As any Olympian knows, there's always another medal to be won.
Record ratings and an unexpected profit have given NBC every reason to celebrate the London Summer Games as an Olympic victory. Yet the network's coverage also has inspired a barrage of criticism — and you can bet the critics are already in training for Rio.
Some, though not all, of the live-vs-tape complaints will be mitigated by Rio's more prime-time friendly time zone. And thanks to the vagaries of social media, it's not completely clear whether more people were complaining or if the same people now just have more ways to complain. Even so, there's clearly room for improvement
So with Rio on the way, here are some tips to make 2016 a happier experience all around:
•Halve the hyperbole. Understatement has never been an Olympian trait, but it still wouldn't hurt sportscasters to remember that every defeat is not tragic, every victory is not historic, and every athlete is not heroic. Which means avoiding the worshiping tone that makes it sound like training for the balance beam is akin to volunteering at a leper colony.
•Leave Ryan home. The problem isn't just that Ryan Seacrest treats athletes like celebrities; it's that celebrity, his and theirs, seems to be the only thing that interests him. He seems happy merely to be on camera next to famous people — but once there, nothing pierces that aura of vague, dull, disconnected affability.
•Get a local for local color. NBC does have Mary Carillo, who once again did a fine job of ferreting out entertaining stories, from British peerage to Shakespeare's continued appeal. But beyond her, the risk is that NBC will fall back on its old stranger-in-a-strange-land Today show approach, dressing the cast up like Carmen Miranda and teaching them to samba. Hire an actual Brazilian instead, an expert to introduce us to our largest and most populous southern neighbor.
•Keep up the good work. That's not sarcasm. We can take for granted how many difficult things NBC does well: the graphics, the special shots, the "splashometer," the unruffled Bob Costas, the improved packages and the willingness to experiment, including Sunday's decision to live-stream the closing ceremonies. Amid the complaints, it doesn't hurt to remember how enjoyable much of the coverage has been.
•And to those planning Rio's opening ceremony: Please, no history lessons, no allegories, and no attempts to right some wrong from the past. This is not the place, time or format. Just introduce us to the glories of your culture and people and throw a party — as London did Sunday with its more joyous closing ceremony. We hear you pull off an impressive blowout every year around Mardi Gras. Like that would be nice.