Two Halftime Hennessy editors trade emails about everything London 2012
The glory and pageantry of the Summer Olympics are upon us once again. I find these quadrennial festivities to be the ideal breeding ground for athletic hypothetical’s (as well as hyper-athletic future Olympians that would be conceived in the Olympic Village if not for the standing order of 100,000 condoms per Olympic Games). Aside from basketball and soccer, every other event in the Summer Olympics can be qualified as “unpopular,” which is exciting – there are so many questions. It’s kind of like if you only listened to popular radio for four years, and then that quiet kid you met in college took you to an indie music festival – it’s a whole bunch of stuff you’ve never heard of before. Some of it is great and some of it sucks, but you can’t help but ask yourself: what is this?
So, let’s talk about the Olympic games so far.
I’d like to begin with the 19-year old track star from Grenada, Kirani James. The first time his name was said, I misheard it as Karate Jones. Now, even though his actual name is not as amazing as Karate Jones™ (I’m already drafting the movie script, it’s an action/comedy), he’s a pretty amazing guy. Not only did he win gold in the men’s 400 meters ending the United States’ dynasty in the event (est. 1984), he’s also just a good person. If you’ve watched any NBC coverage of him, you know what I’m talking about. But what I really want to focus on here is the fact that his gold medal was the first Olympic medal (of any kind) won by Grenada, ever. Ever.
Grenada has been an independent country for 38 years now. They have an estimated population of 110,000. The question is: How impressive or unimpressive is it that Grenada just won their first Olympic medal?
Hold up, I’m finishing googling “Location of Grenada” and “Who is ‘Kirani Jones.’” Ok, I think I’m all caught up and ready to respond. [Side note: Suggestion for the Karate Jones™ Script: Put him in a breathing mask. That's a real game changer right there.]
So I guess I have to be THAT guy but I’m saying Grenada winning a gold is unimpressive. According to some article I found on the Internet, there are currently 204 nations that are eligible to participate in the Olympics and 80 of them have never won a medal. Not in the Summer or Winter Olympics. So this makes Grenada a little better than average, right? I mean maybe it’s more impressive that America didn’t recruit Karate Jones™ to apply for US citizenship and add to our own medal count. Also if memory serves, Grenada was favored to take gold in the Men’s Basketball in Athens but a string of injuries kept them from qualifying (no need to fact check that).
I guess my two main points I wanted to bring up were: (1) Twitter and (2) what events are we watching? I have to believe this is the first Olympic Games with mainstream Twitter use. The conversation about the Games being taped delay while the results are being posted in real time on twitter by reporters and spectators in London has been done ad nauseam; but the questions keeps coming to me, has Twitter ruined the London Olympics?
Personally, I have had two wildly different experiences watching the Games this year. The days in which I was home and online while watching the games and getting real time updates and spoilers about who was winning what event. And then the days when I was NOT home during the day and got home to watch NBC in primetime and was completely shocked to see the taped delay results come in. Obviously, I enjoyed the excitement of watching something in Primetime not knowing the outcome already. It’s a much different feeling than trying to watch an illegal feed on my laptop at Starbucks in the middle of the afternoon. I’m sure it’s the same feeling people who live in Los Angeles feel when I watch the east coast viewing of Breaking Bad and then blow up social media with spoilers [SPOILER: Walter Jr. eats Breakfast this week!] But is there anything different we can do? Should we just ignore social media during the day and enjoy whatever NBC offers us at night? This seems like an issue only for London because in four years the Games are in Rio which is in the Eastern Time Zone, so we should all be straight for that one. But then what about the 2020 Games?
My second topic is what events are we watching? I’m always interested to take inventory of what other people are into. I mean everyone watched Phelps and Gabby Douglas, and Men’s Basketball. But what ELSE are we watching and what are we choosing NOT to watch? I’m a sucker for volleyball in any shape or form. Men, women, beach, team. I. AM. IN. Any event involving target practice or the chance for bloodshed I’m watching. I turn the channel whenever synchronized swimming or equestrian come on though. Equestrian is the indie rock band that comes on stage and everyone looks at their phones or goes to the bar to order another drink before waiting for the next act. I’m just upset I was too busy to turn into the rowing or the speed cycling events. I hate finding out I missed an event that I would have watched if Bob Costas had just told me to when it was going to be on.
