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Olympics: Constant Watching

By RD Heldenfels Published: February 11, 2006

Slept in a little this morning, but I wasn't awake very long when I found myself watching Olympics biathlon coverage. We took two of the cats to the vet for a checkup, and I was a little irked that the TV set in the vet's office was tuned to CNN. Although I considered asking if I could switch to the Olympics, we didn't wait long enough for me to raise the point.

We've been in and out of the house most of the rest of the day, and when we have been in, I have had Olympics on -- hockey, skiing, whatever I can find. I have pondered Michelle Kwan's condition and almost become used to NBC's obsession with Bode Miller. (I said almost. That Robert Redford/Bode Miller profile was way too much.) I am not yet tired of the glorious shots of mountain scapes, and at commercials start flipping around in search of another channel with the Olympics. (NBC, if you must run yet another promo for ''Deal or No Deal,'' I'll be over at CNBC watching Canada-Italy women's hockey.)

This worries me. Watching the Olympics is a marathon activity. There are days to go, and in a week or so I may be burnt out.

Besides, I have other things to watch and other things to do. Then I think, well, if we go out tonight, I can put the DVR on for the Olympics -- or catch that 1 a.m. replay. And maybe I can record my regular shows at night and catch up on them during the day -- unless there's some more good Olympics on.

I know many of you are facing similar questions, and probably wondering how this has come to past. If, for the better part of three years, I don't care about how Austria's Michael Walchhofer does in Alpine skiing, why do I care now?

Because it's different. Because it's often unpredictable. Because it's a chance to watch people who are the best at what they do, even if I don't entirely understand what they do.

Hockey, I get. And you don't need to know much to recognize that Canada's current 12-0 lead on Italy is a whuppin'. But any event involving style points tends to be a mystery. And still I watch, and find myself muttering things like ''nice landing.''

As much as we may complain about coverage -- oh, there's Bode Miller in a graphic again -- we are getting to see beautiful pictures, in regular speed and slow-motion, of grace and grandeur, and people falling on their backsides. There's a chance of scandal, or at least NBC hopes so -- hyping tonight's coverage with a reminder of the skating drama of four years ago. And so far, in what I have watched, I have been spared those overdone personality profiles that slow everything down and turn athletes into wallpaper for a replay of ''Everybody Hurts.''

In other words, in case you have forgotten, sports coverage is one of the earliest forms of reality television. And even when we are watching tape-delayed, carefully edited competitions, there is a chance for surprise -- and an opportunity to see something that feels fresh, since I haven't watched it in years.

And, even though Canada's now up 14-0, I feel as if I'm missing something.

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