Location: Vienna, Virginia, United States

A graduate of Dartmouth College (2005) and Washington and Lee University School of Law (2010). These are my personal blogs, and the musings expressed on them do not reflect the positions of my employer. They do reflect my readings, thoughts, and aspirations, which I figure is good enough.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Ignorance IS Bliss

A lot has been made in the past couple of days of "ratings doping" by NBC, in which they make the ratings for the opening ceremony of the Olympics look nice, even if they were fairly mundane.

We've also all heard about Michelle Kwan pulling out, Bode Miller failing to get himself onto the podium, and all manner of touted US athletes underacheiving. Hedrick not being able to win 5 golds, Ohno stumbling, etc. etc. These incidents outnumber the few incidents when the US favorites pulled through (see - Flying Tomato).

What does this all mean? Did out athletes buckle under pressure?

Heck no.

All the marketing and promoting of these athletes, in addition to all the attempts to tout the ratings of the games, is just ruining our experience of the Olympics. More so than any of the sports we follow daily, rather than every four years or so, the athletes in the Olympics are anonymous. The nation loves to rally around heroes who rise from the masses. It's not quite as fun when we're told that these are the heroes of tomorrow before the games even start.

Why are Olympic ratings down? Are they even down? Should we even care about ratings?

Well, partially, I blame NBC for running all these taped broadcast when we know the winners 8 hours in advance of the telecast. But more so, I blame the media hype and the advertising blitz. When advertisments attach brands to athletes and sear their images into our minds, the surprise and spontaneity of watching them diminishes.

If every potential star is going to be advertised to death, what is the point of watching the Olympics? The reason to watch turns from watching anonymous individuals succeed to watching as existing expectations are (or aren't) fulfilled. There's no magic, no stunning surprises.

Some individuals point fingers at the end of the Cold War, since there's no big bad Soviet or East German specter looming over the games. But wasn't it just as important that no one at home had ever heard of the victors?

Take a contemporary example - the 2002 games. I remember these because I was in the hospital, actually the only time I've ever spent a night in a hospital. I had some ugly flu-like bug that that sent my temperature up to 104 and my blood pressure down to 90/50. Dick's House (Dartmouth's College Health Services) had told me the night before when I was feeling sick to take a Tylenol and rest. I dragged myself into Dick's House in the morning when I woke up and vaguely remembered rambling incoherently the night before.

I was in bed that night when I watched some random kid win gold in the women's figure skating program. The winner wasn't the Russian favorite, or the Chinese favorite, or even the U.S. favorite. Sarah Hughes wasn't even the second ranked U.S. skater, as Sasha Cohen (the one that's not Ali G) was.

And if you stop a person on the street, and ask them to remember an image from the 2002 Winter Games, I will bet money that if they can think of one, it will be Sarah Hughes winning the gold. No mention of whoever was on the cover of Time or SI the week before the games (who was it?)

And that's what the Olympics are about. It's about random athletes we've never heard of, competing in sports we've never cared about before, inspiring us and drawing our attention once every four years. Not Nike-promoted stars, or controversy-causing individuals who garner Time magazine covers.

Of course the marketing will happen, and you might get sick of hearing about our new heroes in the weeks after the Olympics. But the advertising is just distracting from the true fun of the Olympic games, which is watching those individuals in the first place.


Blogger Niklas Blog said...

I totaly agree. The olympics is fun because you actually watch sports that otherwise would only blink by on your tube during a ordinary zapping spree.

Since I work on a essay for school (which doesn't go that well) I can watch quite a lot of the olympics from home. And, I have found myself whatching curling, skeleton, figure skating (on which I posted a post in my blog) and listen to this; women hockey!

It's all good fun. Nice blog BTW

10:50 PM  
Blogger Niklas Blog said...

Just wanted to tell you that I now link to your blog from mine.

10:13 AM  

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