My Beef with the Olympic Media Coverage
© 2012 by B. L. Bierley
Okay, I admit it. I’ve been watching the Olympics. A lot!
Seriously, I have this function on my televisions at home that allows me to program in favorite channels so that only a select group will show up on my menu guide. And that’s all I watch—just the channels offering Olympic coverage of events throughout the day. I dread going back to work each day because I don’t want to miss anything important. But what I won’t mind missing is the media coverage.
Seriously, the reporters and sports commentators of the various media outlets are unnerving. Their persistent, “On-The-Spot” interviews and color commentary make me want to hit the mute button or change the channel. Is anyone listening to that drivel? My guess is that most of us aren’t. We can’t change the channel or we might miss some piece of history in the making. And as for muting the television, you could do that-- but in some cases you’d have no way to find out what is actually happening without listening to them speak because the cameras often miss the important pieces of information that only the commentators can provide.
That’s saying nothing of the focus being put on the social media outlets of the athletes! Twitter in particular is some kind of moral measuring stick now? Come on, y’all? How long are we going to let this go on? Now, I’m not in the age of technology with both feet yet. My daughter DaVelma is going to teach me someday soon the value of Twitter (and how exactly to do it). I’m more like a caveman who suddenly finds a remote control when it comes to the media’s focus on Tweets. What is so important in these little snatches of conversation that we have to report on them over and over again like they are news? This is essentially personal GOSSIP, not Bartlett’s Quotations, people!
In the past, people would gather and speak to one another face to face if they wanted to share life details. It was what we did because otherwise we had to talk to ourselves. Nowadays we exist in arrogant little bubbles, projecting our own brand of commentary without worrying over the outcome. We think the backlash cannot reach us inside our soapy force-fields. Or can it? Read on for my examples of what we’re calling news and sports reporting and tell me if you agree?
Twits are Everywhere!
For the record, I am in no way supporting or condoning the racist comments made by the former Greek and Swiss Olympians. Racism is not funny nor is it something to sweep under the collective rug. But these weren’t hate crimes they committed. These were basically just stupid comments made over a chatting network. In their country it might be illegal to say what you like in social media and perhaps that’s why they were punished publicly. Or maybe it was because they were exhibiting public bad sportsmanship and embarrassing their country that got them sent home like bad children at a sleepover. Either way it’s horribly sad for anyone to lose their Olympic dreams because of their social media comments, but I guess you are what you tweet.
In the US we have First Amendment Rights that will allow us to be insensitive hiney-holes if we so desire. We might lose our supporters if we say bad, naughty or insensitive things, but it’s not illegal. Most of the time, I think people forget just how popular they are when they put words out there in the media and get egg on their face when they realize someone saw it and took offense. But again I ask is this really sports news? There are hundreds upon thousands of hiney-holes saying awful things every day in the world. Can we please focus on the sports and leave the Twitter-verse out of it?
Regular folks on Twitter shout out to their “peeps” about anything that just happened in real time! My most recent news might have been something like this, “Bought a burger today. Not overly impressed with the service (Said NO on mustard, but it was still there), but the beef was tasty!” Of course, no one will care what I said about a local eatery. I’m not at all famous. But these athletes are the pulse of their nations right now. And that is a problem.
Twitter is fast paced and apparently very easy to do. We have people waiting with baited breath for every entry from these athletes. No longer is it just a comment to friends when someone tweets, apparently now every little blurb is a social challenge or a damning sentiment. This frustrates me beyond limits. Wake up, people! It’s social media. It’s not an official statement of dogma! Nobody who is using a 140 character messaging board can have put that much thought in it, really. Especially when they’re tweeting numerous times a day.
Open Season on Twitter Anyone?
Do I think LoLo Jones meant her statement to be derogatory toward the inhumane tragedy in Colorado? No, I don’t. For my part, I think she was trying to rally support and say something like, “Hey, we didn’t win gold in Archery. But let’s pull for our other guys in the shooting competition!” Perhaps her wording was a little less direct, but I believe the sentiment was the same.
And I could be wrong, of course. I don’t claim to know the mind of anyone other than myself. And even sometimes I don’t fully claim knowledge of that one either! But I am an optimist when it comes to my beloved Team USA Olympians. I give them the benefit of the doubt.
Hope Solo with her tweets about color commentator Brandi Chastain were not that noteworthy. She probably wasn’t too far off base, but what she tweeted wasn’t really anything worse than hundreds of athletes think every day about what the color commentators say about them every game, match or meet. So why do we care that she typed it and sent it out into the world? It’s not even news.
My only complaint there would be why should an athlete care what the media says? Play your sport and don’t let any of that gas in the media cloud your focus, darling. It’s usually just noise so people will pay attention to what’s really going on out there. It’s difficult sometimes to hear the media discuss and dissect every move being made on the field, court, sport’s arena or in the pool. These media outlets choose people who might have the most insight. Sometimes it’s a win, but other times it’s a has-been who wants to steal a little more limelight. So quit complaining, Ms. Solo and play ball. It only makes you look petulant when you lash out, and is that really what you want?
If anyone is offended by these comments made, that’s their right. My advice is that if you don’t like something someone says then stop reading that person’s tweets, blogs or articles! Words aren’t weapons unless you let them wound you. And on the flip side, if you don’t like what’s being said about you, don’t strive to become a public figure. Public figures should all be taken aside and given lessons on how to ignore commentary. It would make the world much more pleasant if we could ignore things that irritate us!
Back to my point here, the media should leave social remarks out of their coverage of the various sports. Constant focus on the low-brow social media reports should be beneath us as a country. Everyone has a Smartphone these days, but that doesn’t make them smart. Think of it this way, would you want every casual comment to your spouse, best friend or children to define you in your job? No, because we all say silly things that don’t reflect upon us in the most favorable light now and then.
