I love the Olympics. Every four (or 5) years the world comes together to show off such immense and diverse talents across a mind-blowing array of sports. I love watching.
I saw a man take gold in a Triathlon he was never expected to win. I saw an Australian swimmer upset Katie Ledecky. I saw that same Ledecky out-swim a field of other world class athletes in 1500 meters like she was out for a morning warmup. I saw the world talk about Simone Biles take herself out of the team competition. (Good for you! Take care of yourself. You owe nothing to anyone but yourself.)
I love watching women’s gymnastics possibly the most of all. (But did you see the synchronized diving??? Those British lads were stunning!)
What I could not stand was the commentating for the gymnastics tonight. We saw Simone Biles take herself out of the competition. What we then saw was the rest of the team perform extremely well. Better than Biles had been up to that point. We saw young athletes with the weight of the world and American Media on their shoulders go out and deliver superb performances.
We saw athletes at the height of their sport.
But what we got from NBC was criticism and negativity. Nowhere was there a cheer of excitement or praise for a well-landed tumbling pass nor tricky maneuver. We got moans and gasps of disappointment as every deduction was dutifully called out. Every failure remarked upon.
And when they weren’t criticizing, they were silent. Terry Gannon, Nastia Liukin and Tim Daggett called the night and while I don’t recognize Tim or Terry’s voice. It was a male voice leading the complaints. They were no Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir.
All three of them could take a page from Dan Hicks and Rowdy Gaines. They are calling swimming and doing a much better job. The excitement in their voices. Reminding us all of the amazing feats we were witness to.
I almost turned off the coverage after the gymnastics portion of the night. But the swimming restored my enjoyment of the night and the games.
Maybe it’s harder for the commentators to remember we are witnessing thrilling races head-to-head and stellar individual performances. But when we tune in to a sport for the first time in 2016, I want more than a frustrated sounding announcer to point out every little flaw and failure of these athletes.
Share the wonder. Marvel with us. This is a treat to watch. You have an opportunity to improve our understanding and enjoyment of an event. Or you can remind us how easy it is to fall into the trap of negativity and nitpicking every mistake and misstep. Choose enjoyment.