2016-08-18 / Opinions

Watching the summer Olympic Games on TV may help you appreciate athletes’ hard work

By KIP BURKE
news editor

Sometimes the 24-hour coverage of the 2016 Summer Olympic Games on late-night cable TV has been a cure for insomnia, but sometimes the NBC’s efforts to cover the games has been so poor, from a dozen commercials an hour to tape delays of important events, that it drives a lot of people nuts trying to watch.

Now hold on, before you big fans of the Olympic Games ride me out of town on a rail, I have to admit that NBC’s coverage of some of the Olympic competitions has been pretty exciting and tremendously popular, especially the American favorites of gymnastics, swimming, and running events that are shown in prime time to audiences of millions.

Which is why they show a batch of commercials every three minutes, I guess.

It’s got to be hard to cover everything. In this year’s games in Rio, there are more than 10,000 athletes competing in 300 events spanning 26 separate sports, and be honest, they aren’t all exactly riveting competition. Thanks, however, to the fact that NBC will be broadcasting round-the-clock coverage not only on NBC but live-streaming online and on half a dozen other channels, we get to watch way more events than we ever knew or cared about.

At the same time, though, NBC has selectively ignored at least one historic Olympic moment because it involved a shooting sport with an outspoken champion of the Second Amendment, and almost failed to cover some of the best moments of the games to play one commercial after another.

People also complained about the built-in sexism shown by John Miller, NBC’s chief marketing officer, who said, “The people who watch the Olympics are not particularly sports fans. More women watch the Games than the men, and for women, they’re less interested in the result and more interested in the journey. It’s sort of like the ultimate reality show and miniseries wrapped into one.”

Maybe that’s why they showed much less of Simone Manuel’s historic gold medal swim to focus on Michael Phelps’ historic night.

At the same time, NBC’s roundthe clock coverage of the less-popular sports totally failed to focus on a historic moment Friday, one that you’d have to really search for to see on TV. At the age of 37, American skeet shooter Kim Rhode just made Olympic history, becoming the first Olympian to win a medal in six consecutive Olympic games, starting with winning gold in Atlanta in 1996 at the age of 17, then followed up with bronze in Sydney, gold in Athens, silver in Beijing, gold in London, and bronze in Rio.

There’s another reason that NBC Sports has avoided covering Kim Rhode’s record-setting shooting. She has become an outspoken defendant of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In a news conference before the start of the Games, she said, “We should have the right to keep and bear arms, to protect ourselves and our family. The Second Amendment was put in there not just so we can go shoot skeet or go shoot trap. It was put in so we could defend our first amendment, the freedom of speech, and also to defend ourselves against our own government.”

There is, of course, the argument that skeet-shooting is much less athletic than say gymnastics, and that’s true. But Rhode has practiced for more than 20 years, shooting between 500 and 1,000 shotgun rounds every day, with her lightweight competition shotgun kicking her every time, even as she hits the flying clay 99 percent of the time.

I said that to say this: you may not approve of the coverage of this year’s summer Olympic games, and you may not be fascinated by everything that passes for an Olympic sport, but if you watch with an open mind and not fall asleep, I think you’ll truly gain an appreciation of the hard work and dedication that every Olympic athlete brings to the games. I know I do.

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