We've seen a lot of misty-eyed homages to British history since the London Olympics kicked off on Friday: at the opening ceremonies, or in montages about the 1948 London Olympics. But the execs at NBC are probably feeling most nostalgic for more recent history -- specifically, the days before the Internet turned covering the Olympic games for American audiences in the face of a five-hour time zone difference into a real bitch.
Whether you're the type of Olympics fan who wants the results now now NOW, or the type who just wants to surprise yourself with the results whenever you have the time, chances are you've been pissed at NBC at some point in the last five days. Last night, an NBC commercial revealed the result of a swimming race before the channel had actually played the tape of the race, causing many to accuse NBC of "spoiling" the Olympics.
Spoilers don't usually apply to newsy events like sports; it's like getting angry at a reporter for revealing the result of the Super Bowl. But NBC's time delay has put us all in a strange, unfamiliar state of spoiler limbo. When is it cool to break down the results of the day? When is your outrage justified? We break it down after the jump.
Who's doing it: NBC, occasionally; NBC-owned channels like CNBC and Bravo more regularly. There's also an app you can download to your iPad or similar tablet so you can watch pretty much any event in real time.
Pros: You're seeing it live, duh. Also, the "expert commentary" that's gotten NBC into trouble during its nightly tape-delayed replays is largely absent.
Cons: How important is that table tennis match? Because it's starting at 6 a.m.
Is it a spoiler? No, obviously. It's news.
Who's doing it: Us, for starters.
Pros: If we're doing our job right, it's almost as instantaneous as live coverage. You also have the questionable benefit of taking your Olympics with a side of Internet snark, as opposed to the earnest musings of TV commentators.
Cons: No matter how well we write about these Olympic feats, it's not going to be the same as seeing it unfold in front of you without knowing the outcome. Also: Internet snark.
Is it a spoiler? Nope. Still news. Stop whining.
Twitter posts about live coverage
Who's doing it: Everyone on Twitter. Especially Samuel L. Jackson.
Pros: Again, when done right, it's nearly instantaneous. And with just 140 characters or fewer per tweet, finding out who wins takes a lot less time than watching the whole competition play out.
Cons: If you're a Twitter addict, it's basically impossible to avoid getting updates. Also, getting your news in this form -- "OMGGG team usa wtf total losers I BLAME OBAMA" -- does not exactly give you the full Olympic experience.
Is it a spoiler? No. You can say pretty much whatever you want on the Internets. Trust us, we've tested this theory.
NBC affiliate news reports
Who's doing it: Our own local NBC 6 ran a segment during its early evening news last night about Danell Leyva, who'd competed in the men's team gymnastics finals earlier that day. The replay wasn't due to air until late last night. The reporters didn't announce the full results, but interviews alluded to a disappointing finish. (The men's team began the competition on course for a gold medal, but ended in fifth place.)
Pros: Well, we sure knew not to keep our hopes up.
Cons: Reeeeally awkward reporting, with no solid details on what actually happened. Why did we watch that again?
Is it a spoiler? Nope! Still news! See the pattern?
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Who's doing it: The Today show, which ran an ad showing swimmer Missy Franklin with her gold medal before NBC had played the race during its tape-delayed coverage.
Pros: A fuck-up on this basic level is a giant, gift-wrapped invitation for punishment, addressed to anyone who's tweeted #NBCfail in the past week. It's basically the next best thing to Tom Daley losing his Speedo in the pool.
Cons: If you are actually one of those people depending solely on NBC's replays of earlier events, well, sucks for you.
Is it a spoiler? If said commercial played on any other channel, we'd say no. It's news. But if NBC expects us all to enter this weird, alternate universe where we're all supposed to just forget the Internet exists, then it's gotta play by its own rules. We call spoiler.
NBC's nightly roundup
Who's doing it: NBC, of course.
Pros: You're not awake at 6 a.m. to watch table tennis. You feel a little better about missing important games while you're at work. You have someone deciding which sports are important for you to watch, which is at least partly a blessing. You can't watch everything, after all.
Cons: You're entirely privy to NBC's own fuckups: sappy athlete profiles, John McEnroe interviews, near ignorance of athletes who aren't competing for America. Also: Bob Costas and his creepy dad hair.
Is it a spoiler? No. But not because it's news.