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Merkalympics™ (I reserve all copyrights to this term)

August 4, 2012
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The Olympics are on television right now. They have been for a week, and will be for another week until the closing ceremony next Sunday. I have watched more Olympic coverage in the past 8 days than I have in, probably, the last 16 years, including the winter games that have occurred in that time period. Not really sure why, but I have.

I’ve been largely disenchanted with the Olympics ever since the ’92 Barcelona Games, to which we sent the Dream Team™, a dozen, at that time future (many have been enshrined since and, likely, all will be eventually- if they haven’t all been already), Hall of Fame NBA basketball players who were sent to the Olympics for no other reason than to completely dominate the rest of the world in basketball- and so we can get our country’s basketball testicles back. In the ’88 Games in Seoul, the USA team received a “disappointing” bronze medal and that apparently embarrassed and infuriated the basketball gods. The Dream Team™, as they were dubbed for obvious reasons, won by an average margin of nearly 44 points en route to an easy gold medal in Barcelona. The gold medal game against Venezuela was decided by a mere 47 points, while Team USA’s first game, against Cuba, was a nail-biter from which Team USA escaped by only 79 points. I’ve seen closer Harlem Globetrotters games. It just wasn’t even close to “fair”.

My thought on the Olympics was always that it was supposed to be a competition of the world’s best amateur athletes. And yes, I know that in many countries, their athletes are essentially professionals in that that’s pretty much all they do (insert Boris Badenov voice here: “Vee serve in Sowiet army and vee plee besketbohl for Sowiet Nayshunnull Team”). But even so, there is still quite a bit of disparity between that and professionals the caliber of Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Charles “That’s Tuurble” Barkley, and the others. So I pretty much tuned out of the Olympics on principle, “protesting” the whole “My dick is bigger than your dick” mentality I felt the Games had suddenly taken on at that point. And, I admit, I got a rather sadistic thrill out of how, an Olympiad or two ago, that year’s version of the “Dream Team™” got bounced in the second round. *make L-shape on forehead with thumb and forefinger*

Again, I don’t really know why I have been, at least comparatively, glued to this Olympics so much more so than Olympiads past, but I have been. And for the most part, I’ve actually kind of enjoyed it. With London being at least 6-7 hours ahead of the United States, people have been complaining about all the “spoilers”, or finding out event results, via social media, before they get aired, thus “spoiling” their Olympics-watching experience. To that I say, stay off of Twitter and Facebook until you watch what you want to watch. The only other option to keep that from happening would be for NBC to actually air everything live, which would likely make people bitch and complain that “all the good stuff” is on in the middle of the night, due to the time zone difference. Hence the likely reason NBC tape delays their coverage in the first place. So I really don’t have much sympathy for people that complain about that. Yeah, it sucks to know the outcome before you get to see it, but either suck it up or stay off the social apps and the internets.

NBC and their partner networks have, in my opinion, been performing rather random event-coverage changes, when they decide [for us] what we what to watch and just change back and forth at will- sometimes never going back to what they were originally showing. I can look past that; there is no possible way to let every viewer see exactly what they want to see when they want to see it. What gets me more, in that vein, is the major event and athlete bias. Yes, I get that most people aren’t as “into” judo, archery, ping pong- I mean, “table tennis”- badminton, trampolining, or kayaking as they are gymnastics, swimming, basketball, soccer, and beach volleyball, for example, but jeez. Some people are, though. I’m reasonably confident they would (and likely already have) cut from a super-tight gold medal rowing final, for example, to show a 100m butterfly prelim simply because one of America’s Darlings™ are in that particular heat.

That right there is my other biggest complaint about the Olympics: All the bullshit Team USA™ rah-rah crap. Yes, I love my country. Yes, I want to see my country’s athletes do well. But NOT at the expense of watching good competition, regardless of the competitors’ country of origin. It’s almost like, if an event is not won by an American, or especially if there are no Americans in an event, then the event is largely deemed worthless and therefore often not even shown. Exceptions are, perhaps, soccer games and maybe beach volleyball games the winner of which will next take on Team USA™. That will never change, though, given the “Merkalympics™” mentality shared by much of the country, as well as the media outlets that cover the Games.

