A Tosa resident for almost 20 years, Karen is a mom and freelance writer, addicted to playing tennis. When not on the tennis court, she spends the fall and winter in the stands at Green Bay Packer and Marquette basketball games.
Karen is the author of “Grab a Bite,” a dining out column and the former community columnist for the Wauwatosa NOW newspaper.
It seems like everyone I know has Olympic fever. They’re watching and talking about the Olympics more than ever before. And how could you not watch them non-stop? They’re everywhere. I mean, really. They’re on NBC, USA Network, Oxygen, MSNBC, Universal HD and of course, online all the time.
Count me among the folks that are just a little bit befuddled by this Olympic experience. I think the problem is that I missed the opening ceremonies, a.k.a. the gateway to Olympic addiction. I was out that night and forgot to record it. I tuned in as the guy lighting the torch was walking along the top of the Bird’s Nest. Let me tell you, Peter Pan’s got nothing on that guy.
Since then, I’ve tried to watch the Olympics, many times. But every time I tune in, I either get boxing (which hurts me to watch), a water polo match, (a ridiculously hard sport that's pretty boring to watch) or a replay of a sport where the results have been splashed all over the internet. Or, I get all excited about an event, only to find that I’m watching a HEAT. Sorry, but nothing could be less exciting to me than a heat. Sort of like pre-season football or spring training. (I know it counts more, but if the athletes don’t care about finishing first, then I don’t either.)
I’m a huge sports fan, but in this day and age of instant information, it’s incredibly tough to get engaged in a medal competition when I can walk over to my computer and find out who won. I just don’t have that much self-control.
And NBC has tried their darnedest to ratchet up the drama. They’ve done background mini-documentaries, complete with tear-jerking music, on virtually every U.S. athlete. Perhaps that’s the problem for me. They over-prepared. Rather than allowing us to experience the real drama as it unfolded, they had to spoon-feed it to us until we practically gagged on it.
Then there’s the big kahuna - Michael Phelps. It’s not his fault. There’s no denying the fact that he’s one of the most amazing athletes of all time and I congratulate him and wish him the very best. I just wish they could have dialed down the over-the-top hysteria and just let us see it as it happened - without the anatomical diagrams explaining why his giant feet and short legs make him such an uber-athlete. I’m going to say this and it might be un-American: I’m Phelps-ed out.
In defense of NBC, how else do you fill HOURS of prime-time television? The time difference of 13 hours makes it unrealistic to show anything in real time. I guess they just crossed their fingers and hoped that people were OK with seeing their sporting events on tape delay. I can’t explain why I’m not. Perhaps it’s just the cynic in me.
Maybe the problem isn’t so much the viewing as it is the listening. I imagine Al Trautwig, Tim Daggett and Rowdy Gaines clutching their NBC-issued Official Glossary of Adjectives as they attempt to explain to us how a seemingly small mistake is really “disastrous” or “catastrophic.” Meanwhile, Bela Karolyi, whose wife coaches the U.S. Women’s gymnasts, makes absolutely no attempt to appear unbiased in his commentary. I guess that’s OK, because I’m rooting for the U.S. women too, but perhaps he shouldn’t be a regular “fixture” in the studio.
Bob Costas, who I usually like a lot, has really disappointed me this time in his role as NBC’s Olympic ring-master. I have never seen a more awkward moment on television than the split triple screen with Costas, Phelps and Mark Spitz. Rather than asking Spitz something mildly compelling like: “How does it feel to no longer be THE Olympic guy?”, he lobbed softballs and instead went for: “Mark, what do you think of what Michael has done?” Gee Bob, what did you think he was going to say? It was all just so painfully predictable as the two multi-medalists practically wrenched their shoulders patting each other on the back.
Now that I’ve totally rained on the Olympic parade, I’ll say that the other day I was brought to tears by the Olympics. It was the medal ceremony for the 55 kilogram wrestling weight class. The gold medal winner was Henry Cejudo of the U.S. who was apparently a surprise medalist. As our national anthem played, the announcers deftly explained that Cejudo is the son of illegal immigrants who had never slept in his own bed until he arrived at Olympic training camp. At that moment, I choked up and beamed with American pride as both Cejudo and his father had tears in their eyes.
Now that’s the kind of Olympic moment that I love.