OMG did you watch the Olympics last night? Did you see McKayla Maroney’s vault work? Incredible, right? I mean, she even left one of the judges with her jaw on the floor, as evidenced above. What suspense! What drama! It all came down to the wire with all the pressure in the world on the U.S. team to perform exceptionally in their final routine in order to bring home the gold and break evil Russian hearts in the process.
Yeah, well, except that’s not how it actually went down, though you didn’t know it because NBC cleverly edited the broadcast to create drama that didn’t actually exist when the event took place live.
You see, world champion Ksenia Afanasyeva inexplicably fell on her face at the end of her floor exercise, effectively eliminating the Russians from gold medal contention, just before the Americans’ final routine. But NBC chose not to show this WTF?! moment in Olympic history because doing so would’ve destroyed the tension-filled narrative the broadcast’s producers were trying to weave.
Despite the rather newsworthy nature of the reigning world champion crashing and burning on her signature discipline, it would have completely quenched any remaining drama for the evening as to whether the U.S.A. ladies would win gold. (Strangely, NBC did show Anastasia Grishina’s earlier, and even worse, floor routine.) NBC also cleverly avoided showing the standings upon skipping ahead to the U.S. rotation, with Al Trautwig asking whether the U.S. “can deliver a knockout blow” and casting doubt upon American chances by showing Aly Raisman missing a tumble landing during warmups.
As you may recall, in explaining why NBC doesn’t broadcast the Olympics live, the network’s Mark Lazarus boasted that “the American viewing public likes the way we tell the story.” I suppose manipulating the course of athletic events is all part of NBC’s effort to tell the story, eh — or in Lazarus’ words, to create “a formula around story arcs.” Maybe NBC can also start tape delaying Notre Dame football games so that editors and producers can make it appear as though the Fighting Irish aren’t getting their asses kicked so badly most of the time?
In the meantime, who knows what other sorts of “story arc” trickery NBC execs have up their sleeves for the remainder of the Olympics. Knowing what we know now, I suppose anything is possible.