August 14, 2008



It's not his fault. I think Michael Phelps is great. But the coverage of the Olympics has crossed a line into self-parody with all the Phelps-mania.

I got steamed when I was watching beach volleyball and the commentator described Misty May-Treanor and Kim Walsh as the "Michael Phelps" of beach volleyball. They're a dominating team (winning all of their last 104 matches) isn't that enough to understand their command of the sport?

Later, commentators interviewed Aaron Peirsol regarding his participation in the men's freestyle relay. They wanted to know how he felt contributing to Phelp's record-setting number of gold medals. Hey there. You're talking to a guy who is an Olympian in his own right and a world-record setter. He snagged gold and a new world record in the backstroke. I think he's probably most excited about that.

He was gracious in answering the question, but made it clear he was competing in the relay for the team and for himself. Not specifically for Phelps.

Still later, they noted one of the other swimmers leading Phelps during a qualifying race and someone blurted out "He's going to be able to tell people he led Michael Phelps!" I've got a surprise for you; these people are competing in the Olympics. That in itself might be enough for them to mention to people in the future without dragging Phelps' name into the conversation.

They've got reaction shots of swimmers who aren't in the pool watching Michael Phelps. We've got Michael Phelp's mom. We've got Michael Phelps watching the other swimmers.

Maggie joked we should have a shot of the restroom door when Michael Phelps is in there:

He's been in the restroom for over a minute, folks. His last visit to the can took 93 seconds, and FOLKS, HE'S DONE IT -- HE'S OUT IN 89 SECONDS, THAT'S A FULL 4 SECONDS QUICKER THAN HIS OWN RECORD!

I turned off the TV when they were preempting men's gymnastics all-around finals to show us Phelps swimming in a preliminary.

I get it, NBC. You're in love with Michael Phelps.

Technorati : , , ,

Posted by James at August 14, 2008 1:09 PM
Create Social Bookmark Links

Yeah, my comment at lunch the other day was that someone's probably even writing about the colour of Michael Phelps's boogers. It is truly out of hand, but not atypical for the U.S. media.

[Can I say "booger" on this blog? Can I say it twice?]

Posted by: Barry Leiba at August 14, 2008 1:27 PM

i believe they are more enamored with his lifestyle, not the swimming. from my experiences people who shovel in 12,000 calories a day are practically beating woman off with a stick.

one presumably ripped off of a turkey

Posted by: ryan at August 14, 2008 1:28 PM

Barry: you just did.

Posted by: James at August 14, 2008 1:31 PM

Yeah, he's all incredible and junk, but they're way overdoing it.

On the other hand, when they're not talking about him, they're often doing something even more annoying. On Tuesday (or was it Monday) night, the woman who interviewed the gymnast whose errors cost her team the silver medal seemed to be trying to make her cry. Why not just poke her in the eye??

Posted by: Julie at August 14, 2008 3:23 PM

True, they're bad enough that if it weren't Phelps, it'd be something else.

They feel the need to try to get people more excited about the Olympics to boost the ratings. They need to tone it way down.

Posted by: James at August 14, 2008 3:27 PM

It would also be nice to see something other than beach volleyball, swimming and gymnastics. How about some real volleyball or some of the more obscure sports? I know that a lot of that stuff is carried on other channels but some of us luddites still only have over the air.

I wonder if they'll even mention that Roger Federer and both Williams sisters went down in flames today (Go James Blake!).

Posted by: B.O.B. (bob) at August 14, 2008 4:08 PM

I tried to watch some indoor volleyball, and got frustrated with all the hugging on every point.

Without that, though, I'd enjoy it.

I've long since given up on seeing "obscure" sports. Judo?

We only see certain sports, especially ones where Americans are going to do well. I think they had no compunction against switching away from gymnastics because they were afraid we didn't want to see the Chinese dominate. It was traumatic enough to see them take the gold in Women's. Whatever.

Posted by: James at August 14, 2008 5:15 PM

They give some coverage to other sports if we have a chance to medal in them - most of this coverage is in the AM. (No afternoon coverage at all - I guess people would die if they missed Days Of Our Lives.) I saw some womens' sabre this morning. We beat France.

But it was still mostly swimming pool stuff. (I think of it as Adult Swim without the old people or the cartoons.)

There may be a schedule on the NBC website - I'm too lazy to look now - I'd like to see some of the weightlifting competition, if any of it gets covered at all. But I think I would just be frustrated by the sparseness of the coverage if I saw any of it at all.

I think some people are putting the BBC's coverage online. I'm too lazy to look for this stuff too, honestly, but it does mean that you may have some options if there's something you really want to see.

Posted by: Julie at August 14, 2008 5:54 PM

I saw some women's weightlifting in the lightest class last weekend. But it wasn't on NBC, it was on USA. NBC was showing regular volleyball at the time, I think.

