Monday, August 11, 2008

2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing in full swing

It's official: I've been captivated, again, by an arena of entertainment in which I usually have zero personal stake. It's times like this I wish I had a DVR.

I spent several hours last night watching the Chinese and American gymnastics teams take the floor in what proved to be some pretty shaky performances, but over all incredibly entertaining. The majority of the coverage was split between this and swimming, in which America's Michael Phelps proved his 8 gold medal goal was actually a possibility as his 4X100 relay ended in a photo finish with a gold, with one of his teammates beating the world record for time.

It was fairly hilarious the amount of hype that NBC gave to the American female gymnast team, and the scandalous back story they told about the French swimmer Laure Manaudou; it made it seem like the headlines of supermarket tabloids, filled with sensationalist scandals, nude photos, and relationship hardships. The American gymnastics team was displayed on our screen like untouchable, strong, unwavering gods; when they took the floor, the first three of them stepped out of bounds, one of them earning a tenth point deduction, another a third, another a half a point. That's HUGE. Keep it together, women, or you'll probably loose a substantial viewership.

NBC also pitted Lanaudou against Italian Federica Pellegrini, the woman who is now dating Lanaudou's ex, in their race against each other last night. Pellegrini pulled in 4th, with Lanaudou finished LAST. Tsk, tsk, NBC, all that hype for nothing. I guess they like to keep their audience riveted!

Of course, I will keep watching. I just wish it could be without all the proud-to-be-an-American, even-the-mighty-may-fall, Michael-Phelps-is-not-part-dolphin-nor-does-he-have-fins bullcrap NBC decides to fill dead air time with. Sure, the ultimate point of the Olympics is to establish national pride in our few strong, talented athletes we send over there, to have another excuse for flag-waving and patriotism. For me, the Olympics is more of an exciting, alternative way to watch sporting events: most of the events are fairly simple to understand, and you don't get lost in cryptic stats like you would in, say, a baseball game. I personally highly enjoy swimming, gymnastics, and some track and field events, which are all over quickly with straightforward rules, regulations, and clear cut winners. Again, a DVR would really come in handy; as much as I love Morgan Freeman, I really can't watch another inspirational freakin' Visa, Coca Cola or McDonald's commercial (yes, there really were athletes stating that they love eating chicken in a biscuit for breakfast. I suppose it is all-American. Sigh....). I guess there's always the mute button.

*EDITOR'S ADDITION: I am in the process of reading a book by Neal Gabler titled Life: The Movie; How Entertainment Conquered Reality. He says of the Olympics "said [research director Nicholas] Schiavone, 'What they [viewers] really want is not live but alive; not sports but stories about sports,' a finding that accounted for why so much of the [1996] Olympics' coverage revolved around profiles of athletes rather than around the atheletic events themselves."

And so it goes with the 2008 Olympics as well. The aforementioned scandal between the French and Italian female swimmers; the hype behind what turned out to be overall poor execution of the American female gymnastics team; and the issue of the potential under-qualifying-age members of the Chinese female gymnastics team. Some of them are thought to be as young as twelve, but apparently all their documents are in order. Commentators last night were saying things to the effect of "now you look at these girls and all of you must be wondering 'Is this girl 16?'" If their papers are in order and the facts check out, then why are you still bringing this up? Of course, of course...for the entertainment, scandalous, supermarket tabloid value of it all.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

amazing, me and laura watched the entire women's qualifying last night. but i CANNOT STAND the commentators i hate them all, especially the female. Im going to watch it on mute next time, as a sidenote, the chinese team all look like ping when he was in preschool, no way they're 16