People really hate the TV coverage of the Olympic games in a special way this year.
Increasingly over the decades, coverage has had less to do with the actual competition, and more to do with the personal struggle of an individual athletes. The more drama, the better the storytelling and that’s what the Olympics are now — personal stories. Oh, and the medals. Except that a lot of the Russians aren’t there and what fun is that?
“The people who watch the Olympics are not particularly sports fans,” John Miller, NBC Olympics chief marketing officer, told Philly.com, which says NBC has plenty of marketing data to prove it. “More women watch the games than men, and for the women, they’re less interested in the result and more interested in the journey. It’s sort of like the ultimate reality show and miniseries wrapped into one.”
But a sloppy attempt at storytelling and drama got commentator Dan Hicks in trouble when reporting the competition with Hungarian swimmer Katinka Hosszu.
She obliterated the 400-meter individual medley on Saturday night. And Hicks, when Hosszu’s husband and coach, Shane Tusup, was shown on camera, said he was the guy responsible for what just happened.
Hosszu's husband was hype as hell when she broke the WR ?? love pic.twitter.com/f1dN6nIFiG
— Tempa (RIP Depz) (@QuickTempa) August 7, 2016
You could guess what came next.
OK, so Hosszú (swimmer) shatters a world record by 2 seconds, and NBC's broadcaster gives the credit to her husband and coach. WTF? #Sexism
— Tim Gibson (@timgibson) August 7, 2016
Newsflash: it was Hosszu in the pool. It was Hosszu who smashed a world record. But her husband is the one responsible for it? That's sexist
— Lauren Rankin (@laurenarankin) August 7, 2016
— Jessica T. (@JessToddy) August 7, 2016
The TV audience doesn’t follow most Olympic sports, so Hosszu and Tusup’s story isn’t going to be familiar to them. Not unless you read the New York Times story of an intense — some suggest abusive — coach whipping a medal-less Hosszu into a winner.
When the diffident Hosszu dons her swimsuit and stuffs her schoolteacher’s hair bun into a latex racing cap, she turns into a superhero with reserves of stamina and confidence. The swimmer who felt overwhelmed by the pressure to succeed in London has since become the first athlete to surpass $1 million in Word Cup series prize money for individual races and overall finishes and averaged more than 100 races a year.
She has accomplished all of this with her husband overseeing all the aspects of her preparation, to the unease of some in the tightknit swimming community. Tusup is more temperamental than Hosszu, and his eruptions on the pool deck have elicited stares, complaints and calls for his removal.
“I always say if you find a coach who can make you a step or two better, or if what we’re doing is not working and you think there’s something you need to change, you need to tell me because then I’ll step back, that coach will step in, and we’ll be happy,” Tusup said, adding, “She has that offer to this day.”
Maybe being a step or two better was the difference between a medal and heading for the showers. In any event, it’s a more complicated and contextual backstory than a TV announcer can risk telling in the age of instant outrage.
Earlier, a commentator said Katy Ledecky “swims like a man.”
Maybe the fellas should sit this gig out.