Press-Republican

August 12, 2012

Subtle tweaks could make Olympics better

By STEVE OUELLETTE, You Had to Ask
Press-Republican

---- — The Olympics are without question the greatest sporting event in the world. Nothing else brings together men and women of virtually every nation in the spirit of competition and sportsmanship.

That said, nothing is perfect. Every four years I like to offer the International Olympic Committee a few subtle tweaks that could make things even better. Every four years they ignore me, but it’s worth trying again.

No more tape delay. Or more realistically, not JUST tape delay. I know that there’s some sort of time difference between here and London, and I know that the network wants to show its best stuff during the prime-time hours. That’s great, but there are some of us who have access to a television during the afternoon and want to see the good stuff. Instead, on its 47 affiliated channels, NBC has fed us a steady diet of team handball, field hockey and table tennis.

Everything interesting and everything involving a gold medal is saved for the pre-packaged three-hour prime-time show. I don’t know about you, but I’ve got this thing called the “Internets” that gives me instant information — such as, how Michael Phelps did in the 200-meter butterfly. It’s almost impossible for me to not know how events have turned out before NBC shows them.

Either put a giant electronic dome over London, which doesn’t allow out any information, or show the good stuff as it happens — to those of us who can watch and can’t avoid the news — then show your taped version to everyone else at 8 p.m. Everyone wins!

Eliminate team handball. It looks like a great sport for middle-school gym class. Every phys-ed teacher in the area should take note. The Olympics, however, are already crowded and could stand to have some things weeded out. I also recommend eliminating the yachting and Parcheesi. The ping pong is OK though.

Televise the drug testing. Talk about drama. We can follow each athlete from little plastic cup through the high-tech laboratory and onto the medal stand. While we’re at it, drug test the soccer fans. Each and every one of them.

Mix in some politics. The Olympics match up perfectly with the U.S. presidential election. Let’s get Mitt Romney out there on that fancy horse in the dressage competition. Barack Obama can take over the 12th spot on the U.S. basketball team — see if he can hit a couple of baskets in garbage time against Tunisia.

Handicap Usain Bolt. Not permanently mind you, but he’s too big, too fast. It’s not fair to the other competitors. Put some broken glass in his left shoe. Make him carry a shot (the 16-pound metal ball, not a drink) in one hand. Force him to eat two giant-sized extra value meals immediately before running.

More Danny Boyle. The Oscar-winning director of “Slumdog Millionaire” did a fine job with the Opening Ceremonies. How about turning him loose on the rest of the Games? I’m thinking “28 Days Later,” with team Rage Virus competing in track and field. Probably better than the “127 Hours” event I was going to suggest.

Introduce piranha to the swimming pool. You want to see more world records fall? Well, here’s some incentive. I’m not talking about a whole school of the ravenous pointy-toothed creatures, just a handful. Heck, once they draw blood on the slowest competitor they’ll probably ignore the rest.

Go back to your roots. My son, who knows everything, tells me that at the original Olympics in Ancient Greece, all the competitors were naked. Let’s make everyone naked: competitors, spectators, judges, the royal family, Al Michaels. It will do wonders for the ratings, even on tape delay.

Give us a scoring system that we can understand. A floor routine is worth 16.208 points out of a possible 17.314? Whatever happened to the judges just holding up a card with a “10” on it? Was that only in the slam-dunk competition? Besides, we all know that Olympic judges — most of them from FOREIGN countries, I should point out — can’t be trusted. The only fair way would be to have viewers text in their votes and let them decide.

Change the decathlon. World’s greatest athlete? Maybe, but there won’t be any doubt after these 10 events, covering a much wider array of skills than the current configuration: 1) Hot dog eating competition. 2) Ironman triathlon. A full 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride and 26 mile run, immediately following the hot dog eating. 3) SAT exam. Train the mind, not just the body. 4) Whack-a-mole. 5) Ultimate fighting. How long can they stay in the ring with the Iceman, Chuck Liddell? 6) Bowling. 7) Bullfighting. 8) Dance Dance Revolution. 9) Gourmet cooking. 10) 100 meter dash. 

What, you don’t want to maintain a little tradition?

Email Steve Ouellette: ouellette1918@gmail.com