NPR logo NBC's New Drama: The Winter Olympics

Behind the Curtain at TMM

NBC's New Drama: The Winter Olympics

Evgeny Plushenko of Russia competes in men's figure skating during the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver before receiving a Silver medal for his performance. SAEED KHAN/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption

I'll be honest. I'm not an athlete.

Once in my very distant past after moving to a new city, I was persuaded to join a softball team. Someone told me it would be a good way to "meet people." Well, one day my coach decided I should be catcher. I figured all I had to do was merely get the ball back to the pitcher in whatever way I could, so I said yes.

Since I'd never caught anything harder than a stuffed animal in my life, I decided that I would let the ball hit the ground and roll a little. Then I would walk up to it, pick it up, get as close to the pitcher as I could and throw it back. Not long into the game, the umpire called a time out, called my coach into the batting area and asked him what in god's name I was doing there.

It wasn't long before I was very far out in left field.

"Humph," I thought to myself. "I bet none of these so-called athletes could get up on a stage and ACT!" (Big surprise: theatre, not sports, is in my blood.)

So it's not surprising that I love all the drama of the Olympics. The rivalries being broadcast on NBC right now rival anything Shakespeare can hand down. A South Korean gold medal winner seething on the podium because he has to share it with Apollo Ohno. A Russian figure skater right out of central casting looking down his nose at his fellow contestants as if he has just smelled something very terrible. And the winners wrapping themselves in their nation's flags, blissfully (or perhaps willfully) ignoring all the tears and the tantrums.

But the question is, has it gone too far? Have the Olympics slid past that invisible border we call good taste? Has the oldest, the greatest, the grandest athletic competition of them all descended to reality show status? ... The victim of excessive commercialization and just plain poor sportsmanship?

Take a listen to Tuesday's conversation. We talked about this with writers Dave Zirin and Lisa de Moraes, but let us know what you think.