Six reasons I’m glad my family has to watch Olympic commercials

Ryan Lochte's teeth outsparkle his gold medal. Ironically, they look more like braces than diamonds. Photo credit: REUTERS/Michael Dalder

This post contains Olympic spoilers. If all the coverage is still sitting unwatched on your DVR, you might want to read this another time. — Asha

We got rid of pay television and our DVR a while ago, opting to use our TV as a DVD-screening device and video game monitor. The few network shows we like we watch online. But there are two occasions when I miss regular, old TV: the Oscars and the Olympics.

In our mad scuffle to solve the problem, we discovered our neighbor had a digital antenna cluttering up his storage room. He lent it to us on the chance we could get the broadcast over the air despite our TV being housed in the basement. It worked! Free TV! Like when I was a kid!

Every night since the Opening Ceremonies, we’ve been watching the Olympic action in London. Not only are the kids old enough to sit through four hours of nightly television — even if the featured sport doesn’t particularly interest them — we have the benefit of commercial breaks.

That’s right, I’m happy about the commercials. Here’s why.

We get to talk about the Olympics.

Without a DVR we can no longer fast-forward through commercials. We can, however, mute them, which means we get a few minutes to rehash exciting moments, make fun of hairstyles and uniforms, and question Ryan Lochte’s taste in dental bling.

We get to talk about values and life choices.

In between all the quips we have a nightly, family-wide conversation about dreams, goals, hard work, and balance — and the fact that these athletes choose to forgo it to pursue their Olympic dreams.

We get to talk about commercials and corporate sponsors.

I tend to chalk the commercialism of the Olympics up to the spectacle of it all. It’s part of the entertainment for me, and some of the Olympic commercials really are clever and beautifully produced. I love hearing Morgan Freeman’s voice even if it’s promoting Visa.

Even so, it’s fun to engage the kids in a little critical thinking about the money side of the Olympics. Isn’t it interesting that McDonalds is “the official restaurant of the Olympic games?” And that Kellogg’s is advertising Frosted Flakes as a nutritious start to an athlete’s day? And that Olympic athletes aren’t allowed to utter the name of their own “non-official” sponsors, even over social media?

We get to talk about sportsmanship and fair play.

Our hearts broke when Jordyn Wieber failed to qualify for the Women’s Gymnastic All-Around Final. She was eliminated due to a rather arbitrary rule that limits participants based on country, not just qualifying score. We talked about the fairness of that rule, how judges’ rules are binding even when they don’t make perfect sense, and what would be considered a sportsmanlike response to such a rule. Some rules should be protested, others simply followed…how do you figure out which is which?

We get to talk about the wider world.

I love that the Olympics gives us a glimpse of the wider world. Yes, it’s a highly-produced glimpse of the cream of humanity, but still, it’s a thrill. My son got all excited during the Parade of Nations because he knew the location of most of the countries (his school has a fantastic geography program staffed completely by volunteers). My daughter wondered how the Queen could be so solemn during the Opening Ceremonies after jumping out of a plane!

* * * * *

All of these questions and observations come up during the commercial breaks, and it brings even more life and sparkle to the Olympics, at least for me. For once, I’m glad to be able to just watch TV with my kids in the same way I watched with my parents.


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