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Tape-delay drama resolves itself

Published August 5, 2012 11:31 am

All the complaining about not seeing Olympic events live hasn't kept people from tuning in.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

We should have seen this coming.

It's amazing to me how long it took the sports media to realize we couldn't watch the Olympics live. In an age where everything seems to be defined by the word "now," how did almost nobody realize we were on the verge of a tape-delayed Olympics in 2012? In the age of Twitter, Facebook and any other social media you can get a spoiler from?

Since the Opening Ceremony of the London Games, it dawned on us that we couldn't watch the Olympics live — at least on our televisions.

NBC has its own live stream options, provided you can get a password from your cable provider to prove that "Yes, I have television in my house." Or you could get creative with an illegal stream — not that I would ever advocate that.

We'd get the Olympics hours after they'd happen. This is frustrating to many people, but perhaps most of all sportswriters who got chastised for reporting the news after it happened.

I was dismayed to find at the bottom of many of our online Olympics stories — stories filed from people media outlets sent to cover the Games — readers would complain that we were giving away the drama that would be broadcast that night. As if you needed to be a psychic that Michael Phelps would win another medal in the pool this week.

But the implication that a news organization hold back news because of how NBC chooses to broadcast an event is downright mystifying. We don't work for NBC, and we wouldn't be spoiling their broadcasts if they chose not to sit on them.

All these things have frustrated me throughout these Games, in addition to my general craving to see the sports everyone was talking about on Twitter. I thought the late broadcast was bound to ruin my Olympic experience.

But then I realized something that I probably should have realized before: People are going to watch anyway. Myself included.

There's something about the magic of Olympics that makes you watch, even if you know what's going to happen. Something moving, something powerful stirs within us as we watch Missy Franklin reach out for the pool's edge, or Gabby Douglas stick her dismount and beam with a 1,000-watt smile.

Even as I complained to my mother over the phone how silly a tape delay was for one of the high-profile swims, I realized I was holding back that Ryan Lochte had won. I didn't want to spoil it for her.

What can I say? It's infectious.

NBC might not have even expected this warmth toward the Games. After initial predictions that the company was going to lose ratings and money this time around, USA Today reported that ratings are actually higher, as much as 10 percent, than the Beijing Olympics. Even more surprising: NBC's research (taken with a grain of salt) shows that people who hear the result earlier in the day are more likely to watch that night.

So if anything, NBC should thank the media for spoiling their broadcasts, right?

I don't know what that says about us as people: Maybe we just like watching television after dinner, surrounded by our families, even if the Olympics have been spoiled earlier in the day. Maybe we just like watching greatness — or, as most of the NBC broadcasts have focused on, watching Team USA win.

It might be something we re-evaluate in two years when Olympians trudge over to Sochi, Russia, for the Winter Games. Maybe some new social media entity will cause us to rise up again in arms, demanding live coverage.

There is a bright side: At least Rio, Brazil, is only three hours out of our time zone.

kgoon@sltrib.com

Twitter: @kylegoon