Walcoff: Suffering from a Beijing burnout

Those aren’t ordinary dark circles under my eyes, they’re Olympic rings. I’m hooked on watching the games until late into the night then waking up at 3:30 a.m. to give listeners of the KGO radio morning news all the results of events they won’t get to see until later in the day.

Of course, some of the action is broadcast live in the early-morning hours, so it’s not all drama-delayed, drama-denied television, but it’s close.

And with more than 10,000 athletes competing in 302 events in only 17 days, I’m approaching Beijing burnout. Sure, there have been riveting moments, but did we really have to see the women’s marathon coverage drone on and on?

How about all those preliminary heats in the track and field competition … boring. Wake me when Usain Bolt breaks a sweat. The Jamaican sprinter toyed with his rivals in winning the 100 and 200 meters, yet all we got to see of the world’s fastest man is his Muhammad Ali swagger.

How about one less story on Michael Phelps and one good feature on the equally amazing “Lightning” Bolt. By the way, do you think if Phelps swam for China, officials would request a fill-in for his public appearances? You know, someone with straighter teeth and a less goofy smile.

Actually, unlike the public relations obsessed host nation, Phelps seems incredibly grounded considering his sky-high fame.

But with all of NBC’s understandable gushing over Phelps, and the constant close-ups of his adoring mom and sisters sitting poolside, do you think the announcers could have once at least addressed the question of where’s papa? Fred Phelps is a Maryland state trooper who often took him to swim practice when he was very young, but has not been actively involved in his son’s life following a divorce when Michael was 7 years old. The senior Phelps declined all interview requests, saying this is Michael’s time and like everyone else, he was rooting for him. I guess it didn’t fit NBC’s feel-good Olympic format.

Finally, a real test for the U.S. men’s basketball team. In Friday’s semifinals, the aptly nicknamed “Redeem Team” takes on defending Olympic champion Argentina, the team that beat the U.S. in the 2004 games and is led by NBA veterans Manu Ginobili, Fabricio Oberto and Andres Nocioni. No way the Americans win this anywhere near as easily as their first six games in Beijing, where their average margin of victory was 32 points.

See them while you can. As the U.S. marches on in the last year of Olympic baseball and softball, I wonder, did the IOC simply bend to anti-American sentiment or did it just need more time for riveting events such as pistol shooting, handball and whitewater canoeing?

Rich Walcoff is the sports director at KGO Radio (810 AM) and can be heard weekdays between 5-9 a.m. on the “KGO Morning News.” He can also be reached at richwalcoff@abc-sf.com.

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