Sunday, August 10, 2008

Top Five Reasons Why the Olympics are not Just for Sports Fans

First let me make this perfectly clear. I am not, nor have I ever been any kind of sports fanatic. But I have to admit, the past few NBC television covered Olympic events have been pretty interesting to me, even as a total sports moron, and here's why:

#5) NBC gives a great back story to most of the top Olympic champions, in between their featured competitions. It's classic reality television. Want to know where the Chinese athlete grew up, or what the Norwegian sports hero did to rally after his childhood tragedy? Want to know what their favorite food is, or if they get along with their mother? It's all there. NBC brilliantly realized that many viewers could be hooked by getting a little taste of history on some of the folks in the competition.

#4) My cats like it. I can't begin to imagine why. But since Friday night's opening ceremonies, I've usually had one or two TV's on throughout the house tuned to the Olympic coverage and I can usually find a cat or two flopped on the floor giving it rapt attention. They do not feel this way about any other TV programming other than Animal Planet, so I feel it's worth mentioning.

#3) Some of it's actually "Live". You can pretty much catch coverage 24 hours a day on the various NBC properties, including MSNBC, USA cable, Universal HD and CNBC. I'm a huge fan of live television because "anything can happen". Mostly nothing weird ever happens, but you never know. What's cool about the "off prime" sub-channel coverage, is that they show some of the competitions that you wouldn't think would necessarily be an Olympic event. Like synchronized swimming. Who could not like that? It's like a Busby Berkeley movie. I also caught a fascinating bit early in the morning about women weight lifters, and actually saw the winning Chinese strong-girl lift her way to a gold medal.

#2) Michael Phelps. If Wheaties held a billion focus groups to invent the perfect sports champion, their creation could not be better than this real life athlete. He's a lean, mean swimming machine that seems like the nicest guy on the planet, and he looks amazing in the new spandex swimming things that they are allowed to wear now to cut the resistance in the water. All the headlines are saying he will be the one to challenge 1970's swim hero Mark Spitz for getting the most gold medals.

#1) It's mid August...hello? All the basic cable nets have already premiered their new stuff, while broadcast and pay-cable nets are waiting for September. Remember a couple of decades ago when Springsteen came out with that song, "57 channels and nothing's on?" Doesn't that seem quaint now? 500 channels, and until the new fall season, the Olympics look pretty good sometimes to this non-sports fan. I mean come on... one episode of Mad Men per week doesn't stretch that far.

A final post-script: Apparently the Nielsen ratings for the Olympics on NBC this time are the highest recorded since 1976. The Opening Ceremony delivered a 19 rating, 36 share (32.4 million US viewers), which represents a 27% increase over the last summer Olympics in Greece. For the complete story, visit MediaLifeMagazine online.


Dean Treadway said...

These are all great arguments (especially the cat one). I must admit, however, that I have an extreme personal bias against perfect physiques. I am a dumpy guy whose mind is his only working muscle, and I just can't sit there and watch people who are more fit than I am take all the gold, adoration and cash, just because, when they were kids, they found that their perfect bodies (which they were not truly responsible for, given genetics and all) could perform heroic tasks in a fraction of time. I know these guys put a lot of work into what they do, and I don't begrudge them one bit. Let them have the gold and stuff. But if I am to be honest, I have to say that my dislike of sports comes from the knowledge that most people see these figures as true heroes, while the people with heroic intellects are often seen as opaque freaks to be avoided at all costs. About the only thing out there that levels the playing field, strangely enough, is Jeopardy!, which is the Olympics of the Mind. Thank God for Merv Griffin and Alex Trebek!

Jane said...

Excellent rebuttal Dean! Gave me a good laugh, first thing in the morning. Long live Alex Trebek! Have we ever done a Jeopardy post on the Nose? Remember Ken Jennings? I have to remember to start recording Jeopardy again, it's usually over by the time I get home.

Dean Treadway said...

Jeopardy is certainly an entry on to my top 100 list, which I will be resuming shortly! Ken Jennings is THE MAN!

Scott said...

All great points Jane! LOL about your cats. Love Phelps but I'm getting tired of seeing his arm pits! And his mouth/teeth sort of disturb me, and yet there's an adorable quality to him so it's all good! Last night's 400m relay was damned exciting!!!

Scott said...

Dean, you slay me! LMAO!!! As a pudgy gay man of nearly 49, I hear you!