The Olympic TV marathon, part 1

Chris Hamble, Gazette Columnist

How is it August already? That is a depressing thought, August. It’s been so hot you can’t enjoy the summer outdoors yet. And now, even if you get a day or two to spend outside sipping iced tea, golfing, grilling or whatever else tickles your fancy (which, I always thought sounded kind of dirty,) you get pulled back into reality by “back-to-school” commercials.

You know what they mean don’t you? They mean children across the nation will be miserable. But that’s not the worst of it; it means school starts soon. Once school starts, two things are inevitable: snow storms, and Stillwater area schools being the only schools open during those snow storms despite the fact it’s a death trap outside. Depressing, I know, but I’m too poor to move to a warmer state, so I guess I’ll put up with it.

I shouldn’t complain too much, I suppose. I mean, even with this heat wave that refuses to break and robs me of what precious little time I have outdoors during the year, at least there is something on television to watch here for the next week or so, sort of.

II say “sort of” because I’m talking about the Summer Olympics in London. The games of summer; the great world competition. Sounds like it could be fun to watch, but history has proven television networks have no clue whatsoever on how to broadcast these games.

Let’s set the way-back machine for 2010 (sorry, I’ve been watching too much “Rocky and Bullwinkle” lately.) and take a look at the Winter Games in Vancouver. We live in an era of cable and satellite TV, networks own several channels. Why can’t they cover the events people want to see? During the Winter Games, I wanted to watch the bobsled, luge and curling events. Curling was covered OK, although there is no reason that every single match shouldn’t have been shown. They had he capacity too, but at least the coverage wasn’t as bad as the luge and bobsled. I had to go back and check my notes, but combined, both of those events, during the entire 2010 Winter Olympiad, had 14 minutes of air-time, including replays and re-caps. With the longest on-air stint being a whopping four minutes long. Disgraceful.

It’s usually the same with the summer games. There are a slew of events I actually want to see. Judo, Tae Kwon Do, shot put, discus, javelin, hammer throw, archery and fencing. I’m sure I missed a few, but you get the idea. All of these events get no airtime. None. Most were not shown at all during the 2008 Beijing Games, which begs the question, “What are the programming executives thinking?”

Then again, I ask myself the same question whenever I see the current prime-time line-up, so I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised.

This year however, has the potential to be different, but it’s off to a bit of a rocky start. Over the channels NBC has broadcasting the games, you can almost get a full 24-hours of coverage per day. That’sgood, but the programming is randomly grouped together and it’s near impossible to watch exactly what you want on TV, which is bad.

But, and this is a big “columnist” size, “You’ve had two too many burritos” sized but, NBC is streaming events online. A stroke of genius if done right. Which, as of writing this column, hasn’t happened yet. Poor coding and servers not up to snuff are hampering the streaming. It stutters, stops and is only worse if you try to watch in high definition. But all the events are there. It has gotten better since day one, but it’s not perfect. but hey, if I can actually watch some of the track and field events this time I won’t complain… too much.

So we’ll see how that turns out. It won’t be perfect, but NBC has the chance to impress me with coverage this year. I guess means the world is coming to an end and the Mayans were right. Oh well. A full critique of the broadcast and streaming comes next week, unless I decide to do something else. But judging by the weather forecast, it looks to be a perfect week for TV watching.


  Chris Hamble is a freelance writer and humor columnist serving newspapers in Minnesota and Wisconsin, and is a lifelong Stillwater resident.