My Official Protest
February 27, 2002

Maria Tomchick

How do you get me to read the sports page? Let NBC cover the Winter Olympics.

I'm a "do-it-yourself" sports fan. If I can't play, I'm really not interested in watching. But this past week I've had a lingering flu virus that sidelined me. I slept, I drank gallons of water, and I watched the Olympics on TV.

When you have a fever, it's comforting to watch people race through the snow. An ice rink looks like a paradise and the skeleton like the perfect refrigerated bed, cold air whisking by at 75 miles per hour. Yet NBC's coverage of the Olympics has made my health worse, not better.

It's the sheer frustration. Jennifer Rodriguez ("J-Rod") and her two bronze medals in speed skating don't thrill me, when I know I'm missing Janica Kostelic sweeping the women's Alpine events, becoming the only woman skier to win three gold medals at one Olympics, and the first skier in the world to win four Alpine medals at the same Olympics. But J-Rod gets the airtime because she's from the US. Kostelic is Croatian, so we only see a cursory film of her final win, with lots of unnecessary commentary about the US skiers (none of whom medalled).

Nationality means little to me, because I admire the athletes, not the country they come from. I could care less for US skier Bode Miller when 30-year-old German skier Stephan Eberharter is proving that you don't have to be slender and 19 years old to win a medal. Or two. Or three.

I was even willing to give Apolo Anton Ohno the benefit of the doubt for being a hometown boy from Seattle. I watched his first two races, then stopped, because I hadn't seen any women's short-track speed skating at all. Why? Because the main contenders were from China and South Korea. Meanwhile, NBC touted the multi-ethnic makeup of the US "champions": Ohno, Derek Parra, and Vonetta Flowers. Somebody needs to explain the real definition of "diversity" to the folks at NBC.

The fact that the events are pre-taped, edited, and aired around NBC's other programming is a huge part of the problem. The apex of my disgust came on the night NBC aired portions of the figure skating exhibition. This is the show the skaters do after the competitions are over--in my opinion, the only place you can really see them do what figure skating is all about: showmanship (but that's another story). NBC, in their wisdom, showed the routines by all of the US women: Sarah Hughes, who took the gold, Michelle Kwan, who won the bronze, and the fourth place finisher, Sasha Cohen. But somehow they forgot to include the silver medalist, Irina Slutskaya, from Russia. That's not just bad, folks, it's obscene. And they did the same to the silver medalist in the men's competition. He's Russian; therefore, he's not important.

So I've been reading the sports page, instead. It would be nice, though, to see Janica Kostelic's picture on the front page of the sports section, not on D6. Oh, and I see here that Ole Einar Bjoerndalen of Norway won four gold medals in biathalon. I have to close my eyes and imagine what that would look like. I scan down the page further and find that all the athletes are listed by nationality: Germany, Netherlands, Norway, etc.--but the US athletes are all listed by hometown and state.

When did "San Bernardino, Calif." become so damn important?