Saturday, August 11, 2012
Fixing Four Year Events
The closing ceremonies of the 30th Olympics of the modern era is getting ready to draw to a close. (I suppose to be more correct, I should be saying the XXX Olympiad; but someone is going to have to explain to me why it's more correct to use Roman numerals to describe a sporting event born of Greek traditions some day.) Somehow I missed the opening ceremonies (I was probably watching a reality show about Pawn Shops buying the contents of storage units in a swamp full of alligators or something important like that.), and with just a bit of planning and luck, it seems likely that I will miss the closing ceremonies tomorrow.
Now having missed these gala outdoor Broadway shows, some might want to believe that I've more than made it up to NBC and its sister stations by immersing myself in the drama of Olympic competition with its 'thrill of victory and agony of defeat'. (No wait, that's ABC.) Wrong! Like "Friends", "Seinfeld", "Everybody Loves Raymond", and "American Idol" before it; I have somehow managed to avoid more than the amount of viewing time contained in channel surfing past.
This is not to decry the achievements of athletes who have dedicated their entire existence to an attempt to stand at the top of the podium in these quadrennial events. Nor is it a twisted form of protest by a twisted old man engendered by a growing jealousy over his inability to run from the couch to the kitchen, and whose next break of the tape is likely to occur while wrapping Christmas packages. (OK, maybe a little bit is that.) My gripe is with the IOC (International Olympic Committee) and NBC (the National Bullshit, sorry, Broadcast Company).
The IOC is after all to sports what the UN is to politics, a self-serving and bloated organization full of graft, bribery, and fiscal irresponsibility. (Wow, it actually sounds a lot like a government.) Both organizations are full of petty dictators who seem to meet endlessly, and mostly in secret; with little more decided than to do a more in-depth study and agree to meet again. Neither the IOC nor the UN gathers any level of world respect, and both manage to go through unimaginably vast amounts of money without achieving anything meaningful in the way of results. Merging the two together would not only manage to get a far greater number of the villains and thieves in one place, but perhaps by doing so we could move their headquarters to a more suitable location. (I'm voting for any small to medium-sized city in a country whose name ends with 'stan'.)
As for NBC, they lost my respect as a source of information or entertainment even before Johnny Carson blew them a kiss goodbye. The best that I can say about them is that by using the letters NBC in the many of their network names, they at least warn you of what you can channel surf through without worrying. They're normal news coverage is shoddy at best, but they fail to rise even to that level of mediocrity when placed up front and center on the world stage, as the Olympics does. Bob Costas is a nice enough guy, but even he can't make up for failing to cover events that are only noticed, or which shine brightest in these four year venues. Instead they in insist on filling the limited prime time hours available to 'looks back' at things most have long since lost interest in. ABC did a better job in the old days, in spite of only having the one-channel flagship network to work with.
Actually though, my real beef this year has been with the refusal to add political campaigning to the list of Olympic sports. After all, major elections (in this country at least) are held in Olympic years. I see no reason why other democratic nations can't bring their political competitions in line with sporting ones. Not only would this increase world interest in the rivalries, and thereby TV audience and revenue; but it would also increase what's gained by those at the podium's peak. Not only would they hang a gold medal (not so much gold in them these days) around your neck, but place a gold crown (at least temporarily) on your head.
And think of the events that could be added! Presidential campaigns (and many of their lower counterparts) have already become a full-contact sport. Maybe we could allow teams of their spin-masters to actually take the field and go at it head-to-head. (It might not be interesting television, but think of the lives that could be saved if they injured each other in such events.) Debates could be changed to simple 'Rhetoric Singles' matches and VP's could participate in singles competition as well. Political tickets could similarly debate in 'Mixed Doubles' competition.
Candidates could receive further approbation and medals for the Olympic version of Political Tap-Dancing (with and without music). Party spokesman (sorry it's still easier to write than spokespersons) could compete in 'Olympic backpedaling', an event where they walk back or properly interpret the misstatements of their candidates. Campaign media too could be added to the venue, with Oscar or Emmy like events: 'Best campaign ad with not a shred of fact', 'Best editing in a political ad using their own words to misrepresent the opposition', or 'Catchiest, but most meaningless slogan' come to mind. Perhaps such incorporation would allow politics to once and for all write down the rules under which such competitions will be held (and not in crayon this time).
While we're at it, why not borrow (unapologetically steal) from those oh so popular TV talent competitions by using celebrity judges and allowing the audience to vote for winners and losers by an 800 number. We've complained for years that we were sick of medals being robbed from worthy competitors because the French or East German judges were in the tank. Maybe we could get Sean Hannity and James Carville to sit at the scoring table from the political right and left respectively, pair them up with Bill O'Reilly and Michael Moore (neither of whom will let anyone else get a word in edgewise), and toss in a bit of Chris Matthews to let us know who gives him a leg tingle. And to balance off the ongoing and spirited competition (mostly for the spotlight, air time, and attention by the judges themselves), we could allow Mr, MS, and Mrs World to vote for winners and losers. It may not mean much to a lot of the rest of the world, who take their RIGHT and OBLIGATION to vote far more seriously than Americans; but it seems highly likely to at least increase the numbers of those going to the polls in this country.
Many have been complaining for years that it's long past time to do something about what's gone wrong with the Olympics. Many have also said for years that politics is passed due for change and improvement. Combining the two might not exactly meet the goals of those complaining the most or the loudest, but it would likely make either temporarily a bit more entertaining while we come up with better ideas for both.