The night I lost the Olympics

My Olympics almost ended Friday night. Cold turkey.

The cable went out at 7:50, 10 minutes before my nightly prime-time Olympics fix. "One moment please," read the message on the otherwise black screen. "This channel should be available shortly." Like the addict I am, my heart started racing, my breathing turned shallow, my skin went clammy.

There was no relief from Olympics withdrawal. Not even a digital stream--Time Warner Cable provides (or doesn't) my Internet as well as TV service.

The moment turned into 30 futile minutes on the phone with the TWC customer disservice agent who confirmed that I was SOL on all Olympic fronts; that it was a problem on my end; that the earliest service appointment was Monday, the day after the closing ceremonies.

Instead of a world record in the women's 400m, my hot date Friday night was a book about a guy dying of cancer. My prospects for watching the rest of the Olympics seemed terminal.

Like the rest of the civilized TV-watching world, I loathe NBC's prime-time coverage of the Olympic Games for its jingoism, its provincialism and its lack of journalistic juice. But my name is Ellen and I'm an Olyholic. As far as I know, there is no 12-step program to sever the unwholesome attraction I have for All Things Olympic.

Well. Not all things. Basketball and tennis do not belong in my Olympics. Kobe's a great athlete, but he represents the Olympic ideal like Saudi Arabia represents women's rights. Serena Williams is a great athlete, but her skill on the tennis court is matched by her lack of grace off of it. Rhythmic gymnastics, beach volleyball and BMX racing do not belong in my Olympics. They're all just over-produced versions of games we played in a vacant lot behind the 7-Eleven when we were 9.

I still watch them because I can't help myself. But I wish NBC could help itself - Give us sculling! Give us archery! Give us pentathlon! -- and in that way help to make Americans somewhat less annoying.

In addition to swimming and track and grown-up volleyball, NBC, gimme a chance to get hooked on taekwondo or judo or handball, for cryin' out loud. What is handball? Racquetball without a racquet? What's repechage? Just another word for loser? I'll never know because NBC hasn't interviewed Michael Phelps since yesterday, so it doesn't have time to make me a better addict, just a conscripted groupie.

NBC, grow some guts and ask the next athlete who ascribes her success to God if that means God deserted the losers. Ask the next gold medalist who's getting 25 grand from the USOC (possibly tax-free) and who talks about all the hardship and sacrifice if the single mother who works two fully taxed minimum-wage jobs just to pay the rent doesn't suffer hardship and sacrifice.

That, my friends, would be a mainline fix.

NBC, I double-dog dare you to ask Lolo Jones, the gorgeous 30-year-old hurdler who poses nude for ESPN and says that maintaining her virginity is harder than training for the Olympics, if she sees anything contrary about that.

The Olympic Games, for all their druggy ether and commercial overkill, remain a wonderful celebration of human ability and diversity, and a fount of good stories. If only NBC would show it in prime time.

On Saturday morning I had been without a Cynthia Potter fix for 36 hours and could barely stay vertical. She has the eyes of a fly and is not afraid to tell someone who just jumped off the equivalent of a three-story building that her dive was "horrible." That woman scares the hell out of me. I can't live without her.

After a restless, Bob Costas-free night, at 7:55 Saturday morning, my fingers were poised on the telephone keypad. I had prepared an appeal for the TWC customer disservice agent unlucky enough to catch my call. I would plead medical emergency if their technician couldn't heal my cable before nightfall.

Then the phone rang. It was TWC asking if my service was restored. I turned on the TV where Japanese and Korean people were playing volleyball! The outage, it seemed, had lasted until 3:30 in the morning, involved 200 customers and was due to "a possible pole problem. It happens," the technician said.

You can't imagine, I replied, the depth of my sacrifice and hardship.

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