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Thursday, August 21, 2008

No Olympics Gold Medals for Commentators

Like a zillion other viewers, I've been enjoying the Summer Olympics from Beijing. However, it seems to me the comments from the broadcast booth are more pointed, nationalistic and downright insulting than ever before.
I mean, is it me?---or should commentators refrain from using phrases like "She just didn't bring it," or "I don't see the focus there," or "I don't understand what he was thinking." After the years of arduous training these elite athletes have put in, I feel they all deserve a huge amount of respect and regard. The nit-picking and second-guessing of some of the commentators have made some of the most biased event judges seem rational and fair-minded.
Also, I'm tired of on-scene reporters shoving microphones into the faces of tear-stricken teenagers who've just lost a berth in the medal round. "What are you feeling right now?" the reporter routinely asks an obviously devastated competitor. Geez, there's a puzzler. What the hell do you think he or she is feeling? 
Moreover, the way NBC has edited their broadcasts, you'd think there were only two nations competing for medals---the US and China. (Except for the amazing "Lightning" Bolt from Jamaica!)
But, admittedly, all these complaints fade in the face of the courage, tenacity and skill of the athletes themselves. No scripted drama matches the emotional heights attained by these international events, where the commonality of the human condition---regardless of country of origin---is demonstrated before the world. Triumph, failure, pain, loss, shame, envy, rage---they're all here, in rich abundance. The Olympics, at its core, is the world revealing its true face to itself.
And that's why the Olympics call to us every four years. And why, I believe, we respond.
Though it's become a cliche, I think nothing has expressed its essence as well as the opening lines from the old ABC Wide World of Sports: we watch because we remain riveted by "the thrill of victory, and the agony of defeat." Feelings we experience in our own lives, in big ways and small, every day.

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