I’m going to hit you with two questions right off the bat: Are you watching or did you watch the 2014 winter Olympics? According to Neilsen you tuned in. The Olympics, including the opening ceremony, secured slots 1-4 in the Neilsen Top 20 TV shows during the first week of coverage. Here’s my second question: Are you or were you really watching the Olympics or was there just nothing better on TV to check out?
In the interest of full disclosure I stopped paying attention to the Olympics when the US decided to front load their 1992 basketball team with NBA all stars creating “The Dream Team.” It was anything but a competition with the likes of Jordan, Pippen, Malone and Bird ruling the court like the kings they were. It was pure domination. It was shooting fish in a barrel. Prior to that, being a pro in the Olympics was akin to committing heresy. Now it’s the norm. My how times have changed.
The era of the amateur athlete in the Olympics seems to be fading away, victim to increasing pressure to raise TV viewership which equates to higher ad revenue for the host network. The IOC knows this. They “feel” their own mortality as well. It’s imperative they remain viable and think long term or risk losing network support which means getting moved to a cable channel somewhere between “Seinfeld” reruns and “Teen Mom 2” and then who really cares?
So they need a face, a poster child that a young demographic can connect with, watch. Add to that they need players who won’t lose. Enter the era of the pro athlete which benefits both the IOC and the US as well. And who better to do this than current stars of the NHL, NBA and The X-Games? It’s win – win baby.
The Olympics get ratings, the network makes money, and the fans get to fawn over their sports heroes in primetime. And best of all: the media talking heads have something to jaw about the next day. God forbid the Olympics be called out dated, boring or worse, not sexy.
I feel that win or lose the pros go home and pick life back up where they left off, back to the NBA, the NHL and the X-Games. They go back to their guaranteed money, contracts, their endorsement deals and interviews on “Sportscenter.”
Amateur athletes return home training eight hours a day, five days a week waiting four years till the next Olympics. There’s something about the work ethic of the amateur I admire. They’re on the outside looking in, crawling around the underbelly of the sports world waiting their turn to compete on the world’s stage against the best of the best. True they compete in tournaments throughout the year but it’s not the big dance.
Now, let’s ask ourselves those questions I opened with again. Are we or did we really watch the Olympics are was there just nothing better on TV to watch?