Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Hatin' on the Hype

My Sinophilia is reaching embarrassing proportions. Would it be too much to describe myself as "Chinese-American" (that's a joke--I'm about as white as it's possible for even an Irish-extracted lass to be). How cheesy is it that I teared up while watching the Chinese men receive their gold medals for gymnastics, and while watching footage of the young man who found and returned a ring lost by one of the U.S. beach volleyball players? I think it's good for my daughter if I am excited about and interested in things that are Chinese, but I do realize that it can easily become one more arena of maternal embarrassment (hers, not mine), and that it smacks of all kinds of racism, fetishism, exoticism, etc.

On the other hand, I think my response is appropriate giving the freaking hype on American TV, where it's "All (and only) US, All the Time." Seriously: I had to watch the oddly charming Canadian affiliate to get to see most of the men's gymnastics team final, and there was nary a word in the local paper, since all the coverage was of Michael Phelps. I am not trying to diss American athletes--they are a talented group of folks, who have worked hard. But it's been a shock to see the Canadians cover the games without all that jingoism and "America first" crap. It was fascinating to hear their completely invisible announcers describe the strengths and weaknesses of each gymnast, without pretending that the American team was genuinely a contender for the top medals. They were generous about each athlete's strength, measured yet fair about his weaknesses, and said things like "this young man is holding up beautifully under the pressure." Not only that, but they showed almost all of the rotations, not just the top three scorers or the "western" teams, as is so often the case with U.S. coverage.

In general, I've been pleased by the generosity of most of the U.S. announcers toward our hosts. The world seems to realize how much these games matter to China--the spectacle, as well as the competition--and to respect the effort that has gone into them. But please, folks, a little more breadth in the coverage would be great. And did I mention that the Canadian coverage has far, far fewer commercial interruptions? I don't want to become one of those "bash the U.S. and love on Canada" liberals, and I can already anticipate the jokes about how the Canadians don't have enough viable participants to warrant the kind of hypernational coverage the U.S. demands, but a little perspective would be nice. I'm just sayin'.

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At 2:15 PM , Blogger K said...

Oh, I agree with you! The only thing worse than some of the incredibly misogynist and otherwise stupid commercials that are being shown is the hype. Some of the American commentators are great, and discuss other nations and their athletes, but too many of them are focused on the fake hysteria and idiotic "drama" that they build around certain athletes. The Puppy Games (shown on Animal Planet opposite the opening ceremonies) had great send-ups of this: "This young pup had to overcome her need for lots of naps to train for this event. And, her younger littermate couldn't be here to support her. What a tragedy for little Fuzzy!"

I wish I could see the Canadian coverage as comparison. Enjoy, and post again to let your faithful readers know what other differences you might spot!

At 4:27 PM , Blogger Julia said...

The Old Country was plenty nationalistic about its own athletes. But they showed all the rotations. American coverage still pisses me off, and I have been here for more than half my life now.
So, how do I get me a feed of that nice Canadian affiliate?

Also? I was gonna throw up if I heard just one more announcer refer/imply that Jason Liesec's incredible swim was for the purpose of keeping Phelp's dream of 8 golds alive. Would it kill them to give credit to the three other swimmers in the relay? Who all had faster splits than Phelps?

At 5:16 PM , Blogger Snickollet said...

Wonder if I have Canadian coverage . . . what a great idea.

For the record, I totally cried when the guy found the volleyball player's ring.

At 7:13 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I loved it when he found her ring, and again was so happy watching the Chinese ladies team last night. You could see how much this meant to them for their country, to perform so beautifully on such a big stage, to hear them chanting for these young women and the pride they seemed to exude for their country was great.

I found the slant towards the other relay swimmers supposedly "doing it for Phelps" highly irritating as well. Luckily that kid seems to give credit to others, his teammates appear to respect and like him.

I never EVER thought I'd say this either, I almost miss Jim McKay and his little pieces about the host country and stories about the locale and it's history. I can only imagine he'd make me misty-eyed with one of them.

I agree the coverage is crappy, but overall, I love watching the Olympics, not just the USA, but the pure sportsmanship you see in so many of the events where this is the only high profile event for the athletes that participate. No where else will I see a Judo competition on TV, or synchronized diving, or fast track cycling...or competitive kayaking, it's just really neat.

At 2:12 PM , Blogger Lyndsay said...

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At 2:13 PM , Blogger Lyndsay said...

Haha... I'm a Canadian who has been sitting at home watching my AMERICAN affiliate. It's nice to cheer for a winning team sometimes!

At 6:03 AM , Blogger Steph said...

I completely agree with you. Every night as I tune in to the Olympics I wish we could watch it from some other country's perspective! It's all US athletes. It's making me crazy!

At 4:53 AM , Anonymous Elaine said...

Yeah, I hate to disillusion you, but if you watched the Olympics from Japan you'd see ONLY Japanese athletes. Trying to get news about any competition a Japanese athlete isn't in requires expensive cable coverage!!

At 9:11 AM , Blogger Dorcasina said...

Thanks for all the international perspectives! Since my only (reasonable--as in, not expanding my cable coverage) options are the U.S. network or the mysterious Canadian channel, I'm sticking with the Canadians--who did cut away when a Canadian was actually competing, but quickly returned to whatever event was in session. The women's diving was fantastic!! My daughter watched Guo Jingjing win yesterday, and was amazed and thrilled that that beautiful, poised athlete was from China, *just like her*....


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