The Winter Olympics began this week in Sochi, yet it's hard to ignore the fact the games have long since crashed and burned, falling out of favor with casual fans who'd rather find something else to watch.
Michael Parente - MP@990WBOB.com
With all due respect to the thousands of athletes participating in the 2014 Winter Olympics, all of whom can do things I can only dream of doing or wouldn’t have the stones to do in front of such a large audience, I’m having a hard time keeping my eyes glued on the Sochi games in lieu of King Of Queens reruns.
It’s not a lack of appreciation for the athletic grace of Olympic figure skating, the sheer terror of the Nordic combined or the anomaly that is curling, nor is it a failure to recognize the global significance of being fortunate enough to compete among the world’s greatest athletes. This is undeniably huge. It’s just that most Olympic sports, other than the mainstream reincarnates of hockey, basketball, etc., are niche sports, appealing only to a small faction of the viewing public – specifically men – thereby making it hard to justify forcing coverage down our throats on network television.
We all have the right to change the channel, pop in a DVD or go do something more constructive with our time, but a full month without new episodes of Parks and Recreation is enough to drive a sane man to the brink of hysteria.
According to ESPN, the prime user of its website is the young, affluent, male avid sports fan, so it’s not a stretch to suggest that most TV sports viewers fall under a similar demographic. Other than hockey, what Olympic sport are men supposed to wrap their hairy knuckles around for the next month? Most of our Olympic Google searches feature the keywords “hottest female athletes” and the only time we watch figure skating is to catch an upskirt or two and freeze-frame it so we can giggle with our stoner friends like Beavis and Butthead. There’s also the obligatory free condom story – yes, they hand out more than 100,000 at the Olympic Village – just in case you needed to be reminded that fine-tuned athletes are having way more sex than you are.
And it’s not as if these games are being held under the most flattering light. Sochi, the small city in Russia hosting this year’s Winter Olympics, has come under intense scrutiny for its awkward bathroom stalls, urine-colored drinking water and inhumane slaughtering of stray dogs. We all know the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is a foul, corrupt governing body that greases enough palms to make the NCAA blush, but the decision to bring a worldwide sporting event to Russia’s version of Fall River borders on sheer stupidity. We’d be better off bringing the games back to Atlanta, where we can uphold the time-honored American tradition of incorrectly profiling overweight, mom-living basement dwellers as crazed Olympic bombers.
For all the talk of how dynasties ruin parity in sports, and so on and so forth, journalists and historians took an odd, perverse pleasure in watching the “Dream Team” turn amateur competition into a complete joke, canonizing Charles Barkley for elbowing Angolan sheepherders in the chest as if that somehow represents the embodiment of the so-called Olympic spirit. Jim Thorpe once had his medals stripped for playing semi-pro baseball in his down time. He was devastated. For the “Dream Team,” the actual games were more like a nuisance that interrupted their golfing trips and shopping sprees.
If anything, the connection between the common fan and the amateur competing for the love of the sport was probably the only thing that kept the casual viewer glued to his or her set. Now that professional athletes with unparalleled skill are allowed to compete, why would we go back to watching gym-class heroes and part-time school teachers hit the slopes?
With little to offer the male portion of the sports-viewing fan base, the Olympics are tailor-made for Pay-Per-View television, like other niche sports such as boxing and mixed martial arts. Making fans pay a lump sum to watch out-of-town baseball or football games via a tidy package from your cable or dish provider flies in the face of conventional logic when events that only run twice a year on a competitive level won’t cost you a dime.
We appreciate the effort, but it’s impossible to not feel detached from the games despite network television’s forced coverage. The Olympic spirit, once based upon solidarity and fair play, died a long time ago. Thank goodness the batteries in the remote haven’t.
Support WBOB Sports