It’s making the rounds. You’ve seen it. The blogs are afire with rants about how American TV sat on “the saddest story” of this Olympiad, wherein due to a timekeeping error a South Korean athlete lost to a German competitor in the Epee medal round.
First, “The Saddest Story”? Seriously. You mean that, only two days into competition, we already have the story of greatest heartbreak? Or was it plus triste because the South Korean competitor remained on the piste, weeping, in protest of the decision? Hyperbole aside, while worthy of all the protests filed by the South Korean team, I don’t know that this is what I’d even call “sad.” It’s unfortunate, but it’s hardly the first time such an error has been made.
And then there’s the complaint itself: NBC neglected this story, didn’t air anything about it in their primetime coverage, and that act is worthy of heaps of abuse. Here, I can’t help but laugh. Not just ten years ago, Olympic coverage of fencing in its entirety was relegated to a few 1.5 minute highlights dunked in right before a commercial break. And if NBC had aired something about this controversy, what about the thing that got bumped? Someone is sure to be upset because they aired this story instead of some heartwarming tale of parental indulgence of their child’s athletic obsession.
Let’s be honest. American’s don’t give a gnat’s overcoat about fencing, much less a bout in which no American is competing. I’d wager that, of the Americans actually familiar with the word “epee,” 90% of them learned it via crossword puzzles. If one of the competitors in this controversy had been an American, do you think NBC would have aired the story? Of course they would have. They’re an American broadcast company, but this story had no chance against all the hype and focus the American public has on Phelps, Lochte, and other marquee athletes.
No, this is just another example of the perfect being the enemy of the good. Whiny bloggers and sportswriters are piling on NBC for giving this story a pass, when what NBC is providing is the most comprehensive coverage and access, ever. Period. I knew about the this controversy the day it happened; it was on the NBC iPad app, in the fencing section, and I was able to watch the match itself, on streaming video. The fact that I was able to read about and see video of this controversy at all is notable and worthy of praise.
I, for one, will not condemn the entire NBC effort because they didn’t air one story. And I like fencing.