Excellence in Homerism: NBC’s Olympic Broadcast

I turned on the Olympics, like everyone else, to watch events that I care about only every four years. To see Michael Phelps regain his supremacy. To see Usain Bolt give a dose of reality to everyone who has ever thought they were a runner. To learn about different cultures. To watch outrageously gifted athletes from all over the world competing at the highest level. I wanted to be amazed. I wanted to be awed. I wanted to see how, in a world that feels so divided, we’re more than just a collection of countries during the Olympics and instead are a single global community.

But, thanks to NBC’s blatant homerism, what I got instead is the best American propaganda since World War II.

NBC’s coverage might as well have this tag line: “We know there are other countries, but we just don’t care.”

Now, claiming homerism or calling someone a homer is an attack that gets thrown around a lot. The term implies that broadcasters have an inherent bias that inhibits them from objectively analyzing and calling a game or event. To illustrate, I’ll use it in a sentence:

Troy Aikman shouldn’t be calling this Cowboys game because he’s such a total homer.

Nailed it.

Taking sides while broadcasting a nationally televised sporting event has long been deemed taboo, not to mention highly obnoxious. Which it is. It’s really annoying when you turn on a game and the commentators seem to be absolutely blind. NBC’s homer coverage of Notre Dame football games can be excruciating, especially if you’re among the viewers who hate Notre Dame—at least half, estimating conservatively. The broadcasters don’t offer anyone the opportunity to have a thought that is anything other than pro-Notre Dame. And that’s a difficult pill to swallow.

If you’re not an American, that must be exactly how it feels to watch NBC’s coverage of the Olympics.

On the other hand, though, how wonderful that viewing experience must be if you happen to be a Notre Dame fan. It must be so glorious to have announcers agree with everything you’re thinking. It must be just delightful to hear exactly the story you want to hear about the player you want to know about. It must be great to celebrate the Notre Dame legacy, which is (if not as great Michigan’s) quite rich.

It must be exactly like what it feels like to watch NBC’s coverage of the Olympics if you are an American.

Whoa, hold on. As it turns out, I still watch the wall-to-wall coverage of the Olympics. I did get super-invested in women’s volleyball. I do now know that, although the US handball team has some work to do, there may be hope for the future. I do now know that no other country can touch us in swimming. And that dude who tried to get into Phelps’ head? What is he, South African? Get outta here with that.

Thinking about it this way, I suppose a touch of homerism at the Olympics might not be such a bad thing. Maybe, in fact, it’s upping my enjoyment factor. Maybe, just maybe, the fact that the programming is specifically geared toward Americans (me) is making me so invested in the outcome of entirely boring events such as the shot put that …. Oh no, it’s happened; I changed my own mind.

I love homerism.

Yes. There. I said it. I love homerism. I feel so much better now. What was I thinking all these years? Why would we even try not to be homers? I am sick and tired of this nationwide veiled attempt at neutrality. So right here, right now, I am putting a stake in the ground and saying that all nationally televised sporting events should be home broadcasts.

Yes, it may be absolutely crazy and expensive and illogical, but look around! Open your eyes! We’re already well on our way. Take the current TV package deals that exist for the NBA, the NHL, and MLB. Each of those leagues has local TV deals in each market, but through your cable provider you can purchase some kind of package to watch out-of-market games. I know you know what NBA League Pass is, but have you thought of it as a solution to what I now deem to be the biggest problem facing sports fans—nay, the biggest problem facing our country?

My sense is that when you’re watching a game or an Olympics event, you come in with a bias of your own. Whether the bias is unfair is irrelevant. These biases affect your viewing enjoyment. So it stands to reason that you’d want a broadcast team that aligns with your point of view. Who cares about fair and equal treatment? Who wants their ideas and preconceived notions challenged, anyway? Certainly not you, America.

I mean, come on. Take a look in the mirror and acknowledge that if you’re an Auburn fan, something Kirk Herbstreit says about Alabama probably isn’t going to make you say, “Oh, yeah. You’re right, Herbie. I’m now really on board with the way the Tide do things.” You want someone who went to Auburn to get on that TV and yell at the top of his or her lungs about how Alabama is to blame for everything. And that they’re overrated and several of their national titles don’t count.

I know the vast majority of sporting events, especially football games, have a much broader audience than just the two fan bases. And I know that when big national networks such as ESPN/ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox broadcast games, it’s about bringing in as many of those neutral viewers as possible. I get it, I do. My suggestion may ruffle some feathers in the short term, but the long-term payoff will be well worth it. All I’m asking for is for these goliath networks to stop with this attempt at being fair. They need to broaden their coverage, not by making it more neutral but by making it more exclusive.

Why can’t each game have two feeds? Why can’t the networks add a third, “neutral” feed as an option? Why can’t there be even more feeds? Why can’t each game have a home feed, an away feed, a neutral feed, a drunk-fan feed, a rich feed, a poor feed, a Republican feed, a Democratic feed, a foreign feed, an R-rated feed, and an animated feed?

For the love of all things Al Michaels, don’t they know the way to make more people watch is to pander entirely to one specific demographic?

Maybe you firmly believe you won’t watch unless it’s a neutral broadcast. I was you once. But I ask you, which feed do you watch on League Pass?

My point is merely this: Be narrow-minded. Be exclusive. Tell people who don’t believe the same things you do that they’re wrong. Demand homerism on your TV!

After all, that is the American way.


Max Spitulnik is a writer based in the USA! USA! USA! You should follow him on Twitter.