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.