Villing & Company

Coming to Terms with my Anti-Olympic Bias

Admitting NBC hit a home run with this year's coverage is the first step.

Four years ago, I cared little about the Summer Olympics in Beijing. Which I guess is an improvement from flat out hating it like I did during the '04 games in Sydney.

I've always been a staunch supporter of all the "stick and ball" sports of football, basketball, baseball and hockey. And anything that stole the limelight from those sports irritated me. In retrospect, it was probably just jealously. I couldn't understand why we as Americans, in the heart of baseball season and with the NFL season just around the corner, would have an appetite for track, gymnastics and volleyball. But at least there was always Team USA basketball, and this year I looked forward to seeing the NBA in all its glory – rolling towards another gold medal led by real superstars like Lebron and Kobe.

But the irony of this Olympics in London is that, save for about a half of the gold medal game on Sunday, I had not seen a minute of Olympic basketball. So, in retrospect, I probably watched as much platform diving as basketball this year.

I consumed an average of 1-2 hours per day of Olympic coverage over the fortnight. I watched Michael Phelps fail early and then rise to conquer his rival Ryan Lochte in Phelps' Olympic swan song. I know that gymnast Jordyn Wieber showed us more in losing than she could have had she performed up to her expectations. And I wondered how great Usain Bolt would look in a Chicago Bears uniform as he effortlessly retained his title as the fastest man on earth.

What led to my sudden case of Olympic fever? I guess I had finally succumbed to reality TV. I used to despise how NBC would package two weeks of coverage to non-sports fans who wouldn't know Carmello Anthony from Anthony Davis. Catering to those who would be riveted to their TV screens during tear jerking features intended to help build up an association with competitors in NBC's holy trinity of gymnastics, swimming and track and field.

However, after these last few weeks, I simply accept the fact that NBC does a masterful job of creating good, must-see TV. Even in spite of the time difference where a good portion of the population couldn't help but know the results of the evening's events simply by innocently visiting their home page. It didn't matter. Ratings this year were 12 percent higher than for the 2008 Beijing Games and 25 percent higher than the 2004 Athens Games according to the New York Daily News. Read more here.

For advertisers, it must have felt like the good old days. While one could certainly DVR the nightly marathon broadcasts and skip through commercials the next day (as we did a few times) the fact that it was always on again the next night encouraged people to keep it locked on NBC and watch in "real time" during primetime each night or risk falling behind on the storylines and results. In that sense, it was like American Idol on steroids. And you thought keeping up with what Steven Tyler had to say three consecutive nights during the week was difficult.

Another bonus for advertisers: how often do they have the luxury of being part of a broadcast where adult viewers are so comfortable turning into and leaving on for even the youngest family member to see? There's no suggestive situations, no bleeping out of words and no Viagra commercials. Just a steady diet of ads from Coke, GE and P&G. Some of which were pretty impressive this year. To be honest, it's a nice change from the overhyped Super Bowl-themed ads that all try to be hilarious and generally end up doing nothing more than disappoint.

Maybe I've softened in my old age. But with two young daughters at home, I guess I appreciate the fact that, for two weeks anyway, my kids were being entertained while hopefully being inspired at the same time.

But enough of that. The start of the NFL season is just three weeks away and I believe there's a meaningless preseason game on tonight that I need to get to.

Filed Under: media

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