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Olympic Drama Comes From The Competition Not Hyped-Up Stories

By Shreyes Seshasai

Spare me the drama, just show me the sport. That’s all I ask of NBC during these Winter Olympics.

As the Games are in the midst of the second week of competition, several things are clear. First, it’s hard to be in NBC’s position, as it has to show taped replays of events to suit the prime time viewers. In an age when we can get results online quicker than someone on the other side of Torino, people don’t care about what happens in the events, they care about how it happened.

Since the fans have results ahead of time and often tune in to see a specific event, it would help if they told us beforehand exactly when they’re showing each event. I shouldn’t have to sit through three hours of coverage if all I want to see is American favorite Lindsey Jacobellis fall in Snowboard Cross. The network has complete control over when they show events, so why bother spacing them out and making us sit through Ice Dancing to see the end of Snowboarding?

The second thing that’s clear is the coverage of the Olympics should be about the competition, so why does NBC feel as if it has to create drama and tension in order to have an interesting broadcast? I’ve gotten used to the two-minute montages on the background of the sentimental favorite who fought adversity to make it to the Games, but there’s a limit to how deep it should go.

When Jacobellis fell in the finals of Women’s Snowboard Cross, after trying to pull an unnecessary trick instead of coasting to an easy victory, the analysts hounded her, calling her a “showboat” and replaying her fall repeatedly. Like everyone watching, I was shocked and disappointed that the U.S. missed out on the gold, but just leave the woman alone. It’s just a race, and it just happened. This stuff occurs all the time in sports, and America still has five other medals in snowboarding.

It’s the competition itself that should create the drama, not the television analysts trying to probe too deeply into story lines that aren’t really there. While there may be a rift within the U.S. Speed Skating team due to Shani Davis’ decision not to race in the Team Pursuit event, we don’t have to hear about it every time speed skating is shown. If I really wanted fictional drama or mindless amusement, I can switch to “Grey’s Anatomy” on ABC or “American Idol” on Fox, and from the ratings, it seems as if many Americans have done just that.

My advice to NBC: don’t compete with American Idol’s artificial drama. Give us the real thing, and we’ll recognize it and stay tuned.

The dip in ratings could also be because of the lack of interest many Americans have in winter sports, especially with several of the big names disappointing.

Michelle Kwan, who has been the face of U.S. Figure Skating for the past decade, dropped out after she felt she couldn’t compete because of injury. Considered by many as the greatest American skater never to have won an Olympic gold medal, American viewers will once again miss out on the opportunity to see Kwan atop the podium.

American skier Bode Miller came into these Olympics as the biggest name in alpine skiing, and he’s failed to deliver. After finishing out of the medals in the Downhill, he put up a great run in the first leg of the Men’s Combined, only to be disqualified for straddling a gate. Miller then followed that up with a near crash on the Super G, barely managing to stay on his skis.

Short Track speed skater Apolo Anton Ohno, the beloved and controversial gold medalist from four years ago, didn’t even qualify for the finals in his first event, the 1500m, although he did capture the bronze this weekend in the 1000m.

NBC and the media focused on these stars before the Games, and now have nothing to show for it but terrible ratings and an advertising campaign focused on presenting athletes that no one has heard of. The network should be celebrating the Games for the spirit of the events and the passion of the unknown athletes, not for those who have been chosen by sponsors to be the face of the sport.

There have been great stories, just not the ones NBC advertised beforehand. Inline skater (Joey Cheek) switched sports and won multiple medals in speed skating, and a skier (Lindsey Kildow) crashed on a practice run and came back to be competitive.

These are the athletes that exhibit what make the Olympics great, and it’s their stories that I’ll take away from these Winter Games. That and my continuing appreciation for Curling as the greatest sport that has yet to cross the border from Canada.