Did we need the Rio Games? Oh, yes, like we’ve never needed an Olympics before. They are a balm to screens everywhere.
What a summer it’s been: The beyond-nightmarish attack in that nightclub in Orlando that took 49 lives. Images of young black men gunned down by police caught on tape, and the murder of policemen in Dallas and Baton Rouge who were simply trying to keep the peace. There has been too much blood being shed, and shown on too many screens. And all these events actually seem to test whether or not you’ve become numb.
And then—if that weren’t enough—you have the inescapable specter of a disaster of a presidential election looming, with candidate Donald Trump frowning at you wherever you surf or click past the violence, searching desperately for relief.
But oh, no! There is The Donald in the video on Facebook joking that if “Hillary Clinton gets to pick her judges,” maybe Second Amendment people will be able to take her out. Did he say what he meant—or mean what he said? Either way—what a cutup! What doesn’t pass for “funny” is not at all worthy of any GOP nominee for the highest office in the land.
Trump’s latest outrage was made 10 days after the end of the Democratic convention that seemed to give Hillary Clinton a substantial bump in the national polls. But it’s important to note, too, that Trump’s odious remarks come four days after the Olympics’ opening ceremony stressed the warmth of worlds working and playing together. In a twisted kind of way, I think his verbal violence, coupled with the seemingly endless stream of physical violence, may be a boon to the Games. People feeling the need to vote for the lesser of two evils have the chance, for two weeks, to celebrate the greater among ourselves.
I know the complaints about the Games: that they are overly commercialized, drugged- and reality-showed-out. It’s all fair criticism. Still, the Olympics remain a stunning display of global athletic excellence.
My friend Rob Edelstein, with whom I worked at TV Guide and Broadcasting & Cable, has been writing about media and sports for maybe as long as I have, and he put it succinctly: “I admit I was looking forward to getting lost in the Olympics. After all the dirt, I need that kind of bath.”
Sure, I know that the early data on the surface may undermine my theory. Much has been made about the double-digit decline of TV ratings for the Rio Olympics. With some reason, NBC spinmeisters argue that the ratings decline will be offset by folks recording favorite events, as well as by those streaming the Games live. NBC has probably added to the decline in TV ratings because it’s done a bang-up job of making its online interface user-friendly for screens everywhere.
But Netflix has felt the pinch from the Olympics, which bolsters the streaming argument. Netflix streaming traffic was down an estimated 10% compared to the same time last year, according to Procera Networks. Meanwhile, a consensus of advertising savants believe that when all is said and done, the Summer Olympics will bring in the gold, at least approaching the $120 million NBC won in the 2012 London Games.
When all the Rio numbers are tallied together, including TV, DVR and streaming on myriad platforms, the Games may end up a bit short of London. Still, the Summer Olympics, given all the competition for our time, will rack up massive stats.
And beyond the stain of doping (no small thing, that), what’s the worst you can say about the Games? We’re clicking on cupping. #PhelpsFace is a hilarious meme. (Maybe President Obama will do a selfie with Phelps, as he did four years ago with McKayla “not impressed” Maroney.) As they said in the movie “Diner,” “It’s a smile”—and one lots of cross-platform viewers are making. In the midst of this summer, who among us couldn’t stand for an Olympics Everywhere cleanse?