Maybe I’m being too picky. Maybe I should just stay off my Internet browser and enjoy whatever NBC decides to serve up on any given night. What do you think? Final Question: Who is your favorite member of this year Fab Five?
I was slightly surprised by the fact that Grenada was not a more well-known country. Then I realized that the only reason I know of Grenada is because there’s a joke about it in the 2003 Sandler/Nicholson comedy Anger Management. To digress for a moment, has there ever been more of a paper tiger than Anger Management? In 2003, if I told you there was a movie coming out about anger management that starred Jack Nicholson and Adam Sandler, you’d expect it to be an instant classic. It’s not, but I spent a good part of 2003 trying to convince myself that it was, which is why I know that Grenada is a country. Maybe Karate Jones™ will finally put them on the map.
Also, I imagine Karate Jones™ as a ninja, so he’d probably already be wearing a mask of some sort. Otherwise, what kind of ninja would he be?
Moving on to NBC’s coverage, there are parts I like and parts I don’t.
Spoilers are probably impossible to solve in a case like this. So far, I’ve had the outcomes of events spoiled through Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, various television programs, NBC.com, various other websites, overheard conversation, and friends and family who, unprovoked, told me to my face. That last one is the worst. The Internet has thrown such a wrench in this process, there is no established etiquette as to how to go about these spoilers. Because people who read the results assume everybody else knows the results, they just blurt them out in casual conversation. If we can’t all agree on how to go about this, maybe all the people like me who try and avoid spoilers can wear some sort of visible accessory on our body letting all the impatient ones know they shouldn’t discuss results in front of us. Maybe it would be a hat, or Livestrong-type bracelet or something… a mock gold medal! It can say: “LEAVE ME BE, I’M SPOILER FREE” on it.
Also, it’s frustrating how NBC will not air the events on TV, but you also cannot log on to their Olympic website to find out if and when an event might be coming on TV without having six other events spoiled for you at the same time. Why do they not have a splash page that allows me to get to the spoiler-free zone of the site without ruining everything else in the process? It would take seven seconds to make and they could significantly increase ad revenue by selling a big spot on the splash page. God knows they could use it!
That being said, there are parts I do like. Aside from basketball and soccer (which have dedicated channels, on FiOS at least), and some other events (volleyball, table tennis, water polo, longer races, etc.) most of the events last for only seconds. So if I want to watch the long jump, I’d rather watch NBC’s coverage of it, because they’re just going to edit all the jumps together and cut out all the measuring, raking, and stretching in between. The trade off is that those extra seconds are all used to air human-interest pieces they’ve cut together. The problem is that some of them are light on the “interest.” They’re not all bad though, especially when they shoot in one of the Caribbean islands. In fact, that’s how NBC can improve their streaming: setting up a live cams at the appropriate viewing parties in each Caribbean nation when that nation is competing in a big event. I could watch those celebrations for days.
As for what sports I’m watching, I completely agree with you in regard to volleyball. Not only is it one of the best events to watch on TV, I’d wager that it’s easily one of the most exciting to watch in person. You can hear all the all the “oohs!” and “ahhs!” through the broadcast. I think the same way that everyone can relate to a person running really quickly, everyone can relate to the feeling you get when trying to keep a ball (or at least a balloon) up in the air without letting it hit the ground – at least if you’ve ever been in 4th grade or attended a child’s birthday party.
As for the rest, I watch what NBC shows in primetime and whatever else I can find on TV. I’ve missed the entire track cycling events so far, which is a bummer because they’re mesmerizing and exciting to watch. I’ve also missed all events that involve weaponry, excluding the hammer throw, which is frightening.
I did get to see a little equestrian though. And speaking of indie bands, there’s no way that Equestrian is not already the name of an indie band. I imagine they’re music is some sort of baroque chamber pop. Think Vampire Weekend minus the worldbeat. They’re more likely from Brooklyn than Portland or Austin. And there is definitely a hot lady cellist in the band.
