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Monday, October 2, 2023

Even Snoop Can’t Save the Olympics

The Monitor is a weekly column devoted to everything happening in the WIRED world of culture, from movies to memes, TV to Twitter.

Snoop Dogg cracks people up. It’s the reason he’s been famous for nearly two decades and has been able to transition from Doggystyle to reality TV to selling Corona. Last week he did it again for an audience that desperately needed a laugh. During a segment for his show Olympics Highlights With Kevin Hart and Snoop Dogg, which is a real thing that exists on NBC’s streaming service Peacock, the two hosts watched a highlight reel of an equestrian competition at the Tokyo Games. As a horse trotted through the course, Snoop exclaimed with wonder, “Oh the horse Crip Walking, cuz. You see that? On the set! … I gotta get this motherfucker in a video!” Even Hart couldn’t stop laughing.


During an Olympic Games plagued by 13- to 16-hour time differences with North America, huge upsets for favorites like tennis star Naomi Osaka, and a raft of viewing options that’s scattershot at best, Snoop’s bit of levity felt like a saving grace. It was brief, unexpected, and almost magical—the kind of thing fans want from the Olympics’ big moments and got only rarely during the 2020 Games.

In my feeds, at least, it also might’ve been the closest thing to a viral moment to come out of Tokyo. Lots of online conversation has rightly gone to, say, Osaka’s third-round loss or Simone Biles withdrawing from the team gymnastics competition to focus on her mental health, but when it comes to big “Did you see??” moments, this year’s Games has been lacking. Part of that, no doubt, is due to the time difference, the lack of immediacy; another factor is the uneasiness people feel about the 2020 Olympics and the fact that Japan’s citizens didn’t even want the Games to happen at all. There’s also a pandemic going on, and people have bigger things to care about. But there’s something else too: Audiences just don’t watch the Olympics the way they used to.

Part of this stems from the fact that NBC, which has held the rights to air the Olympics in the US since 2000, now spreads them out over nine Comcast-owned channels and Peacock. There’s also coverage on YouTube, Hulu, the Olympics website, and the NBC Sports app. Sure, that provides hundreds of hours of wall-to-wall coverage, but it also makes it nearly impossible to find anything. Aside from a few gymnastics, swimming, and track events, few competitions were able to move above the fray. Also, because of copyright, it’s nearly impossible to post videos, GIFs, or images of the Games on social media. There hasn’t been a #PhelpsFace or unimpressed McKayla Maroney to be found—unless you count Maroney’s Geico commercial.

Which brings me back to Snoop. The first place I saw a video of his equestrian hot take was Instagram. Then on Twitter, where there’s now just a message stating, “This media has been disabled in response to a report by the copyright owner.” Comcast pays about a billion dollars to air each Olympic Games, and it understandably wants to get its money’s worth. But when the company and its partners are largely the sole providers of all the content coming out of Tokyo, there’s little room for creativity, for fandom. Events like the Olympics are perfect for Twitter reactions, TikTok duets, and Instagram stories. Some slip through the cracks, but for the most part, golden moments like Snoop’s disappear before getting the chance to go super viral. It’s a shame; everyone should get to see that motherfucker in a video.

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