Sunday, February 26, 2006
The Olympic flame had barely been extinguished in Torino, and desperate NBC executives had already begun scheming how to give the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver some of the appeal of reality TV.
Think about it. NBC paid $2.3 billion for the rights to the summer and winter Olympics in 2004, 2006 and 2008. "American Idol" drew 11 million more viewers than bobsledding and ice dancing combined last week. Go figure.
Do you know how much it cost to put on "American Idol"? Here's a clue: It isn't billions. Heck, they don't even supply wardrobes for the contestants -- those poor kids clean out their closets and do their best to look glamorous on network TV. Go ahead, I dare you, go through your own closet and tell me what outfit you'd wear in prime time. Would it be the brown Carhartts with the fleece vest?
"American Idol" has to be cheaper than snow to produce -- they don't even give out prize money. And the celebrity judges aren't celebrities. Tell me you knew who Randy and Simon were before "American Idol" debuted.
At least they have personality.
Name one time Bob Costas or Jim Lampley smiled during an Olympic telecast this month. I didn't think you could.
The bottom line is, NBC needs to find a way to pump up the Winter Games. I think the Winter Olympics can be saved only by paying closer attention to the qualities that make snowboarding and reality TV so popular.
For starters, can somebody tell me where it is written that only one luge contestant at a time is allowed to go down that insanely icy track? Can you imagine the carnage the TV audience would witness if they sent three or four lugers out at a time like they do in boardercross? Now there's an Olympic winter event that would bring in ratings. There would be more crashes than there are in the annual NASCAR event at Talladega Speedway.
Another entertaining event I'd like to see would be Nordic halfpipe. I'd like to see the Flying Tomato pull off some of those spinning moves on skinny skis.
Does anybody out there really think they fixed the judging criteria for figure skating after watching Sasha Cohen walk off with a silver medal after she fell on her butt? Heck, even she was stunned on the podium. That wouldn't have happened on "American Idol." Why? Because on "American Idol," the people get to decide who wins. And that's the way it should be in Olympic figure skating. Open up those toll-free lines and let fans from Beijing to Hoboken make the call.
I can just picture the skaters coming off the ice blowing kisses and signaling the digits of their dial-in code.
And while we're on the subject of ice skating, how obvious a call is it to transform ice dancing into "ice dancing with the stars?" It would be simple to accomplish. I hereby decree that henceforth, every ice dancing team at the Olympics must include one native TV personality.
Something has to be done to transform Olympic hockey. Women's hockey was far more entertaining to watch this Olympics than men's hockey. I say we go to co-ed hockey and adopt the "Survivor" model. In the future, each hockey tribe would be forced to build its own igloos and learn to build cooking fires in the snow. After every period, each team that was outscored during the preceding 20 minutes would be forced to vote a player off the tribe. They would have to immediately douse their Olympic flame and leave the Olympic igloo village.
Dude, there would be some awesome power plays.
Finally, I think that every night at the medals ceremony, a game show host -- in the case of the just-completed Olympics, an Italian game show host -- should offer the athletes an chance to exchange their medals (did those things look like glazed donuts, or what?) for a chance at $50,000.
What will it be --Felix? Do you want to keep that precious medal that symbolizes everything you've accomplished? Or would you rather have what's inside this box? It could be $50,000, or it could be 50 tickets to the next Olympics in Vancouver.
Deal or no deal?
Tom Ross is a longtime Steamboat resident. His column is published every Monday in Steamboat Today.