Olympics a mere shadow of its former self

Phil Consuegra

There was a time when all I cared about this time every two years was a huge sporting event, in which nations came together to compete for glory. There was a time when, around this time every two years, all we would talk about was what happened last night and how masterfully that great skier or that great figure skater performed. There was a time when, because a few hundred people wearing the letters “USA” on their helmets or their sleeves won a gold medal, we felt proud to be an American.

But lately, for some reason, the Olympics have just lost their luster.

I could sit here and write a great article about how much the Olympics means to our society and how much we have to embrace them at this point in our history. I’d be right in saying that the Olympics should unite nations and be seen as a beacon of peace and love around the world. But something has been missing from the Games lately.

Maybe it’s the lack of quality coverage that NBC has provided the American public. Maybe it’s the fact that as a society, we have begun to value professional athletes and their million-dollar contracts. Maybe it’s the fact that the United States, and the rest of the world, is so enamored with winning that they have allowed professional athletes into the Games, which supposedly work to promote amateur competition in our world.

I may be wrong, but wasn’t America much more captivated by the Olympics in 1992, 1994 or in 1996? Wasn’t it more fun to watch back then than it is now? Weren’t we more appreciative of what the Olympics stood for 10-years ago? What has changed since then that makes the Games a little less fun for everyone?

Well, for starters, NBC’s coverage of the Games has gone from bad to worse. You know it’s bad when you sit down on your recliner and you see cross-country skiing on prime time. I usually go to sleep around one or two in the morning, not at 9:30 at night. It seems as though NBC is doing everything it can to keep me from changing the channel, including knocking me out cold.

In addition to poor coverage, some of these announcers need a swift kick in the pants. I heard one commentator remark on how bad a performance was by a couple of figure skaters who made the “sacrilege” of skating to Bolero. Are you kidding me? Who cares what they skate to?

Remember back in 1996 when th world waited in anticipation of Michael Johnson’s race in Atlanta? Bonnie Blair’s quest for five gold medals in Albertville in 1992? Or Barcelona in 1992 when Janet Evans went for gold for the U.S.? Or how about Dan Jansen, the guy who just couldn’t get a break, in Lillehammer in 1994? How great did it feel to watch Jansen finally get the gold that had eluded him for so long? Or Picabo Street getting her Super G gold medal in 1998 in Nagano? Maybe you remember the 1996 U.S. gymnasts when Kerri Strug came through in the clutch for Team USA? All of these people and events have seemed to vanish from the Olympic memory, just more stories to tell our kids.

The difference between then and now is simple: you could cheer for Johnson, Evans, Street, Strug and the rest of them. You could identify with what they were about. These were athletes that America could get behind. There’s a lack of athletes today that people can truly root for, with the exception of Apollo Anton Ohno or that “Flying Tomato” kid who snowboards, both of whom I’ve only seen twice this Olympics. Bode Miller? He’s a joke. Michele Kwan pulled out after crying her way in (Remember Kristi Yamaguchi? I liked her much better). Try as I might, I can’t get into Team USA hockey, not with these guys. Six games and one win for some of the NHL’s best players? Disgusting. If this were the last summer Olympics, I couldn’t get into the bronze-medal winning “Dream Team.” Sure, the first couple of Dream Teams were fun, but enough is enough.

I’m not saying I don’t like the Olympics. I do. I really do. I’m from an Olympic city. My father worked for the Olympic Committee when it came to Atlanta. It’s like a requirement for me to like the Olympics. But they’re just getting harder and harder to watch, and at this point, I don’t really want to watch a couple of Norwegians battle for gold in the 10-mile long cross-country skiing race. I know cross-country skiing is tough, but it’s boring to watch.

With the Torino Winter Olympics, it’s getting easier and easier for me to change the channel. And that’s what I’m disappointed about.

Oh, well. I’m tired of this. Any good college basketball on ESPN?