By now you may heard that 36-year-old Bode Miller won the bronze medal representing the United States in Sunday's Super-G in Sochi, only to be brought to tears by an aging media network grasping for human drama to drive its ratings and social media metrics. It was an agonizing moment. See for yourself.
Yuck. I'm lucky to live in Seattle where we have access to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), which not only shows the events live, but does a much better job of presenting the games themselves, rather than the aforementioned 'human' drama, which the American media is unfortunately obsessed with.
It's not enough anymore to watch Richard Sherman make an amazing game winning play on the last play of the NFC Championship. Instead, the current media trends demand that the sideline reporter shove a microphone in that player's face and conduct an interview a mere seconds after the play ended. The result in that case was ugly, but not because of Richard Sherman, rather because of Fox's interview tactics. Now we see it again with NBC pushing an athlete to describe his 'emotions' after winning a medal in what has been a frustrating Olympics for American skiers, and in a year when Miller's brother passed away.
"Bode you're showing so much emotion down here, what's going through your mind," Cooper asked, diving for drama. Tacky. Sherman-gate... Miller-gate... what's next?
As with the Sherman saga, social media exploded over the Miller interview, with most of the blame focused on the reporter, Cooper. While she could take some responsibility for not asking questions about the course, the snow conditions, turn number 6, etc., Cooper is really just a product of her environment and producers. Every hour of every day, traditional media slips in its power to influence the American public, largely thanks to the Internet and social media, but also because it is driving a celebrity culture, rather than an information culture. NBC thinks I would rather know what its like to be famous and 'human' than to know what it feels like to drive a stake in Sochi at 60 miles per hour.
What made the Olympics great? That's right, the drama of the athletic performances! NBC might do its viewers a favor and start focusing on the sports themselves rather than trying to drive a social media metric with some stupid shock tactic that the American public falls prey to all too easily. As a promoter and strategist, those shock tactics make me sick and I'm pleased I'm not in a position where I'm forced to use them. The world is full of ambulance chasers. Problem is, our fourth estate employs most of them.
At the end of the day all that should matter is that Miller won a medal. Sure, NBC managed to steal some of his limelight in the process (a la a 3 year old seeking attention), but regardless, Miller brought the heat to the Super-G on Sunday. He fought through the slushy snow, the awkward course and the crazy warm temperatures to bring America bronze at an age when he should be serving as a ski ambassador at a swanky resort. That's the American spirit. And that's what NBC should have been covering in the moments following the race.