NBC is trying very hard to make the Olympics (and their commercials) watchable. Maybe too hard. The other night when Michael Phelps was getting ready for a semifinals race, the camera showed him scowling in his chair.
NBC announcer: “Look at his game face! This is great television!”
Other NBC announcer: “This IS great television. I could watch this all night!”
Not me. Wake me when it’s over.
This is not great television and the reason is simple: Instead of treating the Olympics like a sports event, NBC is treating it like a reality show. If the women on "The View" were covering this thing, this is exactly how they would do it. To put it in other terms: NBC has dumbed down and repackaged the games for women.
Before your political correctness alarms go off, I didn’t say that — NBC did. A month ago, John Miller, NBC’s Olympic chief marketing officer, said, “The people who watch the Olympics are not particularly sports fans. More women watch the games than men, and for the women, they're less interested in the result and more interested in the journey. It's sort of like the ultimate reality show and mini-series wrapped into one."
All we need is Simon Cowell in the NBC booth. Sorry, women, you’re not sports fans, nor are you capable of watching sports or understanding them. Maybe you just have a short attention span. Anyway, NBC is helping you out here. The network puts a lot of its coverage on tape delay — which is unnecessary given the similar time zones — so it can cut the Olympic coverage into bite-size chunks you can handle and repackage it into a reality show that will keep you in your seat. They do this by constantly cutting away from the venues to tell you gushy John Tesh-like up-close-and-personal stories such as how Athlete X overcame a hangnail or a bad-hair day to make his/her “Olympic dream” come true.
Men are bored. Women are patronized.
We can’t watch diving without our female NBC host telling this amazing news: Diver David Bouda “has a new role since the last Olympics, that as husband and father!” Then they cut away to a scene of him and his wife pushing their child in a swing.
I’m all for family, but can we just watch some sports already? This is nothing new. It’s an old formula. I wrote about it in 2000 after the Sydney Games. The Olympics is the sports equivalent of a chick flick. It's the difference between "Braveheart" and "Stepmom."
It’s as packaged, processed and artificially sweetened as a box of Cap’n Crunch.
Washington Post columnist Sally Jenkins wrote, “I would tell you what happened on the opening day of the Olympics, but as a woman, I’m not really into results; I’m more about the journey. I would give you the latest on French vaulter Samir Ait Said’s horrifically broken leg, or tell you about the craziest bike race finish you’ve ever seen, but those aren’t things a woman particularly wants to know, according to NBC executives. So you can blame me for hijacking your viewing experience. Women don’t watch the Olympics for the live results; they watch it for the narrative. Or that’s the reasoning of NBC, anyway ”
Jenkins also wonders why, if prepackaged sports with artificial additives is preferred by the majority of the public, then why don’t networks delay and abridge NFL games in favor of “sugary features showing childhood films of the Manning brothers on a swing set instead of wasting viewers’ time with a penalty-filled second quarter?
The way NBC sees it, when a woman watches a game — say, the Colts and Packers — she’s not interested in that touchdown pass from Aaron Rodgers to Randall Cobb; no, she’s thinking, “I wonder if they have children?”
Women should be insulted. They are capable of following sports without being told about “the journey.” Have NBC executives heard of Title IX? Have they heard about the thousands of women who compete in school sports? This is not the 1960s. Women don’t need NBC to cut away from Olympic venues to show Ryan Seacrest chumming with Victoria’s Secret models or hanging with some guy who is making sand castles on the Rio beach.
The Olympics is a sports event. NBC has forgotten that.
Doug Robinson's columns run on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Email: [email protected]