Paul Klee: When the narrative hijacks sports, you get the Irrelevant Olympics

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Aug. 7—DENVER — Finding the Tokyo Olympics on television was an Olympic sport in itself.

The event would be called the 50-Second Login, and it would test even Katie Ledecky. Turns out, Google can only take over the world and spy on your kids. But searching "Greco-Roman on TV" is skeet shooting with a pistol, or spotting a journalist unafraid to question the narrative.

My Wednesday night, a lot of it, was dedicated to finding the USA Basketball game vs. Australia. I felt like Bill Belichick explaining his aversion to social media: is it on SnapFace? InstaChat? It wasn't on NBC, NBCSN, USA, the Olympic Channel (maybe it was, but I couldn't find the Olympic Channel either) or Golf Channel (the only channel we really need anyway). It was in a magical place called "Peacock." Google says it's a streaming service operated by NBCUniversal. Really, it's where "Yellowstone" is.

Finding the correct channel for the correct event was only half the race. Then you must login.

That's the final leg of the 50-Second Login, proving there is some truth to the idea it's not where you finish, but if you finish at all. There were no 50-Second Login medals awarded in Klee Casa. Only exasperation: What's a man gotta do to watch Kevin Durant dunk on some 6-3 power forwards from Slovenia?

By the time I found the game Team USA was up 20 on the Aussies, and I flipped to "Yellowstone."

That nightly routine summed up these 2020 Olympics pretty well. They were mostly about who wasn't there (a whole bunch of big names) and who wasn't watching (you). LeBron James and Steph Curry skipped basketball. Bryson DeChambeau lost his tee time due to a positive COVID-19 test. U.S. track star Sha'Carri Richardson got the boot for smoking weed. Serena Williams didn't go for "a lot of reasons" without giving one. Then the COVID crowd: star volleyball player Taylor Crabb was sent home due to a positive COVID test, despite being fully vaccinated and not being sick; tennis prodigy Coco Gauff testing positive at the age of 17, expelled despite near-zero risk. There was Simone Biles, showing her star power by not performing and still winning headlines. Biles earned praise and applause for focusing on her mental health. Now let's hope the sudden interest in mental health continues when CDPHE starts quarantining third-graders again. Not holding my breath.

The Olympics are about the stories, and all the big stories only served to spark more yelling.

The problem with the Olympics and so many other things at the moment is they are not about the actual outcomes. They are not about the results. They are not about comparing what worked vs. what didn't. They are about proving a point. That's why nobody watched. Sports fans can get their shady politics and COVID fearmongering elsewhere.

What will you remember from the Irrelevant Olympics? COVID. COVID protocols. Healthy, vaccinated, elite athletes sent home due to COVID protocols. Kevin Durant and Katie Ledecky. U.S. protests by athletes from the U.S.

Take Gwen Berry. She's the world-class hammer thrower who turned her back on the flag during the Olympic trials. You know that much, but do you know where she finished at the Olympics?

Exactly.

Gwen Berry finished 11th out of 12 in the finals.

But the actual outcomes were secondary.

These Olympics were about everything else. Shoot, roughly the same number of people rooted for the U.S. women's soccer team to lose as to win. Hey, at least the result mattered.

And nobody watched. Not nobody, of course, but nobody compared to past Olympics. NBC's prime-time viewership was down 50 percent from the previous Summer Olympics in Brazil, Sportico reported. Fifty percent! Viewership across all platforms was down 45 percent. Wild.

Sports are not the same anymore. They never will be. They've been hijacked by the narrative, and when competition is not about the results, people tune out. Fifty-percent can tune out.

The closing ceremonies are Sunday, otherwise known as the medal round of the 50-Second Login. Check SnapFace for your local listings.

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