Don't Hate the Games: A Guide to Olympics Backlash

Whenever there is anything good in this world, there are those who disagree vehemently that it is good. Never is this more true than on the Internet, and never is this more true than with the Olympics.

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Whenever there is anything good in this world, there are those who disagree vehemently that it is good. Never is this more true than on the Internet, where hate is a transactional format of its own kind, and even becomes the basis for its own "news story," sometimes. Along with "haters gonna hate," a golden rule of the web is that front-hype begets backlash. By which I mean, anything popular and universally loved must soon thereafter be torn down or reviled by a strong contingent of the curmudgeonly, cranky, or those who feel justified in ranting about something they feel was totally overhyped. Or done wrong. Or is inherently wrong, for any number of reasons.

The Olympics' Opening Ceremonies happened on Friday. Today is Monday. And, right on schedule, we have hate. But what's to hate about the Olympics?, you may ask.

Ah, the Olympics. That awe-inspiring, regularly scheduled—but with plenty of time in between to make us miss it when we don't have it—opportunity to gaze upon those who are healthier, stronger, more skilled, more dedicated, more physically talented, and more beautiful anatomically than we are. With the Olympics, a certain amount of oversaturation is a fact from the beginning. Even before it began it was already being hyped—Where would it be held? What would it look like? Who would get there?—and now it's on our TVs and computers and newspapers constantly.

For those on Twitter, Olympics-things are being tweeted about constantly. People are sharing Olympics tales on Facebook. There are Olympics-related articles everywhere we look. We're watching emotional, sentimental Olympics commercials and feeling embarrassed about wiping our teary eyes in the gym, where we like to watch the Olympics because it makes us feel a little bit more a part of something bigger, you know? We're finding it unable to turn off the channel at night, desperate to watch one more race, one more swim, or one last balance beam attempt. We're weeping along with the tiny gymnasts, gasping along with the powerful swimmers, getting angry at the losing ones who clearly could have done better, not that we have any idea what it actually takes to get to where they are. Wait a minute, we think. We feel sort of manipulated. Ooh, we hate feeling manipulated. Cue the beginnings of Olympics Hate. It can take many forms. Some of the most popular are as follows.

The Media Way. In this case, you avoid hating directly upon the Olympics themselves, because that's not only un-American it's also just an unpopular and not very fun point of view: The Olympics are great! What can you hate, instead? NBC, of course! Thus, #NBCFail and #NBCSucks have found their way into Twitter hashtagization, as Jill Serjeant writes for Reuters. People have been complaining about the ads, the online platform, the commentary, and tape delays. Another issue: NBC's exclusive broadcast rights in the U.S. and what that means for people who want to watch live events (they must find their way around it, essentially). This injustice has inspired Heidi Moore to write a piece in the Guardian in which she explains, "With the zeal of Pilgrim preachers hunting for witches, NBC has devoted itself to opposing the apparently morally and financially objectionable desire of Americans to watch a sports event as it happens."

We would so much rather you fight NBC than the Olympics, though.

The Fashion Way. Complaints abound. The uniforms are ugly. Why are the female swimmers' suits cut so unflatteringly along the arms? Don't even get started on the gymnasts' outfits. Further, the Opening Ceremonies were overstylized, a music video, practically. And did you see what the Queen was wearing?  But, come on, if you're watching the Olympics to snark at the fashion you're taking the easy way out. Up your hate ante.

The Ennui Way. They are boring. And/or "We already know what's going to happen." (But do we, really? Did you see the U.S. men take silver last night in the 4x100 freestyle swimming relay? That was exciting and unexpected!) Related: aren't there far more interesting things to talk about? Maybe. But that's besides the point.

The Meta Way. I hate it because I am expected to love it. Also, "The Contrarian Way." If this is you you probably can't help it, and nothing we can say will stop you from doing it anyway because actually this is your secret way of enjoying the Olympics. We won't tell.

The "I Miss My Old Shows!" Way. See the Facebook page, "I hate the Olympics!!! Go back to regular programming!!!" for an example of this sort of hate. A sample thought, from one poster: "Ugh and it's begun. I have tons of stuff on DVR. Hopefully I can power through it." Hang in there, sir. Someday your Olympics will come, in the form of a television marathon of some sort, most likely.

The Emo Way. I get too attached, and then they lose, and then I cry. It is too emotional! I can't take it. (In this case, your heart is in the right place even if you're a complete and total sap. You may need to take short breaks between routines, or watch something else instead, for a few hours. And stop watching the gymnasts, it's just heartbreaking! Stick with team sports if you're feeling sensitive.)

The Financial Way. There are a few different types of financial arguments against the Olympics. The hater may be angry because he or she feels the Olympics cost too much and that the money should be used elsewhere. This is, however, leaves the hater subject to a lot of questions about what they know about how the Olympics, and Olympic finances, actually work. There's always a "better" place for money to go, but that's not really the point of the Olympics, is it? Alternately, the financial hater is mad because all the athletes are sponsored and the good old days of doing it "the real way" are past us and everyone is a sell-out now (see below).

The "Good Old Days" Argument. Everything used to be better, including the Olympics. Opinions that may or may not be used to support this theory: There's too much doping now; it's not like we need the Olympics to be friends with other nations anymore; all the athletes are sponsored; all these ridiculous sports make it not worth watching. Of course, in the good old days, we didn't have television, either, but that's not stopping this person from talking about a globally televised event.

The "Good New Days" Argument. Why do we need the Olympics when we have the Internet? Short answer: We need the gifs to come from somewhere.

The "I Need Something to Write About and This Appears to Be a Trending Topic" Way. See any article titled "Why I hate the Olympics." See also: Trolling.

We have forgotten, of course, that the purpose of television and, for that matter, for sports, is to make us feel a certain way. Why would we watch it if it didn't? In the case of Olympics, I'd speculate that the hate watch is in some ways just as satisfying as any other kind. Because if you really, really, really hated the Olympics ... you could change the channel. And if you truly do hate the Olympics but want talking points so that it seems like you like them or at least know what's going on with them, there are resources for you, too.

Insets: AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill (the U.S.'s Michael Phelps & Ryan Lochte); AP Photo/Gregory Bull (Egypt's Sherine Ahmed Elzeiny)

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.