But where the band Equestrian might be hip, the Olympic event is not. It’s so old. According to Wikipedia, it debuted in the 1900 Summer Olympics and then disappeared until the 1912 Olympics and it hasn’t left since. In my mind, winning a gold medal at the Olympic Games is the pinnacle of human athletic achievement. I can’t seem to find a place to fit an animal into that equation. You can’t help but notice that equestrian is the only Olympic event that involves animals. According to Wikipedia, dressage (a/k/a “horse ballet”) is translated to mean “training.” Does the ability to train something warrant recognition in the Olympic games? I don’t think so. I mean, I’m sure it’s really hard to do… but so is brain surgery.
And if they’re going to commit to it, they I suggest they introduce dressage with dogs. Note, this would not be the same as a dog show. It would involve the dogs performing a unique series of choreographed movements and jumps with his trainer. It would be even more adorable than the Puppy Bowl and (I would stake my reputation on this) would instantly become America’s new favorite Olympic event. If the Olympics and the Internet need fusing, I can think of no better way than by introducing dog dressage.
Speaking of equestrian and things that are popular in America, did you know that Kate Upton is a world championship winning equestrian?
My question is should animals have a place in the Olympic games at all? Either way, imagine the IOC has decided to expand the games to include animal-related events. Aside from the established events in equestrian, what animal-related events would you propose to add to the Olympics – summer or winter?
And for the record, my favorite member of the Fab Five is easily McKayla Maroney for two reasons: (1) This vault was ice cold, and (2) the photo of her scowling discontent is maybe the best photo of the Olympics so far.
Also, don’t sleep on synchronized swimming. It is probably the greatest unintentionally funny sport of all time.
Let me start with what I hope is the final nail in the Grenada coffin: Mr. Allan Sherman. I am not going to get up here and defend animals being included in the Olympics. As far as I am concerned those years in which Equestrian was not an Olympic sport were the best Olympic years ever! If the Games are supposed to test countries against each other in athletic contest, what does our ability to train animals say about us? If Equestrian wants to secede and form its own animals Olympics partnered with the Westminster Dog Show people and USA Network go right ahead. The one exception I would make for animal inclusion is the Iditarod in the Winter Olympics. I would watch that for WEEKS.
So quick detour back to your first post about Karate Jones™ and how we should root for him because NBC told you he was a good person. I know Karate Jones™ has a heart of gold and a track record of saving the world at the last second but isn’t every packaged piece NBC puts on supposed to portray the athlete or sport in a good light? With the exception to Badminton and maybe Lolo Jones, isn’t everyone getting a good shine on during the games? Even the athletes being sent home for doping or being too drunk to compete are not getting much airtime on the Peacock network and I only notice them if Deadspin decides to run a post about them. Half the point of giving NBC the Olympics was the promise that we get our FLUFF! We want our medal count graphics, our podium national anthems and our g-damn Fluff!
Since I started mentioning badminton and doping I’ll segue into what you think is the most disappointing aspect of the Olympics thus far? I look at boxing and the fight fixing scandal that has overshadowed a few of the matches as one dark spot. Boxing faces enough issues in America and it seems as if the virus has spread to the Olympics. In our lifetimes do you think Boxing will cease to be either (a) an Olympic sport or (b) a professional sport in any regard? I was also really disturbed by the story of the Chinese Olympian who after finishing competing was finally informed that her mom has had cancer for a year and her grandma and grandpa died the previous year. That’s cold, bro.
It got me thinking about how serious we take the Olympics here compared to other countries. I don’t think our Olympians are not taking this obligation seriously but at the same time I don’t think if one of our Athletes really underperformed and flopped we as a society would outcast them or possibly worse. Worst case scenario is if Men’s Basketball doesn’t win gold and then we get to revive the Lebron isn’t clutch discussion. Scale of 1 to 10 how serious is all of Team USA taking the Olympics and should that number be higher or lower?
How about the host country, by the way? At the end of the first week I remember seeing Great Britain was struggling to get their first gold and was low in the medal count. Next thing I know I see Andy Murray celebrating over that Swiss guy and the Brits are nearing the top of the medal and gold count. Is this a little bit of homer bias or is England overachieving in their own Games?
