It seems the public outcry over NBC not going live with major events at the London Summer Olympics has grown into a diffuse debate over how the Olympics should be covered. Even if many of those arguments are reactionary in an economically different time for network TV, any criticism at all can easily be deemed misguided when the Olympics are so vulnerable in a more troubled world. Nevertheless, the fortitude of the Olympics is easily summed up now in London's parade of nations where we saw several near broke countries marching alongside their international allies and rivals.
But some of the American public can't look at any TV programming now without letting personal politics or other imperfections get in the way of enjoyment. We want everything now and in living hi-def without any consideration for the complicated details that still make such a thing a huge challenge. It's too easy to give a cursory look at the year we're living in and think we should be seeing live Olympic coverage on our 55-inch hi-def TV's without exceptions.
As depressing as it may be, we're not living in a time when one network can freely devote their entire schedule to mostly live programming as ABC once did decades ago in their Olympic glory years. Due to a massive sponsor investment, it's now necessary to package certain events into a prime-time slot to pay the bills and let cable and websites cover the rest. Why those carping over non-live Olympics coverage don't mention NBC Sports Network and NBCOlympics.com is a giant question mark.
The cable channel and website mentioned above provide every sport showcased at the Olympics in real time. While technical problems have prohibited many from watching the online feed when wired through a Smart TV, the picture quality is still good on a computer or laptop. It's the best compromise in watching live coverage during afternoons in America, albeit with occasional brief commercial breaks. It's also done with a "you are there" approach you won't see on NBC's prime-time replay.
With the little-seen NBC Sports Network, you have a chance to see all the obscure sports that NBC never shows. Turn on that cable channel in the mornings or afternoons and you'll see a throwback to the ABC Olympics days when the network would jump from table tennis to Judo to weightlifting within a one-hour block. They air until late afternoon in an all-live format, until the last event of the day is done.
Beyond that, however, the worst problem behind the Twitter #NBCfail brouhaha is in ignoring the potentials of what could be an even worse situation for the Olympics. With the world economy on the brink of late, how would we feel if the world could no longer afford to put on the games? Seeing broke Greece marching into the opening ceremony on July 27 was perhaps the elephant in the giant stadium that could lead to the unthinkable of an Olympics cancellation by 2016 or after.
If that ever happens, it would be the first time since World War II (1940 and 1944) that an Olympics wouldn't take place. It would also be the first time one wouldn't take place because of economic collapse.
Having foresight on those potentials makes the NBC Olympics programming decisions look less problematic and more embraceable as pure gold while we still have it. Even if that economic calamity is hopefully averted, the Olympics should always be considered on the verge of being ephemeral in a world that can't gain world peace.