Tune in to Discover the Unlikely Superstars of the New Games

The networks may have commitment problems when it comes to doling out time to political conventions, but boy is NBC getting cozy with the Olympics: 1,210 hours of round-the-clock coverage smeared across most of its subsidiary networks including MSNBC, Telemundo—even Bravo (presumably trying to head off its burgeoning reputation as the queer-eyed metrosexual network). This much more democratic approach opens the games up for fans of less iconic events like water polo or handball—everything but Scrabble, as far as I can see—though crowd-pleasers like gymnastics and swimming still get plum prime-time spots. And it gives us a chance to pretend the rest of the world still likes us, while trumpeting the triumph of American will until our heads explode.

No matter that stars like Lance Armstrong and Kobe Bryant won't be competing: The Olympics always generates new icons, celebrating the sappy human tale behind even the most seemingly drab athletes. The latest product from the Olymp-pimp machine is Tela O'Donnell, a petite female wrestler from Alaska who sings folk songs just like her former babysitter, Jewel. And it worked: I'm so totally hooked by Tela's story that I intend to root for her, even though the women's wrestling competition is scheduled to air on CNBC in the middle of the night on August 22 and 23. And if I haven't keeled over from the agony of victory and the thrill of defeat, just try to keep me away from the synchronized swimming event.

 
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