For example, I often say to my son, “Ziggy if you don’t clean up that mess, I’m going to string you up and hang you from the ceiling fan by your toes!” Now, if the wrong people were to hear that out of context or tone, I might be in serious hot water, even though I have never intentionally harmed a hair on my precious, messy son’s head (or toes). Why then do we expect this full-disclosure approach from others?
Smile for the Camera
There are times when you want to know what is going on in the minds of the athletes. It’s our way of sharing in the experience with them. We here in the human race tend to live vicariously through others when there are things we know we’ll never be able to experience firsthand. And yes, I love to watch the thrilling victories of our young men and women when they accomplish the goal of competition and the even more elusive goal of winning a medal.
But what I don’t love is watching the vultures hovering nearby to attack the younglings at their most vulnerable moments. Reporters are stationed at venue sidelines waiting to pick off the tender parts of these hard-working, highly-trained individuals when they’re down. These athletes are mostly just kids, some of them still in high school. Is it too much to ask to show a little compassion when they come up short of their goals? I’ll give you a few examples of what I mean.
When swimmer Michael Phelps finished his qualification for a race in eighth place, there was the female reporter standing there with a microphone waiting to pounce like a leopard from a tree! The woman had the gall to ask him what happened. What do they expect him to say? I didn’t try my best? I wasn’t as fast as the French guy?
The 27 year old Phelps, who is already showing signs that he’s suffering burnout in my humble opinion, was still winded from the meet, still dripping wet from the icy waters of the pool when she asked him how he felt at that moment. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I can guess how the poor guy felt. He was frustrated and disappointed not only with himself but with his performance. Do we have to ask him this? NO! It was written on his face and in the slightly dejected demeanor he approached the woman, as if resigned to being pummeled while he’s down.
Another instance happened when gymnast Jordyn Weiber was unable to make the Olympic All-Around competition—a goal she’d probably been working for since she was still in pre-school. To make that poor child, with her crushed hopes and dreams, wait in the background in tears while the reporter interviews her teammates who made it through was painful to watch. When emotions are high, good and bad, the athletes don’t even have time to temper their replies or think about what they want to say. I doubt her teammates knew what it was doing to her to hear their statements about knowing they would make it or that they were feeling so wonderful while Jordyn was in the background trying to marshal her tears.
I was in tears with Ms. Weiber. She was trying to get it together while cameras rolled on her, as others were feet away talking about how wonderful they felt to go on without her. And minutes later the insensitive reporter had the audacity to ask her how she felt. The girl had just lost what was probably her only chance at an individual medal in her sport, how should she feel? And today an opinionated person published an article online about how she should suck it up so she doesn’t hurt her team’s chances. Give the girl some credit, guys! It hasn’t even been twenty-four hours! Don’t judge her because she’d having a little trouble getting through it at first. A life-long goal was shattered. I think she’s entitled to a little pensive reflection before she moves on.
Personally, if I’d been Jordyn Weiber, I would have had a hard time not decking the reporter for even looking at me at me while I was coming to grips on national television. To her credit, the young gymnast showed poise beyond what most seventeen year olds I know could have done in that nightmare of a moment. I applaud her and hope that it’s within her reach to come back in four years and try again. Hang in there, Ms. Weiber. You’re still an outstanding young woman for accomplishing what you have in your life!
Give Me the Thrill!
Don’t get me wrong, I know these interviews can serve a purpose for the news-thirsty public. Some athletes who are happy with their outcomes are usually more than gracious enough to want to speak to these people with their silly questions and their delays.
Swimmer Dana Vollmer was ecstatic, and rightfully so! She won the medal she came to win, and there was nothing dejected about her as she walked up to answer the questions from the vulture- er reporter. Who wouldn’t want to share their excitement with the world if they won? Take US Markswoman Kim Rhode. This Olympic veteran was bubbly and effervescent in her interviews every time. She has every right to be that way, too. Five Olympics, five medals, and a nearly perfect score. Enough said!
Other athletes were just grateful to have been able to use the moment to thank their support teams/parents for everything when this was their last attempt at reaching that pinnacle. Swimmer Brendan Hansen was extremely proud to have beaten his long-time rival, winning a bronze medal as he did so. He took the opportunity to thank his family for their support. He was also gracious and proud of his accomplishment, saying it would be the shiniest bronze medal ever! BRAVO!
My point here is that these hounding coverage tactics shouldn’t be mandatory for anyone. Those who have suffered an upset or a less-than-expected outcome to their Olympic dream should not have to be subjected to a grilling session immediately following their loss or upset. Leave the kids to collect their thoughts and ask them later. I mean, would you want someone to ask you after a car crash how you are feeling when you emerge from the wreckage on a stretcher? No. So why plague these kids with such asinine queries when they are at their lowest?
To have to share their disappointment and tears with us when they would rather be alone or let it out in private is a travesty. Why can’t we let them walk away with their dignity intact until they have time to come to terms with what has happened? Every person I know has met with some sort of disappointment or loss in life. And I don’t think I would be able to be composed and gracious in a follow-up interview if something I've worked for years to achieve has just been snatched from my grasp either. From now on, I will not watch these heart-wrenching interviews out of respect for the athletes who probably only want a moment alone. I’m just saying!
And if we’re judging ourselves as a society by what we tweet instead of our actual outward character, then something is clearly wrong with our standards. Not that I’m touting the junk that gets released into the universe through that outlet daily. It’s a cesspool that we rely on for our every move it would appear to the average onlooker. Still, we’re not all geniuses. Take Twitter tweets with a grain of salt, folks. My advice to the athletes and their tweeting is to remember that not everything we do or say is golden. Silence, now that’s a real medal winner!