I’m not watching the Winter Olympics. Apparently I’m not alone, because the ratings are abysmal. On some nights, the Nielsens have been the lowest for an Olympic broadcast in more than a decade.
There seem to be lots of reasons why people are tuning out the Olympics. Some people aren’t watching because they think the NBC broadcast is dreadfully boring. Other people are put off by the political overtones of the North Korea-South Korea storyline that apparently is a constant undercurrent in the broadcasts, or fawning coverage given to the sister of Kim Jong Un and the robotic North Korean cheerleaders.
I haven’t been watching because the constant efforts to jazz up the Winter Olympics with new “sports” really don’t make this seem like the Olympics at all. I’m not a skier or skater or big winter sports participant, but in the past I’ve enjoyed watching traditional Winter Olympic sports like the bobsled — which is the best named sport, by the way — or the downhill, ski jumping, and hockey. But when we were over at our friends’ house for a dinner party Saturday night and the Olympics was on the TV, it featured an event where snowboarders were jumping up and skidding on bannister-like contraptions and launching off of artificial hills to do spins and tumbles. It was as if the Winter Olympics had mated with a circus act, and the next thing you know a performing bear riding a bike would appear. That single hopelessly artificial, jazzed up event perfectly summarized the desperate efforts to make the Winter Games more exciting and appealing to the slacker kids down at the local skateboard park. The X Games have invaded.
One of the other people at the party said my reaction reflects the thinking of old codgers. No doubt that is true. I’m not saying that people who can do skateboard-like moves on a snowboard don’t have some athletic ability, I’m just saying that such contrived events seem to reflect more of a desire to create ratings and interest, rather than the “Olympic spirit” that is supposed to be the underpinning of the Games. And that’s why I’m not watching.