Sawatzke: Time to find the good in tape delayed Olympics

While “the tape delayed Olympics” doesn’t have nearly the same ring as the games of the thirtieth Olympiad, it seems to be the name that’s going to stick with the 2012 Olympics.
On one hand, it’s deserved. As has been discussed, ad nauseum, we live in an age where people want stuff now. If not sooner than now. And people are used to getting that. With hundreds of channels, movies and television shows online at all times, and 24/7 coverage of, well, just about everything, there is more instantly available than ever.
So, it’s understandable that people are frustrated with delayed showings from one of, if not THE, biggest sporting events in the world. Results, of course, are available instantly. But, many prime events can be seen only where NBC thinks they belong, in prime time.
Again, I get why that’s frustrating.
But. But but but. You have a choice. You can focus on the negatives. But to focus on that is to miss not only the big picture, but also a bunch of positive little pictures.
People want results to be a surprise. They want to see them live. But, results are results. Whether you see them happen on TV, or read about them on Twitter (the biggest culprit in spoilers in 2012), the results still have the same meaning. The pride you feel when a countryman wins a gold, or the disappointment when one comes up short, still resonates no matter how you hear about the results.
But, even if that doesn’t work for you. If being surprised outweighs the joy of savoring a gold medal, or historic performance, then maybe it’s time to start looking for the little joys in the Olympics. The parts of the story you don’t find in 140 character spoiler tweets.
These are the moments that truly resonate with me. They’re the pictures that stay frozen in my mind for days and weeks after. Sometimes till the next Olympics.
Would I have viewed Usain Bolt’s 2008 100-meter win a bit differently if I knew it was coming? Probably. But would I have forgotten the image of Bolt slapping his chest with fifteen meters left in a 100-meter race? Absolutely not.
Spoilers can’t take away from the jaw-dropability (don’t look for that word in the dictionary. I made it up.) of an athlete’s performance.
They also can’t take away the joy I get from watching an ecstatic athlete realize the immensity of their accomplishments. I knew Missy Franklin won the 100-backstroke about eight hours before I watched her do it. Still, I enjoyed every moment of her touching the wall, watching the scoreboard, then being overcome with joy, and being able to do nothing other than giggle and smile in a pool full of Olympians.
Another thing that neither Twitter, nor American broadcasts, ever spoil for me is the stories of triumph from little countries, where athletes mean more to their country than we can imagine. As Americans, we have a lot of stars. When one fades out, another one always replaces them. But in countries such as Grenada, you don’t have hundreds of options to fall back on. Many countries pin their Olympic hopes on just one true medalist hopeful. Watching them realize not only their dreams, but the dreams of their countrymen, is what sports, and especially the Olympics, are all about.
And spoilers definitely can’t take away from my favorite part of the Olympics. The camaraderie.
I’m not sure there is anything in the Olympics that I enjoy more than watching teammates freak out as another one of their teammates nears a medal.
It’s the reason I don’t love gymnastics. I’m never quite convinced teammates are genuinely happy for each other. And therefore I always have a hard time truly hopping on any individual’s or any team’s bandwagon. Although, I’ll admit, it’s impossible not to love Gabby’s smile, and her confidence on the way to her All-Around Gold. But as a whole, I can’t jump all the way on the gymnastics bandwagon because I’m just not convinced they are happy for each other.
But, in almost every other sport, athletes show as much happiness for their teammates performance as they do for their own.
Over the last two Olympics, the two biggest celebrations I’ve seen from the great Michael Phelps were for his teammates. Last Olympics, it was cheering Jason Lesack on down the stretch. (Okay fine that benefited Phelps too, just a little. But still.) This year, it was the clip of Phelps and Ryan Lochte in the locker room while Nathan Adrian came down the home stretch of the 100-freestyle. Both of them were imploring Adrian through the television, before yelling and high-fiving like high school teammates as Adrian secured the gold.
Two weeks from now, I probably won’t care that Adrian won the race. Regardless of how I digested the results, the heavy majority of them won’t mean anything in the weeks and months following the Olympics.
But the moments will still resonate. The memories will still mean something. Tape delay can’t take that away. Unless you choose to let it.