I watched about 90 minutes of this Olympics. Some men’s diving. Some women’s beach volleyball. A few qualifying heats on the track. Some of the women’s marathon. It made me sad to be so apathetic, but it can all be summed up when I turned on the TV this past Sunday thinking I might watch the men’s basketball final — even though I knew the US beat Spain 107-100 because it was long over and already in the news.
Instead of the game I got Al Michaels, Doc Rivers and whoever is the headcoach of the Philadelphia ’76ers previewing the “upcoming” game and talking about how Spain either needs to hold team USA to 80 points or find a way to score more than 115, otherwise it was going to be a blowout. 107-100 was obviously not a blowout, but at that point the game was still 90 minutes away from airing. I changed the channel. Watched the last few minutes of the already-seen last-season finale of “Hell on Wheels.”
I know NBC struck ratings gold with its tape-delayed, condensed, US-centric version of what happened over those 16 days in London, and that makes me sad. Because it validates their methodology of serving up the glorious games as reheated leftovers. And the irony is that TV seems to be succeeding with a model that’s been killing print media, which struggles to make their products worth picking up and reading the day after. But that lack of immediacy that’s slaughtered so many newspapers and magazines is now working for broadcasting.
Perhaps my hindsight is rose-colored, but I remember when the Olympic events were aired when they happened — not exclusively, but substantially. Back then it seemed given that few shows on a network’s schedule were so sacred as this fortnight every four years and preemption was the rule, not the exception. I’m not sure when it changed. Maybe it began in 1988 in Seoul. Maybe 1992 in Barcelona. I can distinctly remember it in Atlanta in 1996, much to my incredulity. And it’s just gotten worse since.
NBC’s success at failure can only mean this is how it’sÂ going to be from now on. In 2016 I’ll be able to count on turning on the TV and see a packaged version of an Olympic event in Rio that’s already yesterday’s news.
Count me out.
Count me out.