I love the Olympics but this year I feel cheated. The Olympics provide a smorgasbord of events but what fare are we served up by Bob Costas and his NBC crew every night in prime time?
A restricted diet indeed. It consists of gymnastics (not my favorite but what they do is pretty amazing,) swimming and now track and field events (no problem with any of that), diving (which is a sort of wet gymnastics) and women's beach volleyball, always women's beach volleyball, the cheesiest event in the games. Sometimes they will show the men too, but you get the feeling that is only to cover their flank from allegations of sexism.
But the whole sport is about sex. NBC is obsessed with women's beach volleyball and those leaping gals in their bikinis. I have the strong sense that if the players were wearing T-shirts and shorts like the men, they would disappear off the screen.
Meanwhile, traditional games of volleyball - as played in high schools and colleges - are also being played at the Olympics but many hours are not devoted to showing that. From this, NBC's attitude can be fairly deduced: To heck with them! They are not wearing bikinis!
Many other sports are slighted too. I have yet to see one boxing match in prime time. What of the rowing? Field hockey? Soccer? Softball? Cycling? Hardly a mention amid the leaping bikinis. To get NBC's attention, the traditional athletes need to shed some clothing and play rock 'n' roll.
I have one other beef - this one also perpetrated by newspapers, including the Post-Gazette. We are told we are No. 1 in the medals tally. Hurrah for us!
No, we aren't. The truth is that we are trailing the Chinese in achievement. Consider the medals table in this morning's PG. The United States leads with 72 medals total, followed by China with 67 and Russia with 36.
But that makes sense only if all the medals are equal in value. They aren't. They come in three categories, gold, silver and bronze, each one different from the next and worth more in honor and prestige. (If this were not so, the gold medal winner would stand level on the podium, not be placed above the rest).
When I worked on The Times of London in the sports section many years ago, they had a more sensible system: Gold medals were given the value of three points, silver medals were given two and bronze one - which reflects reality (a gold is at least three times the honor of a bronze and twice that of a silver).
Let's recalculate that table.
The United States had 22 gold medals (66 points), 24 silvers (48 points) and 26 bronzes (26 points) for a total of 140 points. Pretty good.
China had 39 gold medals (117 points), 14 silvers (28 points) and 14 bronzes (14 points) for a total of 159 points. China leads in a more realistic accounting.
But at least we all know that our leaping bikinis are doing better than their leaping bikinis - and that's the main thing.