Monday, August 18, 2008

More Olympic Folderol

Focus groups must have told NBC that some all-important consumer sub-psychographic wants to see gymnastics and more gymnastics, followed by another round of gymnastics. Not me. I'm glad the Olympic gymnastics are nearly over. It's a little too amazing watching people do motions in the air that should be physically impossible, or at least result in crippling injuries. Not only that, pondering the scoring methodology, which seems as arcane as calculating Nestorian Easter, causes headaches.

By contrast, swimming and running are refreshingly straightforward. Whoever gets there the fastest, wins. Not only that, most people can run, and many can swim, and what distinguishes an Olympian is a matter of degree -- it's still fundamental locomotion.

The network is using "Bugler's Dream," but only a few seconds at a time, and obscured by voiceovers. This is no good. It's a full-bodied theme, and deserves better. Even NBC ought to realize that. If I remember right, the network didn't use the theme at all in 1988, the first time it aired the Games, and probably millions of Americans reacted like I did: Where's the Olympic music? So it was back in '92. This is from '96, and a better treatment than the current one.

Much ado is being made about totting up the medals. China's running away with the golds, of course. Nothing like that home-team authoritarian-state advantage. But as usual, the Australians are really remarkable when it comes to gold medals, a fact probably stressed only by Oz media: 11 so far, out of a total of 33 medals. This by a free nation of about 21 million.

Baseball and softball are out next time around, I hear. Can't muster much indignation about that. A few other sports could be trimmed, too, such as "beach volleyball," without impairing the dignity of the Games. And here's one that should be revived: Tug of War, last played in the 1920 Games. Why was it discontinued? Anyway, it's perfect for the Games of the 21st century. Think of the fine television such matchups would make.

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