Watching the NBC Olympic coverage, I have been alternately touched and exhilarated. There have been plenty of great moments in everything from early morning live hockey to prime time tape-delayed ice dancing. I’ve seen heartwarming stories of athletes overcoming adversity as favorites and underdogs alike have found victory. I generally find that NBC does a good job darting around from event to event with coverage that keeps me entertained and in my seat. Even some of the commercials have done the trick. But like an overconfident skier on a slushy alpine track, NBC manages to consistently get out of bounds. Each time this happens, NBC’s Neilson ratings luck out in that I never manage to be annoyed all the way into the next day’s coverage. Until Sunday and the Men’s Super-G final.
This event promised a lot of excitement. It delivered. Not until the final racer crossed the finish line was the podium decided, and even then, four men would stand in the three designated spots. So why then did NBC insist on forcing its own drama into the event? I’d watched with bated breath as each skier tried to supplant Bode Miller’s leading time and cringed when some did. I resisted the urge to check for the final results online. I was in for the duration, as so many other Americans certainly were. I even hung around to see the post race interviews. That was when I remembered how much I hate NBC’s smug coverage. When asked how he felt about his finish, Bode answered like the professional he has become.
“To be on the podium, it’s a really big day for me. Emotionally, I had a lot riding on it. I’m super, super happy.”
He didn’t whine about a bronze medal like other Socchi Olympians. He didn’t overdo it. He didn’t downplay the accomplishment either. His answer was much like his Olympic career has been: technically superb, with just enough flash. As he finished up his answer, I got up, about to jet out for a snack, thinking the super-G coverage was over. Then NBC sideline reporter, Christin Cooper, did what I’m sure NBC has encouraged all of it’s reporters to do, dig for more. Newsflash to NBC: this isn’t the way to do it. Every time you do this, it isn’t the way to do it.
I’m sure at reporter school they tell these people to dig deep for the story through some type of shitty layers-of-the-onion analogy. I can’t bring myself to call it journalism. So what is the best course of action in a post race interview where two Americans will stand on the podium, one of whom earned a silver medal and isn’t Bode Miller? It probably isn’t to ask repeated questions about Bode’s recently deceased brother. My personal favorite on a scale of I can’t believe she asked that to I can’t believe she asked that was when Bode finished speaking of how much this would have meant to his brother. Tears were so obviously welling in Bode’s eyes. He’d already found the right words to say and searched for more answers as he was asked more questions. Then Christin Cooper asked
“Bode, you’re showing so much emotion down here. What’s going through your mind?”
She basically acknowledged his tears, objectified them, and asked for more. The big question though, is whether or not Christin Cooper or NBC is worse. Yes, Cooper persisted. Yes, she showed no class. Yes, she really blew it. But NBC camera crew’s persisted in catching shots of Bode crying long after he tried to shield himself from them. And further, NBC had hours of decision time on what to air and how to air it. Socchi is nine hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time.
There were no split second in studio decisions on what to air and what to cut. NBC had the time to decide what should make it to my 40”. They chose to not give a shit about anything but ratings and money. Kjetil Jansrud didn’t resonate with the American public. Even fellow American Andrew Weibrecht didn’t stand a chance in comparison to the potential of a Bode interview. Emotion sells. Bode’s tears sell. Objectifying his brother sells. If there’s enough backlash NBC may issue an apology. By that point it won’t really matter. That would be the sad part in all of this. But it isn’t. The sad part is that they’ll do it again.