Another thing that drives me crazy- besides trying to figure out why Ryan Seacrest is involved with Olympic coverage at all- is all the “tug at your heart strings” profiles they do on athletes. I’m not saying they shouldn’t profile the athletes, nor am I trying to downplay the fact that, for example, Gabby Douglas’s mother is a single mom that sacrificed a hell of a lot to send her daughter to train to eventually become the 2012 London Olympiad’s all-around gymnastics gold medal winner. I’m saying that they go a little overboard with them. And that they’re rather picky and choosy about what they show and what they don’t.
Case in point: Granted, this doesn’t involve athlete profile stories per se, but take the unfortunate circumstances surrounding Jordyn Wieber, who was one of if not the highest-ranked gymnast in the world, heading into the Olympics. Due to some new rule in gymnastics which states that teams can have a maximum of two representatives in the all-arounds regardless of actual scoring, she was denied the opportunity to go to the all-around competition to compete for the gold medal that Douglas eventually won. It was truly heart-wrenching, I admit. The poor girl was sobbing because everything for which she’d worked her entire life, and which was in her grasp, evaporated due to a technicality, essentially. She had cameras in her face the entire time, and had to turn around and give an interview on worldwide television in which she was to try to answer the question, “How are you feeling right now?” I know how I would have answered that. #junkpunch

At any rate, how that relates to my complaint about “All Team USA™ all the time” coverage is that when the Jordyn Wieber saga aired on ABC Evening News with Diane Sawyer, there was this huge emotion-jarring story about Wieber, preceded by a roughly 15-second lead-in mentioning this event in fencing that happened earlier that day. Other than that little blurb that I just happened to catch because I switched over to ABC to watch the Springfield station’s local news, I would never have heard a thing about that fencing story because it had absolutely nothing to do with Team USA™. That’s ridiculous. I mean, yes, I can’t watch every minute of every channel’s coverage every day, so maybe it has been mentioned on the Olympics broadcast more than that, but it hasn’t even been mentioned during what limited fencing coverage there has been since the incident happened. Be honest- did YOU know anything about the Korean fencer before you read it here?

Look, I know this is Merka, and Merkan viewers want to see Merkan athletes. We loves us some Michael Phelpses and  Missy Franklins and Misty May-Treanors and Kerri Walshes and Ryan Lochtes and “Fab Five” gymnasts and, of course, our basketball team (I refuse to call them the ‘Dream Team™’ any more- that term should ONLY be used to describe the ’92 Barcelona team). And I’m not saying I don’t loves me some them as well. But why does it have to be at the expense of so many others who deserve equal coverage?

  • Like Kimberly Rhode, who won the gold medal in women’s skeet-shooting, tied an Olympic record with a 99/100 score, and became the first American to take an individual-sport medal in five different Olympics. Or Vincent Hancock, the gold medalist in men’s skeet. Or Jamie Lynn Gray, gold medalist in the women’s 50m rifle 3-position finals.
  • Brady Ellison, Jake Kaminski, and Jacob Wukie, who won silver in men’s team archery.
  • Marti Malloy, bronze medal winner in women’s 57-kg judo. Or Kayla Harrison, gold medalist in women’s 78-kg judo.
  • Natalie Dell, Kara Kohler, Megan Kalmoe and Adrienne Martelli, who won the silver medal for the women’s rowing quadruple sculls.

