By Kate Emswiler
Watching the Olympics makes me tense all over. I hold my breath and fear that the gymnasts doing aerials on the balance beam will fall on their heads, I wring my hands as divers slice downward through the air at incredible speeds, I suddenly care tremendously about badminton. Badminton, I tell you! But everyone knows that while the actual events are breathtaking and emotional, there’s even more intense drama behind the scenes. Pressure from coaches and parents, cruel remarks from teammates, photos of bong usage – it can be hard out there for an Olympic athlete. It’s obviously stressful for them – which only means it would make for juicy, terrible, voyeuristic reality TV for us.
So who should get their own reality shows? These competitors would be my top picks:
Michael Phelps. Well, duh, I know. And I also know that he has said he won’t compete in the Olympics again, but there’s so much real-life hullaballoo swirling around Phelps (and some of the other American swimmers, too) that I think it would still make for compelling TV. Prior to these Olympics, when I thought of Phelps, I thought of the bong photo and I recalled a bunch of articles from a while ago that chronicled the massive amounts of food he eats every day. (He needs so many calories because of the swimming, you see. Also, munchies.) But this year has brought more excitement, what with Phelps being dissed by his teammate Tyler Clary and then going on to make Olympics history with his nineteenth medal. He’s talked about retiring from the sport, but I still think it would be intriguing to watch him maybe mentor an Olympic hopeful, someone young and impressionable. What would that experience be like for a young, spunky upstart? I wish TLC would make it happen.
Kerri Walsh Jennings and Misty May-Treanor. As opposed to Phelps’s sport in which he is the solitary individual responsible for his performance (besides, of course, receiving support from his teammates and coach), Kerri Walsh Jennings and Misty May-Treanor rely on each other to succeed as a team in beach volleyball. They have to anticipate each other’s thoughts, operate together like a well-oiled machine. This is why the two have gone to therapy together (or “marriage counseling”) — they need to be psychologically and emotionally in tune. I find these sorts of professional “work marriages” to be fascinating. These two are admirable athletes, and it’s clear that they have a deep connection. I’d love a reality show about them, their families — and their therapy sessions. Like “In Treatment” but starring real- life Olympians.
The women’s gymnastics team. There are so many TV shows (both scripted and reality) about dancing, it makes my head spin, but where’s the show about gymnastics? (ABC Family’s “Make It or Break It” which was good, but this is one time when I’d actually prefer the real-life melodrama.) Surely there’s the same suspense from routines/”performances”: the dramatic highs of “sticking it” and the lows of losing balance. Most of all, I can only imagine the stage parents involved in a high-pressure situation like this (like these two, careening around in their seats “with” their daughter’s routine). Crazy parents can sometimes make for soul-crushing TV, but I still think that the exhilaration of Olympic gymnasts working toward the gold and totally nailing their routines would make it all worthwhile.