By Tom Jones, Times Staff Writer
Sunday, August 12, 2012
So the Olympics are over, and there was an interesting dichotomy when it came to NBC's coverage. NBC's television numbers were through the roof, yet the network was roundly criticized for its choices of what it showed and when it showed it.
Viewers complaining about television coverage has become almost as much of an Olympic tradition as lighting the torch. Here are the two major problems with most Olympics when it comes to television in the United States:
1. There are dozens of events going on simultaneously.
2. The Olympics are often held on the other side of the world, meaning they take place several hours before prime time in the United States.
So, a U.S. network has a choice: show as much as it can live during the day and risk losing millions upon millions of prime-time viewers, or show the big events on tape delay in prime time.
The problem with the former is that networks spend so much money on acquiring the rights for the Olympics (NBC, for example, paid $1.81 billion for the London Games) that they want to recoup their money by charging extraordinary advertising rates. The only way to do that is to draw in as many viewers as it can.
The problem with the latter is that it's nearly impossible these days to go hours without learning the results of a big athletic competition. Because of the Internet, smart phones, tickers across the bottom of TV screens, as well as social media giants such as Facebook and Twitter, you cannot avoid learning the outcome of a major race or game that happened five, six, seven hours earlier.
NBC thought it had gone a long way toward solving the problem by streaming every event live on its website. That's fine if you really want to see something, but most people would rather watch a sporting event on their high-definition TV, not on a computer monitor or hand-held device that can have streaming issues.
Even with a slew of networks at its disposal, including NBC Sports Network and MSNBC and so forth, NBC still could not show every event live on television. But the error NBC tended to make was purposely not showing marquee events live and saving them for prime time, such as the 100-meter final and the women's beach volleyball gold-medal match.
No matter how NBC covered these Games, there was going to be criticism. Going forward, the network's best philosophy should be this: When in doubt, show it live. And if it's a big enough event, show it again in prime time.
The biggest moment of this Rays season so far was Evan Longoria's return Tuesday after a three-month absence. After 85 games, fans finally had a chance to hear that violin blast of Longoria's walkup song by Tantric. Just the first few notes gives fans goose bumps. Those in person and on TV couldn't wait to hear it for the first time in a while.
Too bad Sun Sports dropped the ball and was in commercial when that moment happened. Here's what happened: Longoria was batting cleanup and the Rays went down in order in the bottom of the first, so he led off the bottom of the second. Sun Sports went to a commercial break after the top of the second and didn't rejoin the broadcast from commercial break until Longoria was already in the batter's box. We missed the walkup song and the ovation. Someone at Sun Sports had to realize that Longoria leading off the second was a real possibility and the decision had to be made earlier in the day to make sure that moment wasn't missed, even if it meant not going to commercial after the top of the second.
Sometimes networks lose touch and forget what is important to the viewers. This was one of those moments.
Did you hear that a couple of co-eds running the steps at Missouri's Faurot Field were asked to leave during a football practice because the players were too distracted?
As Graham Watson wrote on Yahoo's college football blog: "If the Missouri coaching staff thinks those two girls are going to be a distraction, they have no idea what their team is in for when they visit an SEC stadium."
Legendary Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan is retiring from his everyday job after 44 years. Ryan announced earlier this year that he was stepping down after the Olympics. Ryan will still write occasionally for the Glob , and he is still expected to appear on ESPN.
In his final regular column on Sunday, Ryan wrote, "So why now? It's time; that's all. … I am fulfilled. But there is something else. I occasionally come across some things I wrote years ago, and I say to myself, 'I did that?' And I know in my heart I really couldn't match that effort today. That's all a writer needs to know."
Three things that popped into my head
1. Another year without Tiger Woods winning a golf major. He will win another someday, maybe two. But he's not going to win the five it's going to take to pass Jack Nicklaus' record of 18.
2. Biggest reason why the Rays have won six in a row? Their lousy competition. But you know what? Pounding weaklings is how most teams make the playoffs.
3. Final thought on the Olympics. They were a blast, but I'm glad they're over.
Tough weekend for CBS as a triple whammy sabotaged its weekend coverage of the PGA Championship. • For starters, bad weather cut short a good portion of Saturday's third round, but not before Tiger Woods, who bogeyed three of the first seven holes in the round to fall off the pace, a trend that continued into Sunday's fourth round. • Finally, on Sunday, Rory McIlroy ran away from the pack and cruised to an easy victory. I'm not a fan of CBS's overly sappy and cheerleading golf coverage, but the network was dealt a rotten hand at the PGA Championship.
Most prophetic comment
I'm a big fan of HBO's reality sport shows and the pioneer is Hard Knocks, which kicked off its eighth season last week by following the Dolphins. The first episode was the usual stuff: players getting ready for camp, a contract negotiation, someone getting cut and a few R-rated words.
This season's debut episode was nothing special. Maybe it's because the Dolphins aren't very dynamic. Joe Philbin seems like a nice enough guy, and he could turn out to be a superb coach, but he isn't quite as charismatic as past Hard Knocks coaches, such as Rex Ryan and Herm Edwards.
Having said that, the show still is highly watchable. The most interesting, and what turned out to be the most prophetic, comment came when Chad (Ochocinco) Johnson, who was clearly going out of his way to be the show's star, joked as he headed out the door on an off day, "I promise I'm getting arrested while we're off."
Johnson was arrested Saturday after being accused of head-butting his wife. The team released him Sunday.
Biggest mistaken identity
During the men's gold medal basketball game Sunday, NBC cameras showed actor Jesse Eisenberg, who is best known for playing Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in the movie The Social Network. Apparently NBC didn't know the difference. The NBC broadcast team said it was going to put "pictures on Facebook'' and talked about all the major corporate leaders who were in attendance.
tom jones' two cents
Tampa Bay Times staff writer Tom Jones offers up his best and worst from a weekend of televised sports.