Olympic Back-Stories Drive Me Nuts!

NBC newscasters are at it again. The infamous, mandatory, maudlin back-story of every athlete:

“Shortly after Mary’s parents died in the car wreck, Mary was diagnosed with a rare disease and had both legs and arms amputated, but continued to train for the marathon anyway with the help of her loyal dog, Buster. She is in Athens now, and is dedicating this race to her beloved grandmother who raised her and was recently eaten alive by wolves as she futilely attempted to rescue poor Buster who fell down a well….”

Are there NO Olympic athletes who do not have some heart-felt, tear-jerky back story?

Isn’t there one fucking athlete who simply always excelled at sports, got B’s and C’s in college and sells car insurance?

Up where I live, we have the option of watching the Olympics on Canadian television. Highly recommended. Yeah, they focus a little more on the hometown favorites, but they actually show the competition and leave out the fluff.

When we watch them on American TV, the words “Up Close and Personal” are the cue to change the channel.

There are probably tons of them, but they don’t make appealing human interest stories.

And the way they inflate these stories, the subjects probably wouldn’t recognize themselves in them if it weren’t for the pictures.

So a pirate walks into a bar with a ship’s steering wheel sticking straight out of his crotch in the front of his pants. The bartender takes a look at him and asks him “Hey, what’s with the wheel? I can’t serve you with that.” The pirate answers back “Yarrrr! I can’t stand the damn thing either. It drives me nuts!”

“On today’s Up Close and Personal, the touching saga of an under-educated, obscenely wealthy basketball player (queue string and horn music) whose coach once insisted that he practice with the rest of the team, and then another time, insisted he, as captain, arrive at team meetings on time. And now, the rolercoaster relationship between Allen Iverson and Larry Brown…sponsored by Metamucil. Now you CAN give a shit about this story!” (string and horn fanfare grow louder)

What’s worse, is that here are plenty of non-tragedy athlete montages, but once they have added all of the soft-focus fades, childhood photos, tales of christmases past, sensitive voiceovers, admiring grandmothers, and slowmotion flags flapping over picket-fenced cottages, your brain has already been tricked into thinking that it is watching a Valerie Bertinelli Lifetime Channel Battered-spouse movie of the week.

“…after failing to grasp the wall with his weak hand because, due to a hospital mix-up, it was amputated, infected with syphillis, and then reattached…”

You’d think the Olympics would warrent, you know, sports coverage, but that’d take common sense. And seeing the sad stories doesn’t make me want them to win even moreso. If they’re from the United States and talented, I want them to win. If I wanted a sob backstory, I’d watch a movie. When I watch the Olympics, I want to watch the best athletes in the world compete.

I came up with a couple of these during the 2002 Olympics:

“Schuyler Van Voorhies was born rich, but that did not stop him from taking a life of crime…”

I’m betting that there’s plenty of stories featuring Olympic athletes from much less privileged and wealthy nations that would make NBC’s stories look like sick jokes. Why don’t they cover them?

Yeah, it’d be interesting to see some features on athletes from war-torn countries.

Because the Olympics are an opportunity to stoke nationalist pride. Heil Heil!

Those little Olympic stories are one of those things that seem to be hated by absolutely everyone.

Of course, the people who decide what gets broadcast on TV are not (all joking aside) idiots, so they must honestly believe that ratings will be improved by them.


Although it looks like the coverage this year, particularly on the subsidiary channels like USA and Bravo, will feature a much wider variety of sports than we’ve seen in the past. I’m looking forward to some Ping Pong and Badminton. And I doubt there will be touching Ping Pong and Badminton human interest stories, somehow.

They do show Personal Stories on people from other countries. One that sticks out in my mind is…oh gosh, I think it the South African guy who won the marathon (?) in Atlanta, who had been shot in the face.

Now, that was actually worth seeing. Pretty amazing story, although I could be misremembering bits of it. Not the shot in the face part, though, I’m sure I’ve got that right.

I’ve noticed that when I watch the Olympics on NBC, it goes like this:

“And the shotput gold goes to… some Belgian guy. Now for a 20 minute interview with the American who came in 47th in the event!”

Now, I know that CBC does this with the Canadian athletes too… but it doesn’t seem quite as obvious somehow. But then, I’m probably biased, anyway.

Go Canada! Woo!! :smiley: