- The Washington Times - Monday, October 2, 2000

Forget about the Olympic spirit. The deplorable spectacle to which NBC has treated Americans over the past week and a half can at most be described as the ghost of the Olympics. And the problem involves more than just the embarrassing antics of the U.S. men's 4x100-meter relay team, whose members celebrated a gold medal performance with locker-room preening and muscle-flexing.
Just as the Olympic Games somehow seem to take place with ever growing frequency, so the coverage on American television seems to plummet to new depth with each event. Now, both may be illusions, but if so, they are undoubtedly the by-products of the sheer awfulness of the network coverage. With just one network bringing the games to a captive American audience, not even the power of competition can alleviate the sheer ridiculousness of it all.
Consider the profiles in courage. No sport has been left untouched by these sappy stories of athletes who overcome personal traumas like hangnails and stubbed toes. No discipline was safe from tasteless tear-jerkers, which in their own way achieved the opposite of their intention. Why should it not be enough that someone is an outstanding athlete? Isn't that really all you need to earn our admiration?
But most of all, there was the relentless coverage of sports that ought to have no place in the Olympic Games, for instance, the endless hours of beach volleyball, which the Kuwaitis very sensibly banned from national television on the grounds that beach volleyball has more to do with sex than with sport. Or how about synchronized diving, gymnastics set to primitive drums and flutes, the relentless fawning over the women's softball team.
In fact, NBC managed to make it appear that really only women's sports matter. A tear was shed over the incredible indignity that the U.S. women's soccer team was deprived of the gold by the Norwegians, who obviously had no right to do anything so unsporting. The saga of Marion Jones and her troubles played out over several nights, including her quest for five gold medals (a pretty tall order by any standard, one would think), which foundered on the long jump and on her husband's drug troubles.
This is not to deny the very real achievements of females athletes and male athletes, too, though the poor dears did not get much of the attention. But was it really necessary to diminish Cathy Freeman's amazing 400-meter dash with speculation on whether her track suit was designed to make her resemble an Australian aborigine hieroglyph?
Really. It's enough to make you want to go out and rent "Chariots of Fire."

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