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MailTribune.com
  • Carrying a torch for the Olympics

    Sure, coverage could be better, but it's the best it's ever been
  • During his 2009 appearance on "Late Night with Conan O'Brien," comedian Louis C.K. hit hard truths when diagnosing the ills of our spoiled, tech-drenched generation.
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  • During his 2009 appearance on "Late Night with Conan O'Brien," comedian Louis C.K. hit hard truths when diagnosing the ills of our spoiled, tech-drenched generation.
    C.K. described hearing 20-something hipsters on the subways of New York whine that when they Google something on their smart phones, the information sometimes take more than 8 seconds to beam off satellites hovering in space to their palm computers.
    As the late-night audience moved from guffawing at C.K.'s antics to cautiously polite claps — after all, he was leveling this diatribe straight at the cool New York crowd — he described being surrounded by technological miracles on a daily basis. According to C.K., modern man and woman should wake each day eager to engage in these digital wonders that are bankrolled by billionaires, engineered by Silicon Valley geniuses and built by children in destitute nations so that we can access our fantasy football teams while wolfing rejected chicken parts at Buffalo Wild Wings.
    Instead, we gripe about spotty coverage in mountains and deep in the bowels of New York's underground trains, the tech miracles of our grandparents' generation.
    "Everything is amazing right now and nobody's happy," he said. "We live in an amazing, amazing world, and it's wasted on the crappiest generation of just spoiled idiots that just don't care."
    I am reminded of C.K.'s assessment when I listen to complaints of NBC's handling of its Olympics coverage.
    "The live streaming coverage is clunky," they whine.
    "The biggest events are held until prime time," they whine some more.
    "I wish I could watch what I want at the exact moment I want and not have to wait 30 minutes for it to beam across the Atlantic Ocean," they whine ever more.
    They don't like Internet spoilers on Twitter and Facebook. The thought of turning off Twitter and Facebook for a few hours each day, however, is unthinkable — so obviously this is NBC's failing.
    Meanwhile, you can log onto the Olympics website and watch (nearly) every event as they happen. And if you can manage to stay off social media without collapsing into shuddering withdrawals like Alex in "A Clockwork Orange" then you can see prime-time events in stunning high-definition.
    I remember the games in Atlanta in 1996, when you had little choice in what events you were allowed to watch. You were at the mercy of producers in New York City who went heavy on women's gymnastics, as they should, and the basketball team.
    Lesser-known events such as badminton, handball, archery and shooting scored a few live look-ins, particularly if a plucky United States player whose life story was tailor-made for a syrupy Bob Costas-narrated puff piece had medaled.
    The other day, I spent an hour riveted as an underdog South Korean took home a medal in the sabre competition. In 1996, saber maybe scored a mention on television. MSNBC broadcast an entire round of sabre in the afternoon.
    For me, the best thing about the Olympics is watching sports other than baseball, football and basketball. And not only watching, but living and dying with the women's water polo team as they struggle against a stout Spain defense. Or nearly weeping when Portland's own Mariel Zagunis built a commanding lead in her sabre semi-final bout, only to unravel against a lesser opponent.
    Spoilers don't bother me because simply watching the insanity of badminton and table tennis — not ping pong, thank you very much — is entertaining, even if I know the result.
    My only disappointment is not with the coverage. I am having trouble coming to terms with the idea that the U.S. can't field a competitive handball team. Are you kidding me?
    I think handball is the new curling. During the last winter Olympics, curling took the Internet by storm. Who would have thought watching what amounts to bocce ball on ice would be so compelling? I feel the same about handball.
    The rest of the world seems to agree. The crowds at the handball matches are among the most raucous, most profane and, perhaps, most intoxicated. I can dig that.
    I hope Obama is watching and finds it as horrifying as I do that our great nation can't qualify in handball. Surely there are enough retired NBA or NFL players out there that we can form a competitive team.
    My advice to the frowny-face Olympic watchers out there is this: Relax. Take the Games as they come, and turn off the social media if you feel you could suffer a stroke if the women's-beach-volleyball-gold-medal game could be ruined for you on Twitter.
    Oh, and write your congressman, and let's get this national handball team off the ground.
    Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471.
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