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Tim Goodman on Why He Loves the Olympics -- And How Nothing You Say Can Change That

THR's chief TV critic says the games make for great television every two years -- whether they're tape delayed, overly packaged or surrounded by controversy.

Sochi Opening Ceremony Winter Olympics - H 2014
AP Images
Let's get this Olympics started tonight!

Every two years as we get another Olympic Games, it’s like a 50m short-track sprint in my veins (for summer, it’s the 100m dash). Nothing – not tape delayed results, pre-packaged segments for prime time or even those saccharine profiles can keep me away.

In fact, bring on the profiles! You can wrap a flag around whomever you want and I’m in. Give me a long story about a Russian athlete who has overcome some kind of crazy adversity and I’ll sit there, glued to the set.

Manufacture something trite in your scripted dramas and comedies and I’m likely to throw up in my own mouth. The Olympics? Add some trumpets!

I’ve never understood all the complainers who come out when the Olympics are on.  Yes, the primetime coverage is pre-taped and packaged. Yes, the coverage is prone to pick one or two athletes and really overdo the adulation. No, the coverage probably isn’t doing justice to athletes from other countries. Yes, there are a lot of talking heads.

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I don’t care.

As to the live stuff, get over it. You can follow it online if you want. This is a battle that will never, ever change. I’ve raged against it before as well – many times. But it’s NBC’s money and they’re going to package the best stuff for primetime and maximum viewers, maximum ad dollars. That is a dog-bites-man story. Covering it again is boring. And besides, you might not like that there’s so much tape delayed results, but guess what? A majority of the country doesn’t care -- they love the primetime packaging -- and so it’s never going to change.

All that leaves anyone is the chance to enjoy the spectacle of competition, nightly, over the course of a couple of weeks. I would never miss that. Historically, each Olympic Games has come up with more drama, more entertainment and more thrills than anyone ever expects. It’s two solid weeks of coverage that entire families can watch (so rare on television these days). And it has something for everyone if you look hard enough (granted, for some of the more obscure stuff, you have to find it via online coverage or on one of NBC’s other cable channels – but there’s a pretty handy schedule at www.nbcolympics.com (so no complaining). Oh, you’re still complaining? Fine, click here, lazy.

Now that everybody has the information they need, why resist? Don’t be a grump. Listen, even I’m into this thing and basically I’m a grump for a living. Just surrender yourself to it. Because the Olympics always, without fail, come with something that makes people want to complain, but once it all gets stripped back to the world’s athlete’s competing in something they’ve trained four years to medal in – events that are over in mere seconds sometimes – that’s when real, riveting drama can occur.

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The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, indeed.

Are there social and political issues at every Olympics? Absolutely. None more prominent this go-round than Russia’s reprehensible stance on gays. You can vote with your remote if you want – I always encourage that philosophy over censorship – but watching is no endorsement of Russian policies. The athletes competing in these Winter Games are clearly separate stories from the politics that surround Sochi. Hating the IOC – totally understandable in winter or summer. Despising Russian laws against homosexuality – totally understandable.  Angry at NBC for coverage of those issues – whatever, but let’s wait until the whole thing plays out to see what exactly NBC did in its coverage, right or wrong.

Those are all legitimate elements to cover. But so, too, are the Games themselves and the stories of those participating and the history they could make. I’m all in for short track speed skating, luge, bobsled, snowboard – everything, including curling, biathlon and the incredibly long but completely rewarding coverage of cross country skiing. There's basically nothing in winter and summer Games that I won't watch (at least for a bit).

This only happens every two years. Which means two years from now, the Summer Olympics and its swimming, track and field and whatnot will have me glued to the set again, rewriting these sentiments in some manner. I’ll take two weeks of the Olympics - winter or summer -- over any reality show ever.

Onward, to the what-the-hell-is-going-on-here Opening Ceremonies.

Email: Tim.Goodman@THR.com
Twitter: @BastardMachine