What, you ask, do you have to do to turn the ire of the sports fan away from perennial flogged horse corpse of ESPN? The answer is "Be NBC," the network whose bizarre programming decisions surrounding the winter games have momentarily surpassed the Worldwide Leader's daily foibles for the Most Hated Nation status among those who, shockingly, would like to watch a single Olympics event live and unmolested by Dreamworks promos or non-sequitur segments on polar bears.
The lack of live coverage across any of NBC's four networks, the decision to show only 38 minutes of the downhill over endless pairs figure skating on Monday night, and the clumsy production bits in between have all been covered here, but Henry Blodget breaks out the flamethrower and burns NBC's failure down to the bare, charred bones of what makes this all so bad for the Peacock:
Do you care that sports fans from coast to coast are furious at you? How do you factor this into your long-term brand-value calculations? We, personally, hate you for this. It's possible that we're alone, but based on the feedback we've received, we doubt it. That can't be good for the value of the company, can it? Especially when you make no effort to explain to people like us why you're doing this.
Hate's not too strong a word: I hate watching sports on NBC anyway, but watching Dick Ebersol broadcast the games from 1988 has been doubly infuriating because a.) this only comes around every four years, and b.) because NBC, a purveyor of crapheap products anyway, has doubled up on ineptitude and put on a clinic in how NOT to cover sports in the 21st century by making the Games inaccessible, tape-delayed, and produced on a budget of at least three dollars a broadcast minute.
The worst part is the talent they're squandering on air. Costas, having stolen Dick Clark's Pancreas of Immortality, still runs a broadcast with aplomb. The commentators across the board have been superb. (We have a special place in our hearts for Al Trautwig, who saddled with cross-country skiing sells every second like he's Billy Mays pitching Mighty Putty.) They have good talent. That's not the problem.
The problem is the absentee landlord of NBC itself, a network that last did sports effectively when Ronald Reagan was President and analog was king, and a company whose owners have let the building fall down around their ears. Having just killed Conan O'Brien and following it up with the OlympicFAIL, the only justice would be the whole thing collapsing on them with substantial casualties.