Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Limping Olympics

Television ratings are lagging for the Olympics. What a surprise.
Seems the one-two punch of NBC and ice-based sports has caused many American viewers to search frantically for the nearest poker tournament on cable.
In a country that puts Angelina Jolie's pregnancy at somewhere between national security and the Super Bowl on the importance scale, the failure of an amateur sporting festival to draw huge ratings probably shouldn't confound too many.
But then again, maybe it says far more about the U.S. Olympic contingent this time around.
I have searched and searched, and found no compelling storylines associated Team USA in these Olympics. Michelle Kwan pulled out. The U.S. women's hockey team staggered to the bronze medal. The men's hockey team isn't off to a rollicking start.
After nine days of competition, the U.S. sits fourth in the medal standings, behind Germany, Norway and Austria. it should be pointed out, however, that Norway's second-place standing has been fortified with eight bronze medals, while the U.S. is in a four-way tie with seven gold medals.
One of those golds belongs to snowboarder Shaun White, the most-hyped of the Olympic champions to this point. Much like Cavaliers reserve Anderson Varejao, a lot of his fame is due to his locks, flaming red and tousled.
That, and his musings on hooking up with figure skater Sasha Cohen.
"I figured I'd say, 'hey babe, look at this'." White said of showing off his medal to Cohen.
Snowboarding is great for the under-25 set, but NBC wants their parents, and Cohen and Co. is about the only calling card left. Women's figure skating begins tonight, and must rescue NBC from the ratings doldrums.
Beyond that, there are only the manufactured stories that come out of every major sporting event. The starving journalists following vastly overrated skiier Bode Miller around, hoping another controversial comment will dribble out of his mouth like so much spittle. The reporters covering short-track speedskating (a.k.a. ice roller derby), for the "Apolo Ohno Factor."
Me, I don't care so much for soul patches and drunk skiing. Give me German luger Georg Hackl, who is competing in his last Olympics.
Hackl has been like a recurring sitcom character for the past 20 years, yet nobody notices him because he competes in an semi-obscure event like luge. But I remember him making cameos on TV throughout my childhood. I remember him from Calgary, from Albertville, from Lillehammer, Nagano and Salt Lake City.
Let's hear about Hackl, who has devoted two decades of his life to the Olympics and the sport of luge. He has to be a wealth of stories. To me, the backstories are sometimes more compelling than the medal events themselves.
Besides, I can turn on E! any time to see if White and Cohen have become an item.

1 comment:

Zach said...

See, the thing about the Olympics is ... yawn, ugb zzzzzzzzzz.