I was sitting around the casa watching the 20th Olympiad this week when a thought hit me like an unpaid bill, “Hey, these games are pretty darn good.” I’m not an NBC shill or a guy who wants to force global union on you, I’m just a fellow who knows good TV when he Tivos it. But hey, allow me to convince you via an entertaining op-ed piece. That’s the stuff TV CORNER is made of.
Here are the main reasons the Olympics are again worth watching.
1. These Olympics aren’t so crazy patriotic.
NBC finally got the message: Americans want drama and not blatant flag waiving. The Salt Lake games were mired by the fact that every telecast had 99 percent American competitors, 90 percent of which won a medal with the remaining 10 percent suffering some catastrophic “amputation needing” career ending disaster. Just to keep the math train rolling I’d also say 100 percent of the Americans competing were doing so for their dead grandma or because they were hit a bunch as children. Aye caramba. It got to the point where I was cheering for the dreaded “bloody stump” just so I didn’t feel so dirty. Thankfully, with this year’s coverage they’ve nailed it. For example, now we get some stories about Chinese grandmothers too. Last night my wife turned to me after one of these stories and said “Now I want the Chinese team to win.” I didn’t agree with her because she’s clearly gone pinko but I understood her reasoning at least. They had a compelling story. NBC is also showing events where Americans finish 8th so the dramatic effect has been restored. You really don’t know if your guy is going to win. I’ve only watched one American win gold so far and it felt like I’d earned it by seeing all the other countries thrive too.
2. The Announcers are still loopy.
3. The Winter Olympics have crazier events than anything else on TV.
You know what the Nordic combined is? It’s when they do a ski jump to determine what order to trek 15km in. Does that make any sense? Would you ever do this on a lark? I’d think about the ski jumping if I was hopped up on hops but no way would I cross country ski up hills for 30 minutes. The absolute best part of the finals for this event was the bronze medal was decided by a photo finish of both guys sliding forward on their ski. The first foot across wins, both guys knew this, so both did a split on skis’ to try and get their foot across the line before the other poor schlep. One guy won a medal by his big toe. The other guy jumped off a mountain and trekked 8 miles in the snow for squat, see you next Olympics pal! I won’t even get into curling or the event where they shoot targets but they are riveting as all get out too. You only see these sports once every four years and it makes it hella compelling. Between trying to learn the rules and wondering if you could compete you’ll have hours of stimulating conversations with loved ones. Oh yeah, they also hurl people down mountains and ice ramps at damn near 80mph. Get some.
4. Torino is a cool hybrid town.
This city is waaaay up in the mountains and looks like something out of a storybook. There is not a skyscraper to be found; in fact I’m pretty sure Torinians just consider themselves mountain-folk (much like West Virginians) instead of true blue Italians. Every night we go back to the little snow lodge that Bob Costas built for us and recap the day, fireplace booming in the background. Very fun. Add to this the fact they are all probably eating mozzarella around the clock and you’ve got a veritable nirvana. I should have signed up for the official “Torino Reviewer” position long ago but I was beaten to the punch by whoever writes “The Family Circle.” Let’s face it, that bugger is crafty.
5. The Awesome Finality of it all
Michelle Kwan withdrew due to injury and that’s it for her. You simply can’t compete in the Olympics for figure skating at 30 or whatever she’ll be next time they roll around. This drama is played out at every level and with every athlete, something to the effect of “Herzog here has won the world championships the past three years and is a huge favorite to win gold here in Torino.. but OH.. AND HE’S TWEAKED HIS ANKLE.. THAT IS JUST A DISASTER FOLKS.. an automatic .10 deduction which means he’ll finish no better than 73rd today. Tough luck for Herzog as his entire village was counting on a gold medal to purchase food with this winter. Wowâ€¦ what an amazing story. Okay, up next comes Sven, competing in the slalom, who actually was a conjoined twin before manually separating himselfâ€¦ sounds very interesting. Let’s go down to Bonnie for that.”
There is no tomorrow in the Olympics folks, you either rise to the moment or *poof* that’s your life story. It’s not like most sports where you can win the next game in the series or even football in which you could come back next year. You mess up one little inch and your whole country throws its proverbial shoe at the set and you are banished to forgotten status.
So that’s why I’m watching and you should too. Start humming and whistling the Olympic theme around your office and local tavern to truly get subconscious marketing working or perhaps consider a lingerie party in which you make out with other girls (that last one isn’t for NBC). Get into the “global village” spirit and you’ll find that the real winner is you. Just don’t tweak your ankle.
P.S. Me and the fellas are getting together a curling team together in between beers. Email me at gmail using only my first name to get in on the action.