The Buzz: Olympics Viewing Guide
By Mike Gustafson//Correspondent
If you have any amount of chlorine pumping through your veins, you’re excited for the Olympics. Football fans have their Super Bowl. Basketball fans have their March Madness. Dog fans have their Westminster Dog Show. And we have the Olympics.
This year’s Olympics, however, will take some planning and coordination. Since the Games take place across the big blue pond, there are questions you must ask: Will you watch the competitions streamed live online? Or will you hide in a cave and turn off social media/the internet and yell and shout and scream whenever anyone tells you any results because you’re watching on prime time tape delay? Since NBC has inconveniently forgotten to reschedule the Olympics around our schedules, we must adapt. Finals begin around 2:30pm, and preliminaries start at 5am (EST). When I saw the latter, I thought, “Of course swimming pulls me out of bed in the wee hours of dawn.” It’s like morning practices all over again. We retired swimmers can’t escape it.
To help prepare, here is an Olympics Viewing Guide.
I. To stream or not to stream: That is the question. Will you stream online? Or watch on prime time tape delay? While you have to imagine a lot of swimming will be shown live either on NBC or a plethora of its cable networks, you still must make a decision to watch live or prime time. This decision is the most important decision of your Olympics viewing experience: It will drastically alter your day. There’s nothing worse than waking up at 8am and noticing you missed prelims by finding some swim meme on a friend’s Facebook wall saying something like, “Phelps DQ’ed! = Sad Panda ?” So plan ahead. If you plan to watch the prelims live, you must wake early, or stay up late. Many of you already wake up that early for morning workout. Perfect time to convince your coach of the educational opportunities offered by watching the Olympics live instead of, say, swimming in freezing cold water.
However, if you plan on watching tape delay, prepare yourself: You’ll have to hole up like Howard Hughes in order to escape everyone else ruining the surprise. I just had a conversation about this very topic tonight:
“What did Olympic fans do before Twitter and the internet?”
“We waited until 8pm, I think. Then we watched whatever was on.”
“What if the race wasn’t shown?”
Much has changed since then. NBCOlympics.com, to their credit, will live stream nearly every single event. Which means that no moment has to be ruined by Facebook wall posters or email chains or Tweet DMs or tumblr spoilers. And conversely, if you want to watch every race, you can, even if you live in a cave. (As long as the cave has Internet.)
II. Be wary of inviting non-swimmers to your Olympics viewing party. This may sound like I’m hating on non-swimmers. I’m not. However. Nothing can ruin a swim viewing Olympics party more than a questioning, prying, skeptical non-swimmer. You know the types. These types ask questions like, “Why do swimmers wear Speedos?” or “Why do they shave their legs?” or “Why don’t they look like they are going that fast?” or “Is swimming really that hard to do?” You don’t want to spend the final length of the men’s 200IM explaining why Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte swim the order of the strokes in the order they do (wait… why is the IM structured that way?). Conversely, non-swimming friends can actually offer some unchlorinated wisdom that most of us had never thought about before, such as, “If a swimmer has webbed feet, can he compete in the Olympics?” (I don’t know) or “When are they going to install cameras inside the goggles of competitors so we can see the action first-hand?” (2020, best guess.)
III. Wherever you watch the swimming races, make sure there are no free-standing items that can be knocked over easily, no easily-scared cats sitting on your lap, or no one nearby who would get upset by screaming/yelling/crying/cheering. Because this will happen. You will knock something over, like a lamp, or a refrigerator, or a loved one. You will be gouged by your cat after you leap into the air, unexpectedly, as Jason Lezak charges to the wall. You will wake everyone within a 5-mile radius as you scream and yell at your TV. Remember Phelps vs. Cavic, 2008? You will frighten people with your uncontrollable emotional rants about how amazing the United States of America is. You will thump your chest and scream “’Mericuh!” and high-five the wall and pull your hair out and yell things incoherent and maniacal. So beware before you sit in your environment. Ask yourself: “Am I really in the best place to go bat-crazy nuts?”
IV. If you’re an otherwise functional human during the day… go into the cave. Shut it down. Turn off your phone. If you’re streaming the races, you don’t want any calls, emails, work responsibilities, or obligations. Your blackberry can wait 15 minutes. (Unless you’re a doctor. Then please don’t ignore your blackberry for 15 minutes.) You don’t want to run to the grocery store and remember the latest Phelps/Lochte ’12 campaign is live that second. You don’t want to be waiting at the Post Office five minutes before the start of the women’s 100m backstroke. As Bob Ross would say, find your quiet little happy swim-watching place. Close the door. Recline the chair. And become a hermit. In this age of people continuously ruining plots and pop culture movie endings (I’m already paranoid about people discussing spoilers to “The Dark Knight Rises”…) just don’t leave things to chance. This goes whether you stream or watch in prime time. I like to watch my swimming without distraction. Hermit crabs score high on the happiness scale for a reason.
V. Swimming-themed food. Super Bowl parties have tailgate snacks and nachos. Baseball has cracker jacks and hot dogs. Even pee-wee soccer has obligatory halftime orange slices and Capri Sun packs. What about swimming? Well, it’s probably not cool to host an Olympics viewing party with copious amounts of 4-year-old Power Bars and heaping bowls of pasta – there’s no need to carbo load for Bob Costas. But we do need a specific type of tailgate food exclusive for swimmers. So I suggest… egg sandwiches and chocolate milk. This might sound disgusting. Maybe it is. But egg sandwiches and swimmers go together like Haagen Dazs and offensive linemen. Eggs are breakfast food. Swimmers love breakfast. I added the chocolate milk because chocolate milk is actually good for post-workout recovery. So there you have it. Egg sandwiches and chocolate milk are the new official food of any swimming-themed party.
While this Olympics viewing experience is more complicated than 2008’s live prime time extravaganza, with a little bit of planning, and a whole lot of egg sandwiches, anything is possible. NBC in prime time. NBCOlympics.com throughout the day. Catch some live races on one of NBC’s plethora of networks. Or do as I’ll do – all of the above.
Just don’t tell me what happens until I emerge from my cave.
Mike Gustafson (@MikeLGustafson) is a freelance writer with USASwimming.org and Splash Magazine.