The Best Part of NBC’s Summer Olympics Coverage

As critics continue to chip away at NBC’s coverage of the Summer Olympics, I continue to defend the network for the most part. Last Thursday I took a soft stand for NBC but tonight I will put it a little more bluntly: The network doesn’t care about equal airtime for all sports nor whether or not all programming is live. Rather, the network cares about recouping the large amount of money spent on the broadcasting rights with the hopes of perhaps turning a profit.

But even with its main motive of making money, I still don’t think NBC’S presentation of the 2016 Summer Olympics is all that bad. Is it perfect? Definitely not. But I believe it is more than adequate. If you want to watch the entire trampoline competition or if you want to see gymnastics live you can watch it on the NBC Rio app or you can most likely catch it on the large number of NBC sister stations. Keep in mind that the primetime block is when NBC is able to build its return on investment so forgive them if hallmark events are shown on a delay and an archery competition isn’t shown in its entirety.

So while we get annoyed at delayed coverage and a seemingly small selection of sports covered during that 8 p.m. – 11 p.m. time slot, I think we can all concede one thing to NBC:

The on-air talent at the 2016 Summer Olympics is awesome.

Four years ago I wrote about how Bob Costas embodies the spirit of the games. However, tonight I want to give his co-workers credit as well. Don’t get me wrong, Bob is still outstanding. He is as sharp as ever and I live for each night when he opens primetime with his voiceover previewing that evening’s coverage. But I need to congratulate NBC on putting together a team that compliments the excellence that Bob Costas displays each night.

Let’s just start with Bob’s equals. Legends such as Mike Tirico, Al Michaels, and Dan Patrick are anchoring the coverage for NBC during the daytime slots. These sportscasters are at the top of their profession and have brought credibility and familiarity to the screen. It has been nice watching them discuss events that don’t have to do with baseball, basketball, or football.

The sideline reporters at these events are completely top notch as well. Michele Tafoya’s interviews during the swimming events kept me engaged and inspired on a nightly basis. She did her job to perfection and just like the talent I mentioned above, it was nice to see her thriving even if she was out of her element a little. Another sideline reporter who we all know from basketball is Lewis Johnson. However, in Rio he is covering track and field. Once again it is more about his talent rather than his usual sport as he has done a superb job interviewing athletes the second they finish their races, many overflowing with adrenaline and emotion.

But you can still do a good job at the Olympics if you are announcing the sport you are known for. Look at the basketball and golf coverage. It might not be the NBA but Marv Albert, Doug Collins, and Craig Sager are doing a great job calling the men’s basketball tournament. They understand the international game and are very respectable toward it. Watching the men’s golf tournament this weekend was just like watching a PGA event. You had basically the whole NBC golf crew making the trip to cover Rio. Again, they put themselves in the context of the Summer Olympics so even though they called the tourney with the same professionalism they would for a major event in the United States, they made no mistake about the very different circumstances.

However, there is one portion of NBC’s coverage I like the most. This piece centers on the talent we don’t see throughout the year. Rather, it deals with the play-by-play announcers and analysts covering the obscure sports we don’t always experience. I have thoroughly enjoyed watching Saturday morning coverage of events such as water polo, weightlifting, synchronized swimming, fencing, etc. and listening to the broadcast. The men and women covering these events are true professionals and they have called and described the action in a way that enables people like me to actually understand the sport. NBC didn’t just pull people off the street for these roles, they are fresh voices with true talent.

So feel free to go ahead and fault NBC for trying to maximize profit with its primetime production. However, let’s give the network credit for hiring and assigning on-air talent that is able to deliver an Olympic worthy performance in the booth and on the sidelines…no matter if it is live or not. Don’t Blink.

The Underwhelming Winter Olympics (so far)

I hate sounding negative so please excuse my whining but after the first several days of the Sochi Winter Olympics I am not impressed. By no means though am I blaming my lack of inspiration on the host city, the athletes, the stray dogs, or NBC. Rather I take full responsibility for not doing everything I personally can to make the 2014 Winter Olympics more enjoyable for myself. In the same way that millions of people love “The Walking Dead” and I am indifferent to it, the same can be said for these games.

Although I enjoyed the opening ceremony my attention has since waned. Probably going against me the most is that I am not a winter sports enthusiast. But even with my ho-hum attitude about sports played in the snow and ice in the past I have still enjoyed the competition and pageantry of the games. This year that spark has disappeared for me.

I think I have become so spoiled with the Summer Olympics and the coverage of other sports broadcasts in general that I am a little underwhelmed and bored with the games going on right now. When I get home from work it seems like the only competition coverage I am finding on the Winter Olympics is the primetime package on NBC. This is cool and all but I would prefer to have the option to view the more obscure events on other networks within the NBC family. I just like the choice to watch events more in their entirety rather than watching the flagship station jump in and out of the most popular events.

