OK, now that I’ve gotten my Olympics snuggle out of the way,
here’s what I don’t love.
I can remember staying up late as a much younger person, watching Al Michaels, warm and toasty by a fire somewhere in Sarajevo, clad in a sweater that would make Bill Cosby proud, sharing a heart-warming tidbit from the day’s events, a little-known nugget that made the corner of your mouth jerk up or the corner of your eye water. Wow, you’d think, I didn’t know that. Isn’t that cool. Doesn’t that just add to the gold medal winner’s triumphant story, or give some context to the guy who finished dead last but is the first in his village to break out of the centuries-old family tradition of corn husk weaving to try something daring and new.
There’s no need for the fire (or, perhaps thankfully, the sweater) now, as any such nugget will have been mined, hammered, soldered and made into a brooch eight times before 3 p.m. While people logged onto the online link or watching BBC have seen the Michael Phelps/Ryan Lochte showdown live, then the replay, then the post-race interviews, then the medal ceremony, and then the photo shoot for Lochte’s new Subway commercial, those of us held hostage to NBC’s vision of Olympic glory will have learned how to spell the name of every U.S. women’s gymnast and just why the one with the blond ponytail loves Justin Bieber so much. And God forbid there actually be a shred of actual human interest in an athlete’s background, because then we’ll hear about it again and again and again, until we no longer care that this is the first men’s skeet shooter ever from Uzbekistan, who had to wade through snake-infested snow on a right leg two inches shorter than his left whilst dodging mortar fire from warring village tribes on his way to practice every day for 11 years, and in fact start actively rooting for him to shoot his eye out - or better yet, an announcer’s voice box.
Look, I’m a sports writer. My job is to find the interesting story – especially when everyone in the world knows the score a nanosecond after an event ends – and present it in a compelling way. Therein lies the rub. “Compelling” assumes that my reader has some independent brain matter floating about in his or her head, can make some intuitive leaps without being dragged kicking and screaming to the edge of the cliff, and might actually feel a twinge of emotion without MY TELLING THEM TO, RIGHT NOW, AT THIS CRUCIAL MOMENT, over and over. At least I think that’s what compelling means. Then again, I also know what money shot means (Ms. Vieira.)
I don’t mean to sound like your crusty old grandfather, grown roots into his smelly recliner and burping out his dissatisfaction with this crummy world and the young whippersnappers running it. But maybe the old fart had a point or two. Maybe he remembers a time when he got to make up his own mind about things, before people who thought they completely understood his demographic started telling him what to feel and when to feel it.
Or maybe he just can’t deal with hour after hour of Matt Lauer. In which case, I feel ya, gramps.