I was reading a post over at the The Track & Field Superblog and I found myself agreeing with many of the things Jesse Squire wrote. (I also entered a comment and indulged in a little shameless self-promotion by linking back to my own blog. Oh, well. Such is the life of a blogger.)
The cutting away from the middle of a race in favor of those melodramatic human-interest stories can be blamed on NBC*, who started that horrible practice a couple of decades ago during the 1984 Olympics. I seem to remember that their reasoning was to try and increase the ratings among the women viewers. Regrettably, it must have actually increased the ratings, because "value-added" track meet programming has been with us ever since. I wonder if American track viewers would want to simply watch the drama of an entire middle-distance race play itself out on tv if the networks allowed it to happen. I think the viewers would rise to the occasion (c'mon sports producers! Give us a chance! We don't need to be spoon fed the drama!), although I fear the producers have trained us to have short attention spans.
Since Jesse brought all of this stuff up (and who would've thought that somebody besides me would like to see a flawless track meet every once in a while!) here's something else that annoyed me over and over again: within seconds of the races ending, the meet assistants would stick a bouquet of flowers and a water bottle in the faces of the winners while they were doubled over trying to catch their breath. How silly is that? Did the competitors just perform an operatic aria? Uhh...no... Do they know how to rehydrate? I'd guess that they'd probably get around to rehydrating just as soon as they replenished their friggin' oxygen supply!!! I mean, really! Anyway, I guess we should consider ourselves lucky that they didn't tape-delay this event like they usually do, which is my biggest pet-peeve of all. Thanks for the inspiration for this rant, Jesse! Be sure to check out Jesse Squire's perspective on track and field over at Track and Field Superblog.
[5/27/07] *Update, correction: ABC, not NBC, televised the 1984 Olympic Games.