Commentary

Listening For The Sound Of One Hand Clapping... In An Athens Arena

Can't find the big Olympic crowds in Athens stadiums? Don't feel the TV drama of the games? I say good- riddance. NBC may think so as well.

Many publications, such as the Los Angeles Times and USA Today, are too focused on the low turnout in the stadiums as they watch early rounds of gymnastics, swimming, team handball, and other sports. There was a concern early on the small number of Athens spectators were hurting the ratings.

It doesn't. And who cares?

Through four days, NBC's ratings were up 2% to a 14.7 from the first three days of the Sydney Olympic Games. The first three days ratings don't even count the incremental viewership from CNBC, Bravo, USA Network and Telemundo. Hey, maybe big stadium crowds bring ratings down?

As far as I'm concerned, you can pole vault in a grain elevator - with only the grain watching. Sound? Play baseball and only hear the crack of the bat or the smack of the glove as I hear the resonance of the sipping of my Arnold Palmer.

Athletes will talk about a home court advantage -- the noise and excitement - - but in reality, it's all about concentration. Remember, "being 'in the zone." You've heard it before. The zone. That's where athletes say everything goes quiet -- where athletes say they can't even hear the crowds. And haven't we seen some world records broken in only the first few days?

Early press articles were hinting that NBC was seeking help from the Athens Olympic Committee - like encouraging the group to give away free tickets just to make the TV drama and excitement look richer. The press, we now know, has been wasting its time.

These Olympics are showing that NBC made the right sports decision in abandoning those fickle traditional sports -- baseball, football, and basketball -- and only take on the sports that consistently bring in great numbers, no matter where they're played or how many live spectators are watching.

For me if the sport is good and the competition is intense, less is more. I'd rather just hear the splash of the swimmers, the grunt of the runners during 100-meter dash, or the thump of the long jump.

Okay, I'll concede the value of some sound in one sport: A laugh track for synchronized swimming. Or is that just the voice chuckling inside my head?

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