Before I start, I should warn you that this blog does not expound upon my non-existent experiences at the Sochi Olympic Games. I feel that by including the word “Olympic” in the title, I may have unintentionally slash strategically suckered some of you into reading this ramble with the hopes that it’s content might be about my ragingly unique experiences at the 2014 games. Trust me, I am just as bummed as you are that I didn’t ski well enough to qualify for the games… but my not going provided for an opportunity to write something about the Olympics from a perspective other than the usual topics of “how unique your experience was”… or how janky everything was in Russia” … or for that matter, “how Un-Janky things actually turned out to be”. No. This blog is simply about watching TV.
I’ve had ample time to contemplate a great many things in the last couple of days. (or at least when I wrote this it was the last couple days) Unfortunately, this was because I was sick. And because I was sick, the majority of what ran through my mind was nonsense and therefore a byproduct of my body’s first attempt at warding off the sore throat, ballooning headache, chills, and fever that kept me in bed for three days. On the bright side, I watched more of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games in those three days then of any other Olympic Games in my entire life combined! I don’t want to scare you, but there were a lot of “In’s”.. a lot of “Out’s” … and a lot of “What have you’s” that had to come together for this to happen. The first: I had to have a TV that connected to basic public television. The second: I had to be in Europe.. and that’s it.
That’s right ladies and germs. In Europe, the Olympics are broadcast on one of multiple public channels almost ALL DAY long. I know, I know. I just said “in Europe”, like everything in Europe is the exact same. But the funny thing is… it actually is. I’ve spent a significant amount of time watching live broadcasts almost all day long of the Olympics in Germany, Switzerland, Bulgaria, and Austria. Ok, so maybe not all of Europe, but I’d say that’s a pretty solid sample size to base a blog post off of right?
Anyway, in the Bobsled, they didn’t just show the Germans or the Austrians… In the slalom they didn’t just show the medal contenders and the “Super Star” European skiers like Marcel Hirscher, Felix Neureuther, or Bernadette Shild. No. They aired almost every kid, whether they were from the home nation of the broadcast you were watching from, or from a country I didn’t even know existed. Like the kid from the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste who finished 22 seconds out. I may have only taken one geography class in my expedited time at school, but if you can take a blank globe or map and point to where Timor-Leste is, you deserve a medal, or a parade, or at least a high five.
I was skeptical at first of such an overwhelmingly unbiased display of the greatest winter sporting event known to mankind. It challenged the basic knowledge that is apparently passed from generation to generation in our country that the Olympics are to be broadcast between 7 & 10 P.M. Recapping the day’s highlights by showing the pre-fabricated stories of the Americans who were expected to win medals and did, an international medal winner/contender or two, and maybe a couple other Americans. Cheers to NBC for providing free live coverage of all the Olympic Competitions online. But the coverage was only free to those who subscribe to a cable provider. So even if you wanted to sacrifice your circadian rhythm to catch up on the un-aired midnight action from the curling rink, you still had to pay 50+ dollars a month for cable to have the option.
One example of NBC’s failure to capture the true spirit of the Olympic Games came when they failed to show any of the four runs Jared Goldberg, the youngest member of the Men’s U.S. Olympic Alpine Ski Team, took in his first Olympics. Jared qualified in possibly the mot unique and volatile event in alpine ski racing, the Combined. It takes one run of Downhill and one of Slalom. Smashing them together in order to create one chaotic hurricane of a race where any combination of variables can can determine the winner on ay given day. Because of the format, the winner is usually an established Tech skier who skis just slowly enough first run to have a good start position from which to make up the deficit second run. Or, he is an established speed skier who skis just fast enough first run to preserve his lead through the second run and escape the onslaught of tech skiers who are gunning for the lead.
Either way, the Combined event takes an extraordinary amount of athleticism. Jared showed the world he had plenty of it when he finished 11th, second for Americans. Ted Ligety, a medal favorite in both the Combined and the GS events, finished 12th in the Combined, one spot behind Jared. In the GS, Bode Miller, one of the most decorated Alpine Ski Racers of all time, finished 20th. Jared finished 19th, third for Americans. One place in front of Bode, and four plaes behind Tim Jitloff, who finished 15th, second for Americans. Both Bode and Ted’s runs were broadcast, but in the competition created for the sake of competition, Jare’ds spirited efforts were not included in that nights American Olympic Coverage. (side note: Tim Jitloff’s runs also were not broadcast)
I know that writing this sparsely organized piece of writing for my blog, that maybe 100 of my friends and family will read a couple of sentences into, will not change anything. (Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful to each and every one of those 100 who care enough to see what I’ve been doing and thinking.) And I know my views are biased, given that my life revolves around the sport of Alpine Ski Racing. There are plenty of other athletes whose Olympic Journey deserve the exposure and recognition for their efforts that they largely won’t get from an American fan base due to the shortcomings of NBC. But the point is. For all of Europe’s frustrating and unimaginably nonsensical and ironic qualities in relation to the everyday conveniences of America, they sure do know how to broadcast the greatest winter sporting event in the world.