I watched a lot of the Olympics this year. Despite my declaration 18 months ago, when NBC started advertising them, I couldn’t resist the urge to see what all the incredible athletes would do.
Gymnastics: A.Ma.Zing. All the way around, the women and men were fascinating to watch. I even managed to keep my eyes open for the balance beam routines, which I’ve been loathe to do in the past. As someone who has NEVER been able to do a cartwheel, I have the utmost respect for the courage it takes to careen across a mat at a high rate of speed and fling oneself in the air. The strength and flexibility are unbelievable. I am in awe. I predict Simone Biles, Laurie Hernandez, and Madison Kocian will take all the gold medals in 2020 Tokyo.
Swimming: What can I say about the strength and speed of the swimmers that hasn’t already been said? Katie Ledecky, Simone Manuel, Maya Dirado, Missy Franklin, Dana Vollmer…all the women gave their best in the pool. Ledecky is only 19 and just couldn’t get enough of those medals. Manuel, 20, is the first black American woman to medal in the Olympics. Sadly, NBC didn’t think to prepare a package on her journey to the Olympics, which is mind boggling because there was a big opportunity to talk about *why* we’ve seen so few black Americans in the pool. There’s *history* there that deserves to be shared. Instead, we got plenty of coverage of Phelps and Lochte*.
Diving: I am humbled by those who can stand atop a board and then fling themselves WHILE PERFORMING ACROBATICS off, toward the water, and still barely make a splash. How is it even possible?
Equestrian: I had to scout around to find coverage for the equestrian events. USA and MSNBC carried the bulk of riding and jumping events. Thank God I thought to dig around until I found the schedule! Fletch was equally happy that I found the horses. He sat in front of the TV, mesmerized by them. Then he ran through the house, scampering and leaping as if he were competing. I wish I’d thought to record him doing it!
There is such beauty in watching horse and rider strive to achieve the most difficult jumps, to navigate a course full of challenges, to place their trust in one another… it’s truly amazing.
My younger sister could have been an Olympic horsewoman. She may try to say otherwise now, but she was GOOD and she could have done it. So, not just because I have always loved horses, but because I always think of my sister… that’s why I watched, why I’ll always watch.
My only complaint with the equestrian competition is that it doesn’t include reining events. I took enough riding lessons on reining horses to know and understand the level of skill required to get a horse and rider to the point where they can achieve such smooth movement and “effortless” control. Granted, I was pretty much a hack in spite of all the time and effort I put into riding, but STILL! (Really, even though I wasn’t as good as I had hoped, I was plenty happy to be on a horse under the vast Colorado sky.)
Cycling: I tried to get into cycling more this year, but I gave up after the first event. Once upon a time, cycling was special to me. Apparently, I grew out of it. I still admire the riders, but I no longer feel the need to watch.
Finally, I have to say how disappointing I found NBC’s coverage of the Olympics. Forget how underwhelming the opening ceremony was, it *might* have been better if we had been given the opportunity to see it without commercial interruptions every few minutes. Perhaps. We’ll never know at this point.
During events, the network continued to suffer from “gotta get an ad in” syndrome. Aside from swimming heats that would be over in a matter of minutes, NBC had a very difficult time sticking with coverage for more than 8 minutes. And if they did, they spent that time focusing on little of importance. Where were the lovely, heart-warming stories about the athletes overcoming adversity? Oh, sure, there were a few stories, but too much time was spent on interviewing breathless competitors or cutting back to a sports announcer, or worse… Ryan Seacrest. Am I the only one who has had enough of the guy? I do NOT get his appeal at all.
The best thing NBC did during the Olympics was bringing Leslie Jones down to Rio. Her enthusiasm was infectious and endearing. Might i suggest we replace Seacrest with her next time? Actually, let’s do that AND let another network broadcast the Olympics in the future. After this round, I’m pretty sure a community college broadcasting class could do a better job than NBC did.
Before I end this with my rant below,let me just say how much I appreciate the dedication of the athletes, their families, and the coaches. I marvel at the sacrifices these people make to chase a dream. Even for those who don’t “get sports”, they must see the beauty in chasing a dream. So few of us have the fortitude to focus as much as these athletes do. I often wonder if we made opportunities to try a variety of activities available to everyone — from the wealthiest to the poorest — if we could create more dreamers and achievers. I believe it’s possible. And I don’t think we should wait for the next Olympic games to start inspiring the next generation to go for the gold.
*Now, allow me to vent about the idiot for a moment. Lochte, despite his medals and fame, couldn’t manage to behave like an adult following the completion of his events. His actions in Rio, outside the Olympic compound, were asinine and reflected so poorly on not just America, but the athletes in general. I sincerely hope he’s punished somehow, someway. I don’t know what, exactly, but there must be consequences for his (and his fellow delinquents) actions. I’d send him back to Rio to face the music and I’d ban him from the U.S. swim team for at least the next games in 2020. Isn’t there some sort of code of conduct for these athletes? What are the repercussions of breaking the rules? This angers me in a way I find difficult to explain. I mean, I’ve had enough of athletes getting away with bad behavior, or getting a mere slap on the hand. Whether you are representing your family, school, your neighborhood, your city, state, or nation, you need to be held accountable for your actions. It’s not enough to be embarrassed or ashamed that people find out what an idiot you’ve been. There must be more done to deter others from behaving in a similar(or worse) manner.
I truly do not comprehend how we humans have allowed others to get away with all manner of crime simply because they are known for their athletic abilities (or whatever their claim to fame may be). Why? As a parent, you spend so much of your time trying to raise your children to be responsible, honest, law-abiding citizens. Those character traits should not be optional because they excel at sports, acting, academics, or anything else. In fact, the bar should be even higher for those who work so hard to achieve “greatness” in whatever field they choose that also puts them in the public eye.
At some point, were going to need to say, “enough is enough!” and demand our national “representatives” adhere to a specific level of conduct. If they don’t, they should be stripped of their awards and banned from future competition. I can’t see any other way to get the message across.