I also have a tough time connecting with the athletes. To put it truthfully, many of the Olympic athletes lack the powerful and adversity-filled backgrounds and stories that athletes from the Summer Olympics hold. Events in the winter games are more specialized and equipment dependent. Because of this many of the athletes come from more established backgrounds. This privilege, along with geography (it doesn’t snow everywhere), also reduces dramatically the amount of countries participating. I never have a sense that the “whole world” is competing at the Winter Olympics. Speaking of equipment, the helmets, pads, and full body suits cover up many of the athletes. You can’t see faces, body physique, and in some cases, emotion. These things (when visible) are big reasons why I enjoy watching sports.

How can an Olympics go on without Bob Costas? Tonight will mark the second straight night without Bob behind the desk as he faces a nasty eye infection. Rotten luck for sure but not hearing him give his powerful intro, not watching him interact with the athletes in the studio, and not smirking at his dry sense of humor takes a lot away from my enjoyment of the games. Trust me on this one, I like the guy so much that I wrote a blog post about him.

Maybe lacking the most is just the buzz. I don’t feel that people are that engaged in the games, even in the social media era that we live in. I haven’t heard anyone really talk about the games at work. I haven’t received any texts yet from people asking me if I am watching. My Twitter feed is by no means blowing up with #WinterOlympics hash tags. Maybe I am living under a rock and I just don’t know it but the magic of the Olympics is not there.

I haven’t given up all hope yet. The games are still young and a lot can still happen. I will continue to tune into the primetime coverage and give it a chance until boredom overtakes me. The Olympics are just too important for me to write off so I am not jumping ship. But can someone please give Bob Costas a miracle drug so he can get back to that anchor desk? Don’t Blink.

Bob Costas

We live in a society where it is extremely easy to be critical of people who make a living on television, especially the media. Many times we minimize the precision, preparation, and stress that it takes to go in front of a small screen audience. As I have said several times, I enjoy following members of the media and watching their careers develop, and yes, I am critical of many of them myself.

Although I enjoy following all media, I am a sports guy so naturally I have even a sharper eye on the men and women who have the opportunity to cover athletics. I have the people I enjoy and I also have the people I despise. One of these days I plan to write a post detailing my 3 most loved ESPN personalities along with my 3 most hated ESPN personalities. It should be quite a rather fun one that should garner some conversation from all of you.

But tonight’s post is about just one member of the sports media and this person doesn’t even work for ESPN. Rather, this person has served as the face for NBC Sports for many years and has too many Emmy Awards to count. He covers all major sporting events from the Olympics to Sunday Night Football and is widely respected among his peers and his viewing audience. His voice is distinctive, his face is unmistakable, and his credibility is unblemished. I am talking about Bob Costas.

I first became familiar with Bob Costas during the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta where I watched NBC’s coverage of the games as an awe-struck boy from the opening ceremonies all the way through to the closing ceremonies. To say the least, I got exposed to Bob a lot over those two and a half weeks as he covered all the primetime coverage (the 1996 games also introduced me to Greg Gumbel who was working for NBC at the time and anchored the daytime coverage). The way that Costas covered the games with the utmost clarity and respect was so evident that even a ten year old boy like myself could clearly see it.

Fast forward sixteen years later to the present time and Bob Costas is still doing incredible work. Still at NBC, still doing the marquee events, and still looking the exact same as he did back then, he is the best in the business. I think he stands out so much because of his professionalism. He covers everything with complete sincerity and reverence, he doesn’t mess up his lines and he is never caught off guard. He also can cover any event with complete impartiality. So many studio hosts and play by play announcers fail to do this as flawlessly as Bob does. He sets the stage perfectly for the audience to decide which way they will lean when it comes to a certain game or story. He delivers sports in the exact same way as I felt Tom Brokaw delivered the news. Costas never shows ego while on the air, he simply does his job and tells the story and then tosses it over to us to decide.

It is because of this impartiality and “goody-two-shoes” type personality of Bob Costas that I have become very fond of his commentary spots he is now given at halftime during the Sunday Night Football broadcasts. Although I love him for his unbiased and non-preaching ways, I equally enjoy his well-crafted weekly bites of wisdom that NBC gives him the chance to do. Last night he took a big shot at gun rights the day after the tragedy in Kansas City. Because I am friends with and follow a large amount of people from Montana (where gun rights are supported), my Twitter feed blew up with anger over his opinion. In fact, his little halftime sermon actually picked up quite a bit of national attention and criticism as well. Right or wrong, I just kind of admire the fact that Costas can be renowned for his superior straight arrow type broadcasting but every once in a while he can speak his mind and ruffle some feathers.

Bob Costas is a journalist in every sense of the word. Anyone who has any idea about sports knows that if he is covering an event, it is a big deal and that they are going to get a first class production. I think NBC has the perfect plan on utilizing Bob….have him cover sports in his impeccable impartial way 90% of the time and then let him loose for his commentary the other 10% of the time. Costas stands atop the mountain of sports journalism and I will forever watch him. Don’t Blink.