Watching the coverage of the Rio Olympics this week has made me feel a lot of things that are typical each time I watch the Olympics. But this time I also felt a whole lot of annoyance at some of the truly stupid things I have heard and read. And when I’m consistently annoyed it usually means something more is going on with me. That kind of annoyance and sometimes anger usually means that something I care deeply about is being threatened or challenged in some way.
- While commentating on the women’s gymnastics competition, Al Trautwig, NBC announcer, said Simone Biles was raised by her grandparents “but she calls them Mom and Dad.” When the twitter-verse called him out, he then poured salt in the wound by tweeting that “They may be mom and dad but they are NOT her parents.” He deleted the tweet pretty quickly – and later apologized. And in doing so, I hope that he – and others who have followed this story – have learned from the experience…that words like this undermine what adoption is fundamentally about, and deeply offends adoptive families. According to the AACAP, approximately 120,000 children are adopted in the United States every year. I am certain that each of you reading this knows someone that either was adopted or has adopted a child. I myself seriously considered – and even tried – to adopt a child. I know firsthand how courageous it is for people to choose this path, and I know firsthand how it feels to love children that I did not give birth to. I know firsthand how comments like Trautwig’s hurt. I find Simon Biles inspiring in so many ways – including the way she handled this in the press by saying “I personally don’t have a comment. My parents are my parents and that’s it.” Drop the mic. Good for you Simon Biles! People can learn a lot from you!
- Next, Jim Watson, an NBC commentator, said the women’s gymnastics team “might as well be standing in the middle of a mall” while talking with each other during the women’s team competition. What an utterly asinine and offensive thing to say! Listen up NBC. While I do hope they enjoy earn some money from endorsements so that they can enjoy a trip to the mall at some point…please refrain in the future from making insensitive, offensive, sexist comments about a team of young women who were clearly gathered to compete for an Olympic gold medal. These young women are the VERY BEST in their sport IN THE WORLD and are competing in the freaking Olympics. About to win the gold. For the second time IN A ROW. These women played as a team, and won as a team. They encouraged each other, and excelled together. No my friends – they were not there to shop. They were there to win.
- This is one of my favorite headlines of the week: “NBC Blames Women for Late Olympics Broadcast, Extra Commercials” When asked about the rational for not broadcasting the Opening Ceremony live, John Miller, NBC Olympics chief marketing officer, said “The people who watch the Olympics are not particularly sports fans. More women watch the Games than men, and for the women, they’re less interested in the result and more interested in the journey. It’s sort of like the ultimate reality show and mini-series wrapped into one. And to tell the truth, it has been the complaint of a few sports writers. It has not been the complaint of the vast viewing public.” So somehow this is MY fault? That I have to pay for a cable subscription in order to watch my favorite events live online instead of live on TV? Let me be very clear. I will watch the Bachelor when I need my reality TV fix. I AM a sports fan. When I watch the Olympics, I watch for the competition – and am most definitely interested in the result. People – we are the “vast viewing public” and we need to speak up! By the way, I read that the ratings for the Rio Opening Ceremony were the lowest since 1992. So – let’s learn something here and be better next time, ok?
- Geno Auriemma, the women’s basketball coach, keeps being asked if he thinks it’s bad for his sport that the US is so dominant in women’s basketball.Is anyone asking this about men’s swimming?? I, along with a large crowd of people, watched (live on TV I may add) Michael Phelps win his 22nd gold medal last night by winning the 200 IM. All of the coverage since has been positive about the records he is breaking…first to win 4 in a row in his event, first to win 13 individuals golds since Ancient Greece…The Ravens paused their pre-season game to watch this happen! Don’t get me wrong – he absolutely deserves this kind of attention. He’s incredible! But – no one is complaining about his dominance in his sport…no one is commenting about the dominance of men’s basketball…so why is this even a question for women’s basketball? Here is Auriemma’s awesome response (he by the way also coaches women’s basketball at UCONN. As an aforementioned SPORTS FAN, I know he also dominates there as well.) “We live in that Trumpian era where it’s OK to be sexist and degrade people that are good, just because they’re the opposite sex. We are what we are. We’re never going to apologize for being that good. We’re never going to apologize for setting a standard that other people aspire to achieve…These are Olympians. They’re supposed to play at a high level. They’re professionals, they’re supposed to put on a show, they’re supposed to entertain. So, what are we supposed to do? Just go out there and win by a little? Just like I say at UConn, we’re not bad for women’s basketball. What’s bad for women’s basketball is when nobody’s great, because then you could say, “You know what? I don’t think anybody really knows how to play this game.” I think people will say that there are some really good teams out here and when you see them play each other, they’re great games. Serbia was up 20 the other day and lost to Canada. These are great games. We just happen to be somewhere else right now. That’s okay. I don’t mind.”
- There have been comments made that Katie Ledecky swims like a man…and Jim Watson said that Simon Biles “might even go higher than some of them men” on the uneven bars…So I ask the question again – why the comparison to men? Can’t we appreciate their excellence without the unnecessary comparisons? Are men’s sports the standard set for the rest of us to aspire to? I sure hope not.
- And finally – 6… Calling Simone Biles the next Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps. What a brilliant response by Biles: “I am not the next Usain Bolt of Michael Phelps. I am the first Simone Biles.”
Athletes like Biles make me so hopeful about our future. She has managed to redirect the media coverage to focus on what is truly important and to disregard the rest. She must have been raised well be her parents ;-).
Week 1 is about to end. I sincerely hope that NBC and the rest of the media is listening to the feedback being shared and improves their commentary and coverage.