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Watching the Olympics will be easier this time ... we think

Posted by Eric Wilbur, Boston.com Staff  July 27, 2012 09:20 AM

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After watching the US swimming trials last month, my 4-year-old has really been anticipating the start of these Olympic Games in London, curious to witness a variety of sports he's not normally subject to, and really probably just to have his father turn off the Red Sox for a fortnight of tranquility.

So, there we were last night, watching Switzerland and Gabon in their opening-round soccer match, at least until SpongeBob took precedence, leaving me wondering why I was watching Switzerland and Gabon in the first place. So, I decided to set up the NBC Olympics app on the iPad so I'd be able to catch the judo, equestrian, baseball, and sailing events that probably would lose TV air time to more popular events or schlocky pre-packaged soap operas.

The deal is you're supposed to be able to stream every sport live, except for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, which will be on tape delay, or as they call it on Canada's CTV, "Live," so it's a pretty intriguing tool to have for a network that insists on catering to an audience that cares more about tear-jerkers than, you know, who wins (Chad Finn has good background on the decision-making behind this).

So, I downloaded, opened the app, set up my cable system (they wouldn't accept CTV), and voila, there was a message that said, "Find out how to watch every Olympic sporting event live." Naturally I clicked on it, and...it opened the app store. Again. Thank you, Captain Redundant.

I'm guessing the "app" is really just a secondary iPad platform for NBCOlympics.com, where you can also stream live, only the app gives the added ability to push to Apple TV. So, that figured out, I discovered I was already in the portal, so to speak, and there it was, the "watch live" button for the Swiss-Gabon game. Figuring it would be a good test run for when men's water polo was in the forefront of our minds, I tested the link, it prompted me that it was loading, and then conversely informed me that this game was over. It was not.

Swimming start for that venture.

Not like it's totally necessary, what with NBC providing something like 14 years of coverage over the next two weeks over its family of five networks (plus two extra channels dedicated to soccer and basketball on Comcast). But give the much Olympic-maligned network credit; the ability to watch various sports live is a necessary component these days, especially when the network probably has lost a good portion of the male demographic by catering to its soap opera audience over the years. Do we really need to hear Michael Phelps's story one more time? Are we going to have a five-minute retrospective on the hardships LeBron James and the rest of USA Basketball faced to get to London? If I want to watch synchronized swimming, darn it, I'm going to watch synchronized swimming.

Probably not.

OK, I'm not. But the option is cool.

Sure, it's easy to goof on the Olympics, how we care about certain sports every four years, even if they may not be the pinnacle of some sports. For instance, winning the World Cup in skiing is a much greater accomplishment than a downhill Olympic gold medal. But in an age when we can no longer waste a Saturday afternoon with the "agony of defeat," it's oftentimes the only time we get to watch most of these athletes on a worldwide stage. Do we really care who wins the whitewater canoe event? Will we remember five minutes later? Of course not. Is it going to be fun to watch? You bet.

During last night's match, we chose sides. My son chose the "guys in red" (Switzerland) giving me Gabon by default. Gabon played the Swiss to a 1-1 tie in its first Olympic soccer experience. 

I knew they had it in them. Go, Gabon.

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About the Author

Eric Wilbur is a Boston.com sports columnist who is still in awe of what Dana Kiecker pulled off that one time in Toronto. He lives in the Boston area with his wife and three children. Comments and suggestions for the best Buffalo wing spots are encouraged.

Contact Eric Wilbur by e-mail or follow him on Twitter.

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