Everyone is complaining about Olympics spoilers. But are they really that bad? We discuss.
Live Not in Fear of the Olympics Spoiler.
It's not very Olympic of all of us to be kvetching so heartily over the ruin that the dreaded Olympics spoiler begets. I mean, come on, guys. Do gold medalists get their medals by spending their days whining on about how they found out who won before they had a chance to take a load off and watch whatever event that's been spoiled in the comfort of their own home, accompanied by the remote control and a bowl of low-fat buttered popcorn? No. They don't. Olympians don't worry about spoilers, because Olympians are Olympians. You'd imagine they'd figure out how to make a spoiler work for them. Yet so many of us other humans are falling victim to the alleged crimes of the spoiler, enough that The Wall Street Journal published a piece on how to avoid spoilers (pro tip: Stay off the Internet) and CNN published a piece written by Justin Peters, who's covering the Olympics for Slate, called "Confessions of an Olympic Spoiler." He too gives tips, like STAY OFF THE INTERNET.
And here you are, on the Internet. Is it any wonder you're being spoiled? But, actually, where we're all spoiled is in expecting this world of no spoilers. We created the Internet so that we could know what was going on at all times. We expect people to tweet and say things. We expect news. Really, we're going to get all upset when that actually happens, when we see something we didn't want to?
There's another factor at work here, and it is that complaining about spoilers means that you've put undue importance on one teensy element of the athletic events and the talent of those participating. Even if you do know who ultimately wins, don't you still want to watch that tiny person do backflips across a room to the theme of Phantom of the Opera? Don't you still want to watch the human whippets of the world, the sprinters, edge each other out breathlessly, so that you're breathless too, watching? Or to see the powerful, perfect strokes in the water from the perfectly muscled swimmers?
Saying that knowing who wins and who loses ruins the whole shebang for you is like saying you don't want to look at art because you know what the painting sold for, or that Van Gogh eventually cut his ear off and died. Are you really the type of person who never reads a book twice, or more than twice, or who never repeats a movie or TV show to see it more fully the second time, or just because you enjoyed it so much the first? If you are, well, you probably like surprise parties too. Let me tell you: Conclusions are a dime a dozen; what really counts is the overall quality of the entire story.
I confess, I'm one of those weirdos who not only doesn't mind a spoiler, but also, I sort of like them. Not knowing who dies in a scary movie will prevent me from watching it at all. Not knowing which gymnast wins or loses, or that someone's about to fall off a balance beam or lose the men's relay stresses me out entirely. Instead, I choose to watch knowing everything I can to start with. Less grueling that way, I think. But even if you're the sort of person who hates a spoiler, you should gird your loins and prepare for the fact that they're going to keep coming your way over the next week and a half. Find the inner strength to stop complaining about spoilers, because if your Olympics truly is ruined by them, you've let the spoilers win. —Jen Doll
Spoilers Ruin All the Fun.
First off, I must say that I am shocked and dismayed that more people didn't heed my impassioned plea last Friday to collectively avoid spoiling one another. People are live-streaming and Tweeting and Tumbling and all other manner of bean-spilling in a way that I'd hoped, foolishly it seems, we could avoid, as a nation, during these two sacred weeks. But once again I find my cries falling on deaf ears. A shame.
As to your points, Jen, I'd argue that it's a heck of a lot easier to feel breathless and thrilled when you don't know who is going to eke it out over whom, when you're sitting on the edge of your seat right along with the athletes, their coaches, their nervous parents and friends and countrymen in the stands. Yes, a large part of appreciating these sorts of mind-boggling physical and mental feats is simply appreciating the feat, the sheer will and tenacity of it all, but there's also the surprise, the discovery, the tension and catharsis to be considered. Knowing the ending removes all that, which is why I am feverishly trying to avoid any possible spoiler about today's events. That means I've wised up and will not be on Twitter, Facebook, or any major news outlet's front page for the rest of the day. I've advised friends to shut their traps, I've scolded colleagues for almost blabbing. I will not even look at this post when it goes up on our site lest a commenter or another headline gives anything away. It's rigid, and probably annoying, but it's necessary. I was foolish to think that the community would unspoil itself together. It's every Olympics fanatic for himself in this game, it seems.
But really, besides all that emotional gushing about the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, the real truth is that NBC's primetime Olympics coverage, while certainly flawed, is a tidy package of four hours of entertainment that I don't want sullied by knowing the end of the mystery. This is not about the athletics, it's not about patriotism, it's not about anything but my never-ending, selfish demand for engaging entertainment. I want to sit on my couch tonight with my full-fat buttered popcorn and be told a story. If I already know how the story turns out, I'll certainly be significantly less interested in the minute details of how it gets there. I gotta admit, knowing last night that the U.S. men's gymnastics team totally biffed it made my channel changing a little more frequent. I like watching all the athleticism, but it's got to be accumulating to an as-yet-unknown climax to truly hold my attention. Simply watching the doing of something toward an inevitable end feels a lot more like work than entertainment.
So don't ye spoil me lest ye incur my wrath. I know, I know, it's totally unrealistic and I'm sure I'll somehow find out how our five little gymnastics sprites fared before NBC airs the results near midnight tonight, but I'm still gonna try my damnedest to keep the experience as pure as possible. This is a particular fastidious energy I only use every two years, so I've got a lot of it stored up. Other spoilers I'm a bit more lax about. Tell me how The Killing ends all you want. But don't you dare tell me who nailed the dismount. —Richard Lawson
Inset by David Gray/Reuters.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.