for everyone.
Oh, one more screw you to NBC - you hold May and Walsh to the prime time show, and then only show the second set. Thanks for nothing.
And I'm not sure NBC have put their chips on the right team there. The second American Women's Beach Volleyball team of April Ross and Jen Kessy won their match much more handily than May and Walsh won theirs.
By the way, I am enjoying the Women's Beach Volleyball just as much with the women wearing their skivvies in the chilly London weather. So I'm not a total perv.
I'm not a big fan of Cris Collinsworth, but he got it exactly right. The story from the swimming pool is not The Failure of Michael Phelps. It is The Ascendency of Ryan Lochte. Even getting shut out of medals in the 200M Freestyle, this is his time. Clearly no one is going to dominate this swim meet the way Michael Phelps did in 2008. There will be plenty of medals to go around, Lochte will get his share, and his share will probably be more than Phelps' share this time around.
Another indication on how high the quality of competition is in the swimming is how the medals are being won. I'm not sure what the numbers are, but I would bet in previous Olympics, almost all the golds and silvers came from either Lanes 3, 4 or 5. The fastest qualifying speed starts the final in Lane 4, second fastest in 5 and third fastest in 3, and that's usually how they finished the final, too, or very nearly. Now, while Lane 4 is probably producing the most golds, we are seeing medals won in practically every lane. The difference between 2nd and 6th has never been smaller.
And I may be alone in this, but I think it's kind of cool that France beat the U.S. on the 4x100M Freestyle. The Aussie's were so hyped going into the final, the French really slipped in beneath the radar. And after they lost to the Americans in 2008, in a race they REALLY should have won - well, Francophobes, even France is entitled to a little redemption occasionally.
Cris Collinsworth also got in a little dig on Al Michaels, who is the studio host of the morning coverage on NBC, for not getting to leave the studio to cover the games. I have repeatedly complained that assigning your best play-by-play announcers (Michaels and Bob Costas) to studio hosting is an appalling waste of talent. Please read an extended commentary on this issue here.
I've said it before - no sport looks more like the competitors made up the rules right before the game started than Team Handball.
China is still dominating the diving, but I think the gap is closing. Well done to the American synchro teams for their medals!
South Korea has an unseemly superiority in certain sports. They seem to have devoted a huge amount of resources to things like archery and speed skating. Are we really sure which Korea is the crazy one???