One thing we talked a little bit on the lead up to the Olympics was British Pop music and how it helped us get excited for the Games. Queen, The Police, Coldplay, The Clash, The Beatles, etc… We certainly saw a fair amount of this during the Opening Ceremonies and certainly will during the Closing Ceremonies. But how come every time I tune into an event coming back from TV timeout I hear the arena or stadium playing LMFAO, Rihanna, or Avicii for the crowd? I see Men’s Basketball Argentina vs. Brazil and it sounds like a timeout in an NBA arena. What gives London Arena DJ’s?
Finally, the Closing Ceremonies are Sunday. Anything you look forward to? Are you going to skip traditional Sunday night TV programming to watch? Are you the least bit interested in the Doomsday conspiracy theories out there relating to the Closing ceremonies?
P.S. This is McKayla Maroney teaching America how to dougie. Girls got SWAG.
I had something else to say about Grenada, but I can’t think of a better note to end on than how you left it.
As far as the Iditarod goes, you’re in luck because “for weeks” is the only way you can watch it. It’s that long. Unfortunately, I think the ruling on animals in the Olympics has to be all or nothing. If there’s no dog dressage, I will not stand for allowing dog sled racing either. Until then, we can all just watch Disney’s 1996 dog sledding epic, Iron Will, which is 500x better than Disney’s dog sledding final-nail-in-the-coffin-of-Cuba-Gooding-Junior’s-career, Snow Dogs.
As for boxing, is it even a professional sport now? I’m no expert on it, but it clearly seems be the most dubious sport we have. The whole boxing world is cordoned off from the rest of society. We leave them to do whatever they want, how they want, and when they want to do it. Shady business deals? Cool. Manufactured trash talk? Cool. Just call us when you decide on a date for the fight, so we can give you all of our money and all pretend we know how to score a boxing match.
Is boxing even regulated? I mean, I’m sure there are “rules” but that doesn’t mean anybody knows what they are or if they’re followed (they’re probably not). Until there’s a formally established league or structure to the sport, it’s never going to be a “thing” again. And the way professional boxing currently exists, there is no one boxer who can save it. If Ali is in the circuit today (is there a circuit?), I think he’s just another arrogant, charismatic, blowhard in a sea of arrogant, charismatic, blowhards. If people want to see egotistic personalities clash today, they can tune into any reality show at any time of day (and they’ll probably get to see some punches thrown too). It’s fun and entertaining to watch Usain Bolt “shush” all his critics before a sprint has ended and brag about his legendary status because track and field is structured and we actually know that he’s the best in the world. Boxing doesn’t have that.
It is said that sunlight is the best disinfectant. I think professional boxing needs to take that advice and become a little more open and definitely more structured. I think the Olympic boxing model might be the way to do that. And the UFC has some structure right? The problem is that the money in boxing is so huge that restructuring will never happen… that is until boxing implodes and someone with business sense reboots it.
As for the seriousness Team USA is performing with, I think it’s too hard to describe the team as a whole. I mean, the outcome of the events speak for themselves. Phelps admitted he didn’t give it his all during training, and said his less than invincible performance was exactly what he deserved. I think the basketball team is taking things pretty seriously and will easily lock up the gold, but if they don’t, I don’t think it will come down on LeBron. I think it will come down on America as a country (and hopefully Coach K, too). That’s the Most Embarrassing Case scenario of any Summer Olympics.
As for numbered rankings, I’d say Phelps is probably somewhere from 5 to 7? Men’s basketball is probably at an 8 or 9 (they’re as serious as they can be under such favorable odds). I’d put women’s soccer at a 10 and the same for Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings. (In case you’re reading this and have never turned on NBC for a second and don’t know who those people are, they’re a two-person beach volleyball team, not the entire roster of the US indoor squad.)
The GB’s (Great Brit’s, not Ghostbusters) are definitely getting the home field bump, here. I don’t think they expected to have it, but the majority of the crowd at these events have to be GB’s. That’s a lot of support and I think it’s probably giving them some extra juice. For instance, if the 1996 Olympics weren’t in the US, who knows if Kerri Strug would have landed that vault? It’s called a one-footed landing, but maybe she actually had another leg to stand on – a leg made of American spirit.
