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.

Taking Away the Magic of the Olympics

By this time now, everyone following the Summer Olympics has probably gotten just a little tired of the constant complaining on the one issue that has defined the first several days in London: The games are not live! Due to social media, the reality that the games are not shown on television as they are happening has added a gigantic barrel of fuel to the fire. Different SM outlets, especially Twitter, has both spoiled the games for fans and then served as a sounding off platform for these same people to express their outrage at the delayed coverage. Many people are upset with NBC.

Despite all the unhappy viewers, NBC could not be more happy. The network has brought in large ratings for London 2012 thus far and even though people are complaining during the day when results are revealed, they are still tuning in later at night for the replayed primetime coverage. Not only does NBC have the numbers to back up the decision, they also have experts applauding it as well. Darren Rovell, the most recognized sports journalist in the world has strongly defended NBC’s coverage map even though he is now an employee at ESPN.

So while I completely understand the reasons why NBC has chosen to broadcast the Olympics in the given format and while I also completely understand that there is no amount of tweets, angry letters, or protests that viewers can stage to reverse this broadcast model, I can’t help but personally hate it.

I love sports because of the unpredictability. I get my kick from the unfolding live action, the feeling that what I am seeing with my own eyes is the same thing that everyone else is seeing across the world at the exact same time. When I watch a sporting event, especially a major one, I feel connected to everyone else watching and participating in the competition. I relish the fact that I am on the same level as players, coaches, referees, broadcasters, and fellow fans in that we all have no idea what is exactly going to happen in the next twenty minutes. Basically, a sporting competition shown live is a shared experience for everyone tuned in.

When I watch a sporting event that has taken place eight hours earlier, most of the magic for me is gone. I mean how can I stand up from my couch and cheer when I know that the French will eventually make up the lead in the pool that the American relay team had developed and snatch away the gold? Or even in a positive outcome, how can I get too excited to see the American gymnastics team win gold when everyone at work was already talking about the feat at lunch time? Watching the Olympics during primetime is just like watching a movie you have already seen…you know exactly how the script is going to play out and what the outcome will be. Sure, just like if the movie is really good you will probably still get enjoyment out of watching it again but it still won’t compare to the first time you saw it, before you knew how everything would occur.

We have all heard of and know the people who DVR their favorite team’s games or their favorite reality show and then will cover their ears for the rest of the day so no one will spoil the outcome for them. They will then watch it at a later time with the element of surprise still intact. Many people are trying to take this approach with the Olympics. Even if in this social media obsessed world I was somehow able to shield myself from the results before the primetime showing I still would just have an empty feeling watching the broadcast. As I said above, the shared experience element is completely gone. Even though the event is completely new to me, everyone else has moved on with their lives. Most likely, the participating athletes are sleeping in the Olympic Village, the announcers are prepping for their next assignment, and the fans filling the arena have gone their separate ways. While some people can shake that “left out” mentality from their heads, I can’t.

It is pretty much like showing up to the biggest party in the world eight hours late. Instead of partaking in the excitement, surprise, and enthusiasm of the moment, you instead get a watered down recap of what happened. I just feel that the greatest sporting event in the world should be shown live on TV. Go ahead and replay it during primetime but please give all of us non-traditionalists who don’t huddle around the television at night the opportunity to watch a competition that was meant to be shown live. We don’t care if it is at 3am or 12pm, people will stay up/get up to watch the pinnacle of world competition as it happens.

I know all of this is wishful thinking. I also know that NBC is doing what is best for them. I just want a better Summer Olympics experience. I want to agonize and triumph with the athletes in real time. I want my Olympic magic back! Don’t Blink.