Virtue-signaling Olympics 2018: Big ratings dud

After just over two weeks, the 2018 Olympic games are thankfully over.  The U.S. finished fourth in total medals but paced first in virtue-signaling and politics.  Too bad no medals are awarded for social justice, or else the U.S. would have beaten total medal-winner Norway.

NBC's ratings for the Olympics were a dud, down 24 percent from the Sochi games four years ago.  If I didn't know better, I'd think the Russians had hacked NBC to make their 2014 Sochi games have better ratings in comparison.  I'm sure somewhere there is a CNN panel discussing this very possibility.

The final day was an "icy 2018 low," said to be the lowest rated games ever. In the medal count,  it was the, "Worst finish in the medal standings for the U.S. since the 1998 Winter Olympics."

What happened?  Part of the explanation is social media.  Fans can watch events and learn results in real time rather than waiting for the NBC prime-time evening broadcasts.  But there is more.

Once upon a time, the Olympics were about sport.  "Faster, higher, stronger" is the Olympic motto.  But this year, the motto reflects skin color, gender, and politics – "Darker, more confused, and NeverTrump."

It began with the opening ceremony, for which the U.S. flag-bearer was chosen, after a tie vote, by a coin toss.  White athlete Erin Hamlin won the coin toss over black athlete Shani Davis.  Davis went to Twitter, suggesting that the coin toss was racist, and he boycotted the opening ceremony.  Big media gleefully jumped into the fray along with one of Rush Limbaugh's "Justice Brothers," the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Johnny on the spot when the scent of racism is in the air.

U.S. figure skater Adam Rippon, openly gay, promised to boycott the traditional White House post-Olympics visit, as he doesn't like Vice President Pence's views on gay rights.  Rippon got only a bronze medal, so his virtue-signaling doesn't matter much, although Vanity Fair declared him "America's Sweetheart" of the Olympics.  NBC even offered him a job as an Olympic correspondent, which he first accepted and then declined.  Perhaps he is hoping for a gig on The Today Show.

Skier Lindsey Vonn, before the Olympics, announced she also wouldn't visit the White House after the Olympics in the traditional athletes' visit, claiming she is skiing for America, not President Trump.  No kidding.  Athletes represent their country, not whoever is the leader at the time, as leaders may change between successive games.  Vonn joined Rippon with a bronze medal of her own, so it will be interesting to see if she follows through with her promise.

Then there was the VIP box at the opening ceremonies.  Vice President Pence shared the box with North Korean dictator Kim Jung-un's sister.  The two didn't speak, at least not publicly.  Predictably, the U.S. media fell in love with Rocket Man's sister, calling her "North Korea's Ivanka."

The U.S. media and the American left never met a communist dictator they didn't immediately fall in love with – Castro, Gorbachev, Chávez, Che Guevara.  And now Little Sister.  All because she smiled more than Pence, and any opportunity to bash the Trump administration is too good for the media to pass up.  Never mind that she is part of the North Korean ruling class, keeping that country's people starving and imprisoned.

Can't leave out global warming from the Olympics.  Unfortunately, Bob Costas retired from Olympic broadcasting, else we would have been treated to prime-time lectures on climate change or guns.  Instead, we heard about "record-breaking cold" for the Pyeongchang games.  Why is "winter" weather a surprise for the "winter games"?

At the same time, the New York Times was bemoaning how many cities may be too warm to host the winter Olympics.  Because it was warm in Sochi four years ago?  February weather in Sochi ranges from the mid-30s to the high 40s.  Hardly cold enough for the winter Olympics.

Global warming or a poor venue choice by the Olympic committee?  Choose Lake Placid instead, as upstate N.Y. is the snowiest place in America this winter.

It's too bad the athletes can't shut up and skate.  Or ski.  And it's too bad that the media can't celebrate "faster, higher, stronger" rather than skin color, gender, and politics, concentrating on winning medals rather than turning off their viewing audience.

We are treated to a barrage of these issues every day on cable and network news, on the late-night "comedy" shows, and on most television series.  Sports should be a respite from social justice causes and politics.

Perhaps viewers are tired of virtue-signaling rather than sport, explaining why ratings for the Olympics and the NFL both were down significantly this year.  Whether taking a knee or complaining about Trump, this is not what most sports fans want to see and hear.

Brian C. Joondeph, M.D., MPS is a Denver-based physician and writer.  Follow him on Facebook,  LinkedIn, and Twitter.