As for music, I’ve actually heard a lot of Queen at the games, namely “We Are The Champions” and “Another One Bites The Dust”; but they’re staples at any big sporting event. Aside from song selection though, I’m more interested in when they choose to play the music and in whose favor. Do they designate a “home team” for each event, or is the music supervisor just supposed to use his or her discretion? During one of the beach volleyball games (which was essentially over), they were playing “Another One Bites The Dust” over the soundsystem during the final two match points. Maybe it was a mistake, but that seemed a little harsh.
For the closing ceremonies, I think I’m going to forego Breaking Bad and The Newsroom to watch them. It’s once every four years, right? I can make an exception. Plus, if I watch it on delay, then my joke-filled twitter feed will be perpetually ahead of the broadcast. I can’t risk that when (NOTE: If you’re wearing your “LEAVE ME BE, I’M SPOILER FREE” medallion, then skip the rest of this paragraph) it is rumored the Spice Girls are reuniting to perform. And if there’s anything that we want, that we really, really want, it’s a Spice Girls reunion. Zig-a-zig-ahh. Wait… is that the Doomsday conspiracy theory you were talking about?
Well, we should probably wrap this whole thing up, so I will say one more thing. I used to not like Bob Costas at all, but he has significantly grown on me over the past few years. The watershed moment was two years ago on a Sunday Night Football broadcast when he scolded, like, everyone for using the phrase “controls their own destiny” because “destiny,” by definition, is out of one’s control – it’s predetermined. Somebody needed to say it. I’m glad Costas finally did.
The question is do you have a favorite and least favorite Costas moment from these Olympic broadcasts?
I’ll give you mine. His best moment was, immediately after returning from commercial break, saying “And we’re back, but that would be evident wouldn’t it.” Classic Costas! His worst moment came while watching Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings watch their own medal ceremony (the worst feature NBC has incorporated in their coverage). Upon seeing Kerri start to tear up in the ceremony, Costas commented “You know, it seems as if Kerri is the one getting misty.” The low-hanging fruit doesn’t always taste so good.
I’d also like to commend us for not letting this conversation turn into a discussion about Americans we like teaching people how to Dougie (re: Kate Upton also)
I really feel like we covered all of the relevant topics of the 2012 London Olympics: Kate Upton, Spice Girls, McKayla Maroney, and America. Maybe we missed out on our favorite National Anthems (note: Mine is Kazakhstan) Olympics Uni-Watch, and our favorite Olympic Meme’s.
One thing that we glossed over was the Men’s 100 Meter final. It was impressive. But all I kept thinking afterwards was that these men had trained for four years for something that was over in less than 10 seconds. I mean Kobe Bryant shoots in the gym and works out and all that so he can have a 20+ year NBA career. He has his highs and lows but the longevity is there. For Usain Bolt he might get some Subway commercials and get to compete in some way lesser track competitions but this is it for him. Those 100 meters is all there is. Doesn’t that seem crazy?
Ah Bobby Costas. Pride of my high school, Commack High on Long Island. I guess my favorite moment this year was not Bob himself but rather some local NBC affiliates sports anchor who was not too happy with Bobby. My least favorite was his interview with the Fab Five after the Team Gold. I don’t know it made me feel weird to have this middle age man asking pressing questions to 16 year olds.
I could delay my Breaking Bad and Newsroom addiction a few hours to watch some Posh Spice (she’s included, right?!) But if a fiery pit opens up in London and Prince William is crowned the Anti-Christ I’m switching back over the AMC and dead bolting the door.
All in all it was a solid Olympics. I don’t think we had the same breakout stars we had in Beijing or the drama but it was a jolly good time nonetheless. Maybe my favorite part of the Olympics is that it comes in like a whirlwind, stays for 2 weeks and then sweeps away and we almost instantly forget about it. If not for endorsements would we ever hear from these Olympians again until Rio? Who knows. But the NFL is around the corner and that means no one is going to be harking back to Games in a month. McKayla is not impressed.
Photo via flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons.