NBC’s Olympic coverage a bust for fans and sports

For two weeks, starting near the end of July, I was easy to find. Yes, I sat glued to the TV, a bottle of Hamm’s in hand, drowning myself in the muck of guts, glory and hype that is the Olympic Games.
In between the heartstring-tugging features on the thousands of athletes who beat the odds, surviving personal tragedy, political strife, a nasty case of asthma or what have you, I managed to learn a lot.
Did you know, for example, that these games were actually held in America, and that this is the 100th anniversary of the games? Also, NBC stud Bob Costas and his cronies were nice enough to let me know that Turkish weightlifter Naim Soleymanoglu is called “Pocket Hercules” because he’s short, but strong.
Nevertheless, many questions went unanswered. But now that I’ve made it through post-Olympics rehab, my mind is clear. I believe I’m up to the challenge.
1. Why didn’t men’s track coach Erv Hunt allow Carl Lewis to participate in the 4×100-meter relay, thus giving him a chance to earn a record 10th gold medal?
Because he’s smart, and because Lewis, although an exceptionally talented athlete — one of America’s all-time best, for sure — is a conceited, self-serving media hog. Lewis was asked, but declined to attend practices for the relay team. Apparently, he’s above practice in his old age. Well, too bad.
Even though the U.S. team lost the race for the first time in Olympic history (barring three past disqualifications for dropping the baton), not even amazin’ Carl could have caught up to Canada’s Donovan Bailey, who also won the individual 100-meter race.
My advice to Lewis: Strap those nine gold medals of yours around your waist and long-jump off a short pier.
2. What the hell is rhythmic gymnastics, and why is it an Olympic sport?
You know, I really don’t have an answer for this one. Frankly, I’m even ashamed to admit that I spent some of my late-evening hours watching this stuff. It’s ridiculous.
If you haven’t been so lucky, the participants in rhythmic gymnastics (a group of women who are probably too tall or not talented enough to participate in “regular” gymnastics) spin ribbons and throw balls up in the air to music. Giddy-up.
This stuff is so silly that I am quite confident that a few of my beer-guzzling buddies and I could probably make the U.S. team with a little practice. There’s none of the difficult tumbling passes, strength or courage associated with conventional gymnastics — just bouncing red balls and pretty flowing ribbons.
Insert gag noises here.
3. Why did NBC virtually ignore boxing, baseball and soccer — some of the most popular sports in the world?
It’s true, we were unfortunate enough to hear Summer Sanders’ screeching voice during the swimming competition more than we saw any of the above-mentioned sports.
I really don’t know why, but a possible explanation lies in the sports that NBC normally covers. The ballyhooed Dream Team had the majority of its games covered live. NBC holds the television rights to the NBA. Coincidence? Duh. Somebody has to lose, and in this case the viewers did.
I can’t blame the coaches of these sports — boxing, in particular — for being angry. NBC may have stood for “No Boxing Coverage,” as some said during the games, but I would go instead with “Nationalist, Boring Crap.”
4. Is anyone else sicker than sick of U.S. gymnast Kerri Strug? Sure, she stuck her vault and everything, but can’t we all just move on?
OK, her “heroic,” “dramatic” performance led the women’s team to its first-ever gold medal. But enough already.
Propelled by her appearance in the national spotlight, Strug has decided to forego her college eligibility and collect a few million peddling dish soap, women’s products and the like.
It’s hard to blame International Olympic Committee Chairman Juan Antonio Samaranch (in his 87th year of leadership, by the way) for decrying the out-of-control commercialism of the Olympics. I can see it now: “You, too, can make it to the Olympics, tear a few tendons and make millions! Just call 1-800-USA-RULES!”
It could happen.
5. John Tesh and gymnastics: Where’s the connection?
From “Entertainment Tonight” to a “music” career to the big time. It seems like only yesterday that he and his now-wife, actress Connie Selleca, were the poster children for pre-marriage celibacy, and now this. Quite an interesting few months for Big Johnny. But I digress.
In short, Tesh was the biggest joke NBC had to offer. Not only did he try to instill a lifetime of emotion and drama into each and every line he uttered, he openly rooted for Americans and all but cheered when athletes from other countries faltered.
Between his misty-eyed blubbering, I imagined Tesh scribbling down notes for new and exciting songs to put on an upcoming CD, of which he’ll probably sell, oh, about two or three.
Please, don’t get me started on John Tesh. I’m a little bitter.
Still, at long last, the closing ceremonies have come and gone, and we’ve had our fill of sappiness and Olympic-sized sentiment. We won’t have to put up with more of the same until the winter after next, when the Olympic flame heads to Nagano, Japan.
Like I said, I learned a lot. But above all, I picked up one very important lesson: It’s a good thing the Olympics only happen once every couple of years. I don’t think I could handle any more than that.
Aaron Kirscht is the Daily’sEditorial Editor.