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The Hizzle of T-Fizzle » Blog Archive » Thoughts after the Olympics

Thoughts after the Olympics   

First: Dear news outlets and casual observers: NO ONE ‘WINS THE OLYMPICS.’  The end of the games has brought with it the usual wrap-ups of “The Medal Count” (not to mention the analyses of “The Medal Count” for the past two weeks).  People wringing their hands that China “won” because of more golds.  The US “won” because of more overall.  If the US wants to continue “winning the Olympics” they are going to have to employ China’s strategy of focusing on individual events with multiple medals instead of big team events where a stack of beefy athletes can only get one medal.

No one “wins the Olympics.”  The individual medal count can be useful as an at-a-glance indicator of how your team is doing overall.  Of course it needs to be put into context, so you need to see the medal counts for other countries alongside so you can compare.  And the list has to be ordered somehow.  All necessary evils.  But all of the interpretation and extrapolation that comes out of it is annoying and unnecessary.

No one “wins the Olympics.”  Until the Olympics begins awarding medals for overall national performance, the most medals and the most gold medals are meaningless metrics.  I think in the US we simply can’t come to grips with a game having no clearly defined winner, so we have to come up with a way to declare someone the winner even if it’s not real.  I think every medal count graphic should come with a disclaimer that the “medal count” has no actual meaning because no one “wins the Olympics.”

Second: NBC did a better job in covering the games than in the past, but they still screwed the pooch.  You can find plenty of commentary on this, so I won’t rehash it all here.  I will list my biggest gripe which was that as in past years they primarily fed us a steady diet of swimming, track, beach volleyball and gymnastics, especially during prime time.  I will give NBC the benefit of the doubt here that these are believed to be the sports that are most popular in the US and they have to cater to the market demands.  No problem.  At least they gave us a lot of on-line options (though this could still be better).

But I was bothered by a way-too-short segment on the Nightly News that aired 8/24.  It was about unsung Olympic heroes of the US.  People that won medals that you probably never heard about.  And it was way too topical and short.  Stop the presses!  Doesn’t NBC have the exclusive US broadcast rights?  Why didn’t we hear about them?  I don’t think NBC has a right to do a piece on the “Unsung Heroes” that are unsung in large part because NBC could not be bothered to sing about them.  That seems awfully hypocritical.

I will also rehash my gripes from 2006 that they make the broadcast coverage more DVR friendly.  It is absolutely unhelpful to have a 10-hour block of programming that lists a jumble of events.  Why can’t they be broken into smaller increments?  It’s especially confounding considering so much of what we saw was pre-recorded. Still, I’m willing to put up with last minute scheduling changes screwing things up.  I’d rather miss a few things that way than have to choke my DVR hard drive with 9 hours of garbage I don’t want to see just I can take a peak at some hour-long offbeat event I don’t get to see often.  Maybe you can also put mainstream stuff on NBC and then devote another network (or at least a daily program) to offbeat events.

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