Dear NBC: I (still) want the Games live

Michael Phelps hates being shown on tape delay.


If you are fan of the Olympics like me, chances are you have a strong opinion on the decision of NBC to broadcast the most interesting events on tape delay so they can be shown in primetime.

On one side are the people that are OK with the events being on tape delay, wanting to be able to watch the events when they get home.

On the other are people like me. We despise NBC.

In 2008, NBC avoided a big stink, mostly because it somehow convinced Olympic officials to run the swimming events during the morning in China, so it could be broadcast live in primetime in the U.S. It allowed us the drama of watching Michael Phelps do his magic live.

This year, we didn’t get that luxury.

With social media use at an all-time high, the outcries have become louder for NBC to adjust the way it broadcasts the Olympic Games. People want to watch the Olympics live!

For the record, I’ve hated NBC and its Olympic coverage since 2000. In fact, one of my first columns for The Alabamian, Montevallo’s student newspaper, was about that exact subject. Scoop still had a copy of the column, so I thought I would share it today.

Here is my column from Sept. 27, 2000.


Dear NBC: I want the Games live

Is it me, or do the Olympics seem not as exciting this year?

I remember four years ago, I watched almost every minute of the games. Heck, I even forced myself to watch Huntsville’s great Channel 48 News just to make sure I didn’t miss a minute.

However, this year, with the Olympics in Sydney, NBC decided to broadcast all the events during primetime. That makes it basically a 12-hour delay.

It wouldn’t have been a bad idea in the past, but with the recent popularity of the Internet, it just doesn’t work.

Take the opening ceremonies as the first example. Normally, it is a total surprise to most of the world watching as to whom will light the cauldron.

But this year, anyone with a computer and a dial tone knew Australian sprinter Cathy Freeman not only lit the cauldron, but had to stand there for five minutes whole a technical difficulty kept it from rising to the top of Stadium Australia.

To make it even worse was the commentary of Bob Costas while the torch was being delivered to Freeman.

“I think I know who it’s going to be,” said Costas of the identity of the final torch bearer, “but I’m not going to say anything, because I don’t want to give it away.”

That’s OK Bob, every sports Internet site already did!

The worst, though, had to be when I was sitting on the Saturday of the Olympics watching college football. At halftime, Tim Brando informed anyone watching that Jenny Thompson had won her sixth gold medal. NBC aired the race six hours later.

Wow, I wonder if Thompson will still win the gold when I watch the Olympics later that night.

It seems the only way to fully enjoy the games this year is to avoid any Olympic Internet sites and mute the TV whenever Olympic news comes on.

Now, I know NBC could not broadcast all of the games live due to the drastic time difference. However, they could have decided to run the morning sessions of the Olympics live. That would be around 9 p.m. CST. The rest they could broadcast tape-delayed earlier that night.

I hope NBC finds a way to broadcast the 2004 Games in Athens, Greece, live.

It’s just not the same when you already know the results of all the events.

Sports Editor Joshua Buckley, a Madison, Ala., native, holds a strong dislike of Huntsville television news.


OK, as you can tell, this article is a bit dated. The “recent popularity of the Internet” and “anyone with a computer and a dial tone” kind of show how far technology has come in 12 years.

However, with each passing Olympic Games, more and more people are taking my stance toward NBC.

Now, I get it – NBC is a business and broadcasting in prime time brings higher ratings. The ratings are also setting records, which is kind of screwing up the argument for those of us that want the Games live.

NBC has thrown us a bone with its online live streaming. I’ve been able to watch the high-profile swimming and gymnastics events on my tablet at work.

However, the announcers are either from another country, or absent all together. I guess I shouldn’t complain because there is now a way to watch the Games live. But damnit, I like hearing the excitement of American announcers.

Playing Devil’s Advocate, I think a reason NBC doesn’t change and still gets high ratings is because a lot of people watching don’t necessarily think of the Games as a sporting event. Instead, it is kind of a feature-filled broadcast that also happens to show competition. I guess I could buy that theory a little more if NBC didn’t try to act as though the outcomes of the different events were in doubt.

I still think NBC can have the best of both worlds. They could run events live during the day on one of their numerous networks. They could also upgrade the online streaming with NBC announcers.

Then, NBC can still run its tape-delayed stuff. I honestly don’t think there would be that much change in ratings, considering those of us that watch live online now don’t watch it again later in the night anyway.

The next Summer Games are in Rio in 2016. The Brazilian country is only one hour ahead of EST, so this won’t be a huge issue that year.

However, the Winter Games in 2014 are in Russia. It’s an eight-hour time difference between Sochi and the American east coach.

Will NBC finally get it right and appease all Olympic fans in 2014? I highly doubt it. If it hasn’t fixed the problem in 12 years, why think things will change in two more?

Olympic Mad Ramblings

* The Michael Phelps-Phil Lochte rivalry has really confused me. Why are people rooting against Phelps? And why root for Lochte who pretty much seems like a jackass. I root for anyone wearing Team USA colors, but if Phelps and Lochte are both in the pool together, I’m cheering for Phelps every time.

* Can we come up with a new name for the US Women’s Gymnastics team? Hate to break it to everyone, but there is already a “Fab Five” and these girls don’t compare.

* The discussion of this Dream Team vs. the 1992 squad is humorous. If this year’s version had a healthy Derrek Rose, Dwight Howard, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, then yes, it could beat the ’92 squad. Without them, the original Dream Team beats this year’s group by double digits.

* Had a discussion with some friends during the Opening Ceremony – if Chicago had won the 2016 Games instead of Rio, who would be the person to light the torch. We came down to three choices – Michael Jordan, Karri Strug and Michael Phelps. I think after taking over the all-time medal record, Phelps is probably the favorite to light the cauldron the next time the Games are in the US.

I’ll have a wider variety Mad Ramblings in my next post. Until then…

Bear Down and Keep the Faith!

About Joshua Buckley

I used to be a Sports Editor. Now I'm the Media Relations Manager at the Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center.


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