NBC’s Olympic coverage – or lack thereof

The National Broadcasting Company (NBC) has broadcasted the Olympics 13 times since the games started being televised in 1936. Photo by: afagen / Flickr

If you’re old, like me, likely you recall how ABC Summer Olympics anchor – the late, great Jim McKay – provided the world with the most up-to-date information on the carnage that was the Munich massacre. McKay, who already had established himself as the Wide World of Sports staple, was a trustworthy, educated and informed reporter. In a sense, he was the Walter Cronkite of sports journalism.
So when Palestinian terrorists stormed the athletes’ village on that ill-fated July day in 1972, the world held its breath as McKay delivered the news – that 11 Israeli athletes and coaches had been murdered. Murdered – at the Olympics. The Games stopped for a day, to mark the passing of these poor victims. McKay, who would go on to cover 12 Olympiads, broadcast the news for 14 consecutive hours.
I was six years old at the time, still learning what the Olympics meant. My parents had a black and white, 19-inch TV. We didn’t have cable because we couldn’t afford it. Instead, we gathered around the set and watched anything and everything ABC would broadcast. It was an event I look back on as one that defined my passion for the Olympics – the same passion my wife Lisa and I have passed along to our three daughters. We watch rowing, archery and equestrian in the summer and curling in the winter.
But something about this year’s Olympics Games doesn’t seem right. It has nothing to do with London and everything to do with Bob Costas and NBC’s, dare I say, less than stellar performance in the first few days of their prime-time coverage of the  Games. In a nutshell, they have dropped the ball, taken a hop on the landing and died down the stretch.
Case in point: Ever heard of a guy named Matt Grevers or a gal named Dana Vollmer? They are swimmers – American swimmers – who have won gold at these Games. What about Kim Rhode and Vincent Hancock? Yep, American rifle experts who won their respective events. Rhode was relegated to a 30-second primetime spot that glossed over her record-setting performance (she hit 74 out of 75 targets) and Grevers’ medal ceremony wasn’t even televised.
Speaking of medal ceremonies … NBC has yet to actually broadcast a full ceremony. Instead they have closed two evening broadcasts with national anthems of Australia and France – who beat the Americans in swim relays. Furthermore, a medal ceremony is just that – all three medals awarded to those who place in the top three. By not even bothering to show the whole proceeding, NBC is minimizing the value of a silver or bronze.
How’d you like to be Nick Thoman? By the way, he was runner-up to Grevers. The dude came out of nowhere to place second to his teammate Grevers, who in a post-race interview praised Thoman’s performance as better than his own.
While all this was going on Monday night, the American male gymnasts, whom NBC had billed as medal shoe-ins, was slipping to fifth place. So NBC focused on Great Britain’s third-place finish and Missy Franklin’s rise to swimming power. Gotta love that 17-year-old kid, no doubt. But NBC showed its cards just minutes before her prime-time swim (albeit tape-delayed) when producers aired a spot for the Today show, revealing how she would be “sharing it” with her parents when they were reunited after the race. Thanks a lot, Bob and Co.
Coverage is much better in the morning and early afternoon when NBC’s second-and third-team broadcasters – guys like Al Michaels, Pat O’Brien and Dan Patrick – allow us the opportunity to enjoy what goes on during the day, when less popular athletes competing in less popular sports earn the same bornzes, silvers and golds as the big names.
C’mon NBC, go to the videotape. Get your proverbial act together and immerse yourselves in the Olympic experience. Review how McKay TAUGHT us what it meant to experience the stories that are the Games and look into his eyes as he looked into ours – up close and personal, as he called it ­ – 40 years ago.
Editor’s note: Vin Cappiello loves to write – and teach writing. He is a journalist by trade, having earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Ohio University. He advises the award-winning Cody High School newspaper Equus and teaches literature and journalism. Vin has worked in various capacities as a newspaperman – reporter, columnist, page designer and editor. But his true passion is writing and working with young writers who show the potential to impact the world. Vin and his wife Lisa live in Cody, Wyoming, with their three daughters. You can check out all of Vin’s blogs at http://ballino.blogspot.com/.You can also purchase his latest published work, A Quarter Mile From Home, by clicking here. 

2 responses

  1. jerry Koch

    Why do we have to be subjected to the most boring sport in the world-Beach Volleyball. Is this really a sport. Serve-set-slam. How can people watcch this stuff. Of allf the unique sports involved with the Olympics, NBC subjects people to Beach Volleyball! Ugh!!!!

    August 1, 2012 at 7:26 pm

  2. Vin Cappiello

    The argument could be made that, much like the half pipe and moguls in the Winter Games, the USOC had to do something to raise America’s Olympic stock, which frankly, had slipped some before these “sports” were added. Save it for the X Games, man.

    August 2, 2012 at 3:50 pm

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