Keeping up with the Winter Games tests one’s strength

Figure skaters Meryl Davis and Charlie White of the US.
Figure skaters Meryl Davis and Charlie White of the US.

The Olympics are pressure packed, aren’t they? For viewers, I mean.

In today’s world, knowledge is power, and if you want to be competitive at cocktail parties and in the office cafeteria, you’ve got to be as focused as an athlete.

NBC is running 1,539 hours of programming across its broadcast and digital platforms, and an unprecedented 18 nights of primetime coverage. That’s more than 85 hours a day — a feat that would challenge even Hermione Granger and her Time-Turner. Heaven forbid you become dehydrated by watching others exert themselves and crawl to the kitchen for water. You might miss the defining moment of Sochi 2014. Sure, you could catch the replay — but then you might miss another Moment, and pitch yourself into a credit card debt-like spiral from which you could never recover.


There are athletes’ back stories to be moved by; the names of snowboarding and figure skating tricks to learn and forget; and scandals and Twitter feeds to follow. She who is ignorant of the fifth snowflake’s epic fail during the Opening Ceremonies, or who isn’t following @NordicCombined, will be a dull girl indeed.

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I’m so fearful of falling behind that I signed up for every Olympic summary I was offered, and now my inbox is crammed with news of distant athletes who I’m supposed to care about, lest I seem like a philistine. Do you know that German luger Andi Langenhan is haunted by the fact that he lost the bronze by a half a second? I do.

I almost forgot to mention all the hashtags you need to look out for. More than 430 have gotten “official” designation. I’m pretty sure that that — along with Pringles as an official sponsor, and $8.95 Team USA logo shot glasses — is something the ancient Greeks didn’t anticipate.

The Olympics carry such cachet that watching Latvia play Switzerland in men’s ice hockey feels virtuous in a way that taking in a Bruins-Anaheim Ducks game does not.

I’m ashamed to say that just a few days in I’ve already slacked off — and paid the price. On Sunday I was so busy enjoying a YouTube video of an Indian luger whizzing down a Himalayan highway to train for the Olympics — he startled a flock of sheep — that I missed seeing him perform in the actual Olympics.


That should have taught me a lesson, yet when Sunday night rolled around, I felt the pull of “Downton Abbey” and the Dowager Countess, and unlike the Olympians I admire, I gave up.

NBC, I know that after spending $775 million for the right to bring us the Games you’re eager to recoup your investment. But a reported 5,500 minutes of advertising time (according to one estimate)? That’s cruel.

How about we call a truce: We’ll watch the whole Olympiad — without fast forwarding through the tear-jerker ads — if you slim the broadcast to a tasteful three days. Think miniseries. Because really, if we all love figure skating so much, why can we only stomach it once every four years?

Beth Teitell can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @BethTeitell.