How watching the Olympics is like a sport of its own

Spectators use binoculars to watch the action during the Men's 12.5 km Pursuit during day three of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics.

The Olympics are pressure packed, aren't they?

For viewers, I mean. In today's world, knowledge is currency, and if you want to be competitive at parties and in the office, 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. Heaven forbid you become dehydrated -- watching other people exercise -- and crawl to the kitchen for water. You could miss the defining moment of Sochi 2014. Sure, you could watch 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' backstories to be moved by; the names of snowboarding tricks to learn-and-forget; and scandals and Twitter feeds to follow. I signed up for so many summaries that my inbox is crammed with news of distant athletes whom I need to feign interest in, lest I seem like a philistine.
 
Do you know what happens if you slack off? I do. Over the weekend I was so busy enjoying a YouTube video of an Indian luger whizzing down a Himalyan highway to train for the Olympics--he startled a flock of sheep--that I missed him in the actual Olympics.
 
That should have taught me a lesson, but on Sunday night when Downton Abbey rolled around, I felt the pull of the Dowager Countess, and unlike the Olympians I admire, I gave up.
 
NBC, I understand your desire to recoup your $775 million investment. But one report said you might sell as many as 5,500 minutes of ad time. That's plain cruel. How about we call a truce: We'll watch the entire Olympiad-even the ads -- if you make it less of an endurance event. Let's think three-part mini-series. Because really, if we all love figure skating so much, why can we only stomach it once every four years?

About the author

Beth Teitell writes for the Boston Globe. Her most recent book is called "Drinking Problems at the Fountain of Youth."

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