So there’s this brand new event at the London summer Olympics.
The 100-meter spoiler dash.
It’s easy, and you can play, too. As soon as you hear the outcome of an Olympic event — preferably one involving an American medalist, in a high-visibility event that will air during NBC’s after-the-fact prime-time coverage — just dash to your smartphone, tweet out the results or post them on Facebook.
Yes, you will annoy your friends. Just make it up to them later. You’re going for gold!
OK, I’m kidding. I’m resorting to satire because I’m not exactly breaking any news.
Unless you’ve really been in hiding for the past week, you know all about the controversy over NBC’s Olympics coverage.
Most of the marquee moments — the U.S. women’s gymnastics team win, American Michael Phelps’ record-shattering 19th medal in swimming — have aired in prime time, hours after the medals were awarded. And hours after the results have been reported on news and sports websites (including IdahoStatesman.com), and fully disseminated on Facebook and Twitter.
Angry fans, burned by the real-time conversation on Facebook and Twitter, have gone to those same platforms to rip NBC.
I’ve recorded more than my share of sporting events, only to fall prey to the spoiler, so I understand the frustration. But not the life-of-its-own furor.
Tape-delayed Olympics coverage isn’t new. The past three summer games were held in Sydney (16 hours ahead of Boise), Athens (10 hours ahead of Boise) and Beijing (14 hours ahead of Boise). Those time differences make live, prime-time coverage impossible. And, spoiler alert: when the 2014 Winter Olympics take place in Sochi, Russia (10 hours ahead of Boise), don’t count on any live action in prime time.
One difference this year is that much of the Olympics coverage is live — just not in prime time. At this writing, on a Wednesday morning, I have a Mexico-Switzerland men’s soccer match on in the office. Live. Boisean Kristin Armstrong’s gold-medal winning cycling time trial aired live, on the NBC Sports cable network, early Wednesday morning. The plethora of live coverage, on TV and via live streaming, stands in stark (and irksome) contrast to the prime-time coverage.
Another difference: the continued growth of online news and the emergence of social media. If you spend any time on the Net or networking on social media, you’re going to know who won what, almost instantly and without even trying. Remember the 1970s novelty hit “The Streak,” in which Ray Stevens told his mythical wife Ethel not to look? Same thing here.
So who do you blame?
Do you blame your friends who blabbed on Twitter and Facebook? That’s your call.
Do you blame news sites? Seriously? Commenters took us to task Wednesday for posting a story and photos about Armstrong’s victory. That makes no sense. A local Olympian had captured gold. We’re a local news site. Are we supposed to sit on the story — one that, as I said, had already aired on live TV?
Do you blame NBC? The taped prime-time coverage is unavoidable. And John Foster — a Boise public affairs pro, and former aide to Rep. Walt Minnick — raised interesting point on his blog this week. He says the delays allow NBC to package their coverage and synergize with advertising. (Another spoiler alert: Airing a major sporting event is big business.)
Foster got to the heart of the matter. “News flash: NBC spent $4.8 billion to buy the rights to the Olympics. They are going to cover it how they damn well please.”
And when they please. My best advice: Just try to act surprised.