I have accused Olympic coverage in the past–which has meant NBC recently–of spending too little time covering sports and too much time doing sob stories, with sun-dappled athletes who have overcome the heartbreak of hangnails staring pensively into the distance. There seems to be less of that in this year’s coverage (although possibly more on the athletes’ dogs), but I’m kind of astounded at the missed opportunities. I’ve been waiting for 10 days to bring up marathon swimming because of South Africa’s Natalie du Toit, who is the first amputee to compete in both the Olympics and Paralympics. If you’re up noodling around the second this is posted, you might catch the few minutes of latenight USA Network coverage of her event. Similary, I’d have thought NBC would be all over the story of Henry Cejudo, child of dirt-poor immigrants who never had his own bed before he moved to the Olympic Training Center and who just won a shocking gold in freestyle wrestling. Who would ever have dreamed I’d be begging NBC for more sun-dappled moments?
Wednesday’s Blue Plate Special: I’m a little torn on beach volleyball (although, given the amount of coverage they’ve given it, NBC clearly isn’t). On one hand, just the idea of only two athletes covering an entire court is astounding, and watching the “traditional” volleyball serves and spikes being performed by people slogging through sand is pretty impressive. On the other hand, the skimpy bikinis hurt me in my feminism (why aren’t the male players in Speedos?). It did help when one of the finalist teams had their country abbreviation at key places on their uniforms, though–thank you, Brazil. Coverage of the women’s gold-medal match on primetime on NBC (beware spoilers).
Wednesday’s Chef’s Special: NBC has been doing a lot of crowing about the high ratings they’ve gotten so far in these games (call it the Phelps Effect), and you have to think the IOC is happy to make the networks happy, since they get such a yooge percentage of their operating budget through TV. So perhaps it is no surprise they’ve taken a turn toward the X Games demographic, introducing BMX to the Olympic program this year. I have to admit I know next to nothing about BMX racing, but hearing it described as “a full-contact bike race with jumps” makes me want to know more. NBC covers both the men’s and the women’s finals in primetime (spoilers will be available).