Like many people I watch sports to relax and distract myself from the day to day stresses of my life. As I have written in the past I have always enjoyed watching the Olympics whether it is the summer or like right now the winter games. Since this year’s events are in Sochi, Russia a 9 hour time difference from Eastern Standard Time, unless people forsake their normal work schedule or are willing to get up at 2AM many of the events televised by NBC and its various affiliated stations are long over when they are broadcast in the main network in prime time. What has surprised me is that even though I may have heard the results of a competition I still am willing to watch it anyway. Apparently so are many other people.
When it comes to watching sports like professional baseball, basketball, football, or even hockey, there’s virtually zero chance I would ever watch a game about which I already knew the result. Not much of problem since the games take place in my time zone or within three time zones for the most part.
With the Olympic Coverage whenever the games take place in Europe or Asia, in the past I would do all I could to not listen to the radio or hear anything about the events that had taken place earlier in the day. It’s much more difficult to avoid learning about results today since things like computers, tablets, and smartphones have people connected at all times and noteworthy news items (like Americans winning medals in Sochi) are released on a constant basis.
Yet when it comes to the Olympics that’s somehow ok. Learning about the individual athletes from whatever country they hail from is always interesting to me. It’s quite a bit more interesting for example than just about any regular season game between any two teams in any of the four North American professional leagues. Interest is added to the mix in that the Olympics occur only once every four years. The human element of trying to get back to the Olympics is just one thing that makes the Olympic Games so special. Take for example, an athlete like the U.S.’s Hannah Kearney who was a heavy favorite to win gold in her moguls event in Sochi. An early mishap cost Ms. Kearney the gold and the silver medals which went to the Canadian Lapointe sisters.
Ms. Kearney the top-ranked and most consistent skier in the world over the past four years, was kept from becoming the first back-to-back winner of an Olympic freestyle event. Ms. Kearney, the 27-year-old from Hanover, N.H., spent all night trying, unsuccessfully, to find her footing on a tricky bump that came directly after the first jump. She was inconsolable after finishing third. “No one in life wants their best part of their career to be behind them,” she said. “And unfortunately, that’s what it feels like right now.”
Ms. Kearney’s emotions were raw, honest and fascinating. At the same time I was happy for the elated Canadian sisters who skied well but were reluctant to acknowledge that their success was dependent on a less than stellar performance from Hannah Kearney in order for them to win gold and silver medals. I knew the result of the race prior to watching the coverage but it was great television to watch.
With regard to NBC’s coverage of the Olympics to this point AP writer Anick Jesdanun had an interesting and accurate take on the coverage The conclusion I come up with is that the ways the Olympic Games are covered and watched today are likely to be very different once the networks and cable companies eventually lose their stranglehold on distributing the content. True, NBC Universal paid $775 million for the rights to broadcast the games, so there will be advertising now and forever. But the way I’d like to watch the games is much the way Mr. Jesdanun suggest – picking whichever event I want to watch, whenever I care to watch and be able to go forward or back in the coverage at MY discretion has to be part of the future coverage menu.
I will watch the men’s downhill this Sunday evening even though I know American Bode Miller did not win any medal much less a gold. It’s the event and the stories that make it special and while I root for my countrymen to win, it’s not the only reason to watch.
Are you watching? Live or otherwise?