[Note, this post got stuck in Drafts and didn't actually post, I only just caught it now. oops]
For my entire life, the Winter Olympics have been my favorite sports season, a marvelous binge of athletic cosmopolitanism, guilt-free patriotism, and the novelty inherent to a non-annual event. As a child, every four years I would spend a 17-odd days lying on the floor of my grandparent's living room, living and dying with the exploits of athletes whom I had never heard of before, and likely never saw again. To me, happiness was waking up to freshly-fallen snow, going sledding all day, then spending an evening of hot chocolate, popcorn, and Al Trautwig/Mike Adamle/etc.
Clearly, my nostalgic expectations for the Olympics are unfairly high, but even recognizing that I can't help but worry about the upcoming Vancouver games. This has nothing to do with uncertainty about the US Men's Hockey team (very young, though nearly not as young as the 1980 team), or whether the Alpine team led by Bode Miller and Lindsey Vonn will again underwhelm. Nor am I talking about concerns that the sliding track is too fast , though after a Romanian luger knocked unconscious after slamming into several walls during a training run yesterday, safety worries can't be ignored.
No, instead I am nervous about the way in which I will be allowed to consume the Olympic experience. NBC has been very vocal about the exorbitant cost they paid to secure exclusive domestic broadcast rights (negotiated back when CDO was a meaningless term that only mattered to nerds at Goldman) as an excuse for their decision to cram all the high-ratings events into the "prime-time" package. Fortunately it looks as though the "minor" sports - curling, cross-country skiing, ski jumping, etc - will gain at least some airtime on the cable options (CNBC, MSNBC, USA, and my new favorite channel, Universal Sports).
I worry, however, that the main-peacock-channel programming will be virtually unwatchable - especially for those of us on the West Coast, who will be forced to watch almost everything on a three-hour delay, despite being in the same time zone as Vancouver. The last few Games, Summer and Winter, have witnessed the submission of the Olympic Spirit to the Olympic $pirit. If it can't be compressed into a twelve minute overproduced, self-contained, and overly-scripted segment, it's not worth showing, according to Dick Ebersol. Perhaps envious of Fox's lucrative and repulsive American Idol franchise, I fear we are going to be spoon-fed a three-week dose of Olympic Idol. Hopefully we'll get at least a few bits of actual sporting events in and amongst the reality show nonsense, but I'm not terribly optimistic.