Not exactly household names, are they? Nor will they ever be. Though I’m betting many of you will remember the names of the London “Fab Five” gymnasts for years to come. I bet many of you can remember the names of at least most of the 1992 gymnastics team gold medalists, known as the “Magnificent Seven” <cringe>. Hint: Does Kerri Strug ring a bell? Hell, I bet many of you can still remember the names of at least half of the 1984 gymnastics teams, both men’s and women’s. But the people I listed above, and countless, nameless, and faceless other Olympians, medalists and non-medalists, past and present, are just as important and their Olympic accomplishments equally as impressive. If we’re going to place so much “value” on athletics, do it across the board. There are a plethora of sports and athletes that are every bit as awe-inspiring and compelling as (if not more so than) the gymnasts, swimmers, beach volleyball players, and the NFL/MLB/NBA/NHL athletes most people [inexplicably] revere over all others.

And all this doesn’t even scratch the surface about all the thousands of exceptional Olympic athletes from around the world that largely go by unnoticed because they don’t have the Stars and Stripes on their uniform’s shoulders. About the only way they are noticed at all is if they beat the Americans in something, in which case they become vilified. That evil Russian hockey team. That evil Jamaican/Kenyan runner. That evil Chinese diver. Et cetera.

God Bless ‘Merka. And to hell with all them frickin’ foreigners. That’s the problem with the Olympics- too many foreigners! (I trust you all do still recognize sarcasm, yes?)

I still haven’t figured out how to explain to Adam that the tennis match between the pretty black woman and the pretty blonde woman is somehow more “important” than the guys we saw jumping really high on trampolines that he wants to watch.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. August 6, 2012 8:35 am

    Last night we were watching the women’s gymnastics vault final, and – well, firstly, they showed nearly all the finalists, of which there was one per country, so we learned that there are gymnasts from more than two countries! However, when the German competitor was preparing for her vault, we saw that she looked strange compared to the other children – because she was probably 20 years older than they were! The announcers said something about it being her 4th or 5th Olympics and that she’d defected from Russia to Germany to get better health care for a son who had specific health problems. Now that’s a story I would’ve liked to have heard! But other than that surface outline of the German’s circumstances, the cameras pretty much stayed on the American the whole time, with the announcers (who apparently don’t believe in jinxes) breathlessly gushing about how nobody else would even be close to this girl and making me wonder why they were even bothering to hold the finals at all instead of just delivering the medal to U! S! A!

    sigh.

    As a side note, I’d probably watch women’s gymnastics with more … unmixed feelings if the competitors weren’t so obviously little children. It just seems a bit, well, nearly icky. Plus I can’t stop thinking about how their shoulders, hips, and whatever will be totally shot by the time they’re 18, while runners and swimmers are still years away from their prime.

    • Johann permalink*
      August 7, 2012 11:08 pm

      Oddly enough, they DID do a small- SMALL- story on the German gymnast of which you speak. She is 37, if I remember correctly. It wasn’t a huge story, not like it would have been if she were Merkan, but they actually did talk about her. Other than that, yes, the cameras stay focused on the Merkans the whole time.

      Oh, and yeah, I kinda get the same creepy vibe. The T&A of the beach volleyball players’ outfits, that’s one thing (and perfectly fine, IMHO), but the outfits on some of the gymnasts- some of them, 13- and 14-year-old gymnasts- it’s like, Ewwww. And yes, I have to imagine that with the poundings their bodies take all through their developmental years, gymnasts must suffer severe joint and spinal issues by the time they hit even 30.

  2. August 7, 2012 4:13 pm

    While I wholeheartedly agree with your views about NBC’s telecasts being USA-centric, I have no problems with professional athletes at the Olympics.

    The Olympics are supposed to be about the best athletes in the world competing against each other. And to use your specific example of basketball, only the USA was prohibited from using professional players. Most of the players on the gold-medal 1988 Soviet team played in pro leagues in Russia and Lithuania.

    • Johann permalink*
      August 7, 2012 11:11 pm

      Yeah, I guess I see your point. I grew up under the impression [given to me by Olympic announcers at the time] that the Olympics were to be a showcase of the best *amateur* athletes in the world. Just seemed, once we started sending the NBA players… I don’t know… dirty.

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