Posted by: James at August 14, 2008 5:58 PM

We had the swim trials here in Omaha, and Phelpsmania was going strong even then. But the guy is not articulate or charismatic at all (from what I understand...I think I have seen ONE 20 second interview) - I have heard that he can't get endorsements because he doesn't really come across well?

And as far as weight lifting, I heard a spot on the radio yesterday of a (Korean?) lifter who tore out his elbow while lifting. Eesh...that was HARSH to hear. I don't want to see that on TV.

Posted by: Lynn at August 15, 2008 9:31 AM

I made the mistake of clicking on a link with a picture of that weight lifer.

As I told Ryan, I don't even want to think about it.

Posted by: James at August 15, 2008 9:50 AM

First, you guys have no idea how bad it can be. I live in Baltimore, home of Mr. Phelps, and every local station picks up where NBC leaves off and adds multiple hours of Phelps coverage.

And Lynn, I'm not sure where you've been hiding but Phelps has many endorsements - Visa, Speedo, AT&T Wireless, Matsunichi Electronics (MP3 players), PowerBar, Rice Krispies/Kelloggs, and Rosetta Stone.

For a non-"big three" sport athlete (not baseball, basketball, or football), I'd say that's a pretty hefty list.

Posted by: jeremy at August 15, 2008 10:01 AM

Wow. My sympathies are with Baltimore.

Are we all just too cynical about hype nowadays? Are Olympians immediately tough to connect with because of their differences from normal folks? How do you identify with a guy who spends as much time swimming as Phelps and can't keep any weight on?

I admire his accomplishments, but I can't imagine living like that.

Posted by: James at August 15, 2008 11:55 AM

I find some athletes more difficult to identify with than others, obviously, but if they are making him out to be some kind of superhuman mutant, then that's not helping at all.

In general, I think it's fine if they want to fall all over him on their own time. That's up to them, if it's what a majority of the audience cares about. But what bothers me is when they use other athletes' time and events to continue talking about him. It is especially inconsiderate to the other athletes who are still competing for medals.

Posted by: Julie at August 15, 2008 1:12 PM

Speaking of the interview with the gymnast about what she did or didn't do that made her lose...

There doesn't seem to be any "and then he/she was diagnosed with [pick a body part or area] cancer" with these Olympics. That's been the MO for at long time now--maybe they got the message that we don't want to hear it anymore?

Posted by: Patti M. at August 16, 2008 8:03 AM

I really have enjoyed the whole Phelps thing. However, I was even more impressed with 41-year-old Dara Torres of the women's team. And, I really would have liked to have seen the Judo competition. As much as I love swimming and gymnastics, there are other sports I'm interested in. Tomorrow, we'll finally have more time devoted to track and field, at least.

Posted by: Kitten Herder at August 17, 2008 1:06 AM

Okay, I stand totally corrected...they announced today that Michael has $30mm in endorsements following the 8 Gold Medal wins, and after seeing him interviewed a number of times, I think he's engaging enough as a person. Maybe I just don't watch enough TV - I've never seen a Phelps commercial.

If you stay away from the NBC worship and just stick with the races themselves, the wins on Friday and Saturday night were incredible. I was a little annoyed with the way the interview of the relay team went - it was all about Michael, even when the other team members were being interviewed.

Posted by: Lynn at August 18, 2008 9:38 AM

I agree, Lynn. The network handled that poorly and put the entire team in an uncomfortable position.

Still, like you, I enjoyed the races, which are what I tuned in for, not the studio announcer blather. I have to endure enough of Mary Carillo when I watch tennis. Imagine my dismay when "that voice" showed up while I was trying to enjoy watching swimming as well.

Posted by: Patti M. at August 18, 2008 11:25 AM

I've avoided most of the coverage thus far. I watched a few of the swimming races and those were very exciting. I could do without the commentary though. I saw some of the track and field last night. The women's 100 lasted less than 20 seconds, but there was about 10 minutes of buildup. The announcer mentioned each contestant and a reason why she could win. Then, when the young Jamaican won, he said "See! I told you. She's young and has no baggage in her way!" Brilliant.

Posted by: briwei at August 18, 2008 12:07 PM

That's funny, Brian. Watching that coverage, I interpreted it as "each contestant and why you should want her to win," and I found myself unable to root for anybody!! She was really cute when she won, though -- so excited -- and I love the Jamaicans' attitude in general. They're so genuine and that guy Bolt is so laid back he cracks me up. I'd much rather watch him look around, thump his chest, throw his hands out, than watch people running as fast as they can. He makes it really interesting!!

Posted by: Maggie at August 18, 2008 12:23 PM

I get a kick out of the Jamaicans, too. And I thought that "baggage" comment was weird.

It was great to see 33-year-old Oksana Chusovitina win silver on the vault -- a great human interest story. Sad to see Sacramone lose, though.

Posted by: James at August 18, 2008 1:08 PM

Maybe Sacramone should have landed on her knees and out of bounds...

Posted by: Bull at August 19, 2008 9:39 AM

Copyright © 1999-2007 James P. Burke. All Rights Reserved