Tossed-Off Olympic Impressions

To be perfectly honest, the achievements of Michael Phelps are pretty much the only things I’ve watched of NBC’s Olympic coverage with any sort of actual attention — it’s very difficult to be emotionally invested in an Olympic outcome when NBC will only go so far as to have events broadcast live only for Eastern and Central viewers, even with USA, CNBC, and MSNBC at their disposal.  It has been impossible to avoid the spoiler effect online or on TV, as announcers of pre-season football games have gone out of their way to note Phelps and ESPN (rightfully, since it’s news) hasn’t hesitated either.

This isn’t going to change as long as NBC has the rights to broadcast the Olympics in this country.  The problem is that the powerful affiliate stations West of the Mississippi, particularly the NBC owned-and-operated ones, loathe shifting their 5 and 6 newscasts for sports, because it costs them prime time ratings, and the Olympics are the rare sporting event that draws the non-hardcore fan demographic.   It’s almost enough to make someone hope ABC/ESPN could win the next IOC contract in the hope of seeing some live events. ALMOST.

As for Phelps himself — yes, it’s safe to say the world is in awe of the eight gold medals and the breaking of Mark Spitz’s record for golds in a single Olympics, and it’s been scintillating television. I’m not interested in pissing on the parade, but considering the scrutiny track and cycling have received about doping, how many questions get asked about those in the pool? Usain Bolt has already earned an SI writer’s posturing despite him taking ungodly large strides because he is 6’5″.

Drugs and PEDs may be a real side effect of why baseball isn’t going to be in the Olympics in four years — in the sense that they may be the unspoken stumbling block between the IOC and MLB, which will not halt its season NHL-style to allow major leaguers to participate.  The IOC, acting holier-than-thou when it comes to doping but with its hand on the till in everything else seedy, would certainly want its own people (mostly WADA) handling the testing of MLB stars — and wouldn’t that be a kick.  Caught in the crossfire is softball, which also has the problem of being utterly dominated by a U.S. squad.

Still fully behind the NBA ballers wearing the Stars and Stripes this year, because there is one noticeable difference between this team and the one that won bronze in Athens: they are playing some spectacular defense, and that is creating the fast break points.  Spain was supposed to be a bit of a challenge and it looked like anything but down the line yesterday.  Better shooting has helped, although Michael Redd, the shooting specialist, is not on the floor a ton. It comes from guys like Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony, and the rest of that squad getting open looks thanks to the defensive pressure — and the breakaways that LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are getting don’t hurt either. (Who wouldn’t want to be Pat Riley this upcoming NBA season? Wade looks healthy, add him with Shawn Marion and Michael Beasley and that’s a combination that makes me think Riley will be kicking Erik Spoelstra off the bench come January.)

I will not watch a soccer match aired on an NBC network again because they have no concept on how to handle commercials. They cut to break at the most awkward of times, and the only reason we don’t miss goals is because damn near the majority of the Olympic footy matches are tape delayed altogether, even on the East Coast. (I’m thrilled that the Premier League season has started again, it’s been much better viewing.)

Yup, those Chinese female gymnasts had some members under 16. I think it’s funny that such a fuss is being made when the sport in general tends to value the pixie-like, some whom may even take drugs to hold back the onsets of puberty.  Essentially, Bela Karolyi got all pissed off on NBC because his wife Martha couldn’t get away with doing what the Chinese did with the U.S. team.  It’s why most of the major blogs went ga-ga over Alicia Sacramone even after her falls on the beam and during the floor routine essentially cost the U.S. the gold.  It helped that there was a YouTube video of her at Brown punching out a drunken frat boy, and it’s also about the hottie-ogling factor, but — shock — she looks semi-normal and not underfed. (Sympathy also came in when Andrea Joyce laid waste to her in the post-competition interview.)

Let’s just get this over with, NBC, so the rest of us can get back to both types of football and pennant races in baseball.

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