Sunday, February 19, 2006

 It made me feel.... 

I'm jaded about many things, but I still have a soft spot for the Olympics. I try to watch them when I can, although that's become increasingly difficult with the way NBC broadcasts them. I swear, sometimes I believe they are doing their damnedest to sabotage the whole event with the way they cover them.

Try watching during primetime, and you'll quickly notice that you get three minutes of event coverage - THREE - followed by three minutes of commercials. And this goes on and on for hours. Well, actually I only know for certain that it goes on for at least half an hour, because that's about all I can stand before I just give up and switch the stupid thing off. Think about it - 30 minutes of commercials every hour. If you watch a race of any sort that naturally lasts 10 or 15 minutes, you can be assured that it will take you twice as long to see the whole thing, and even then you'll only see it in annoying 3-minute increments. Even as they are coming down the home stretch, they cut to commercials.

In case you were wondering, this is what the world looks like when marketing heads take over programming departments. I can't imagine watching any substantial amount of the Olympics these days anymore unless you have a TiVo.

Another kvetch of mine is the interviewing of athletes by the moron reporters and talking heads. One thing I've noticed is the preponderance of questions based not on specifics of the race or the training, but on the current emotional state of the athlete. Now I don't doubt that such things are relevant to an athlete's performance, but what I'm getting at is the prevailing significance attached to feelings, and not to any actual observable truth. "When you passed Sven Svennson going around that far turn, how did you feel?"

And that is why I am in love with Shani Davis, the recent winner of the 1000-meter long-track speed skating event. He didn't bite when the reporter asked "How does it feel to be the first African-American to win a medal at the Winter Olympics?" You could tell that the boneheads at NBC were just waiting for him to gush all romantic about how important it was to him, that he was proud to be a pioneer and all that, blah blah blah. He certainly could have said all that, and he had good reason to. But no, instead he coolly responded with a perfunctory nod and, "It feels pretty good." And that was it - dead air the rest of the time. The reporter was caught flatfooted and stammered to move on to the next dumb "How does it feel" question. When he again gave a short answer, the reporter asked, "Are you angry?" Again, the quest for finding out athletes feelings. As if the Olympics are just one big daytime-TV talk show.

Shani probably had other reasons for being as sullen as he was toward NBC. But regardless, for me it was a breath of fresh air to see someone who frankly didn't give a shit if he didn't offer any feel-good soundbites for NBC, set himself up for product endorsements, or simply play along with the charade that is the post-event interview. I don't necessarily begrudge other athletes for doing so, but you have to admit, it gets pretty tedious when you know pretty much what they're going to say every stinkin' time, doesn't it? How many times did I hear Dan Jansen's oh-so-insightful pre-race commentary about so-n-so, "I skated with him a few hours ago during warmups, and he's calm, relaxed, but energized." Really, Dan? He's not bitter, exhausted, and wound up like a coil spring? Thanks for the clarification, that's good to know! Ugh.

And that's pretty much how I feel about that whole matter.

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Comments:
Shani Davis graduated from Marquette High School and is a part time student at Northern Michigan. I haven't had him in class - yet! If he does take one of my classes, ask me how it feels to have a gold medal winner in class!
 
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