Guns at the Games
You’d think the Olympics are a “gun free zone.” You know what those places are. They are locations where terrorists and mentally challenged misfits go to commit violent crimes because they know they will have many minutes, if not hours, to do their misdeeds before anyone legally entitled to pose them an armed resistance will arrive at the scene.
Actually, the Olympic Village and the sporting venues are probably gun free zones when it comes to private citizens and most athletes being allowed to pack a gun. But you’d never know every four years around 400 of the Olympians at the games show up packing handguns, rifles and shotguns to compete in shooting sports and another 125 show up with archery gear. The USA’s shooting team consists of 20 Olympians including Kim Rhode, a shotgunner who has represented our country (and won medals) in five previous games.
When the modern Olympics started over 100 years ago, shooting sports were a vital part of the games. Shooting sports have continued ever since. Early on, the winning shooters from around the world gained every bit as much fame as winning gymnasts, runners or swimmers. Not so much, these days - at least not in the USA.
If you're like most sports enthusiasts, you faced many groggy mornings during the games because the Olympics offer thousands of hours of virtually any summer sport imaginable on TV. Except if your imagination runs to gunners shooting clay or paper targets. If you are a shooting enthusiast and hoped to watch Shooting Team USA or other of the world’s top shooters on the large screen, so sorry. NBC Sports has once again relegated shooting sports to the smaller screens.
Did you know a USA Shooting Team member, Ginny Thrasher, won America’s first gold medal for the Team USA medal count? Among the shooting team members Cory Cogdel-Unrein is now being called "bronze squared" because she's scored her second Olympic medal in Women's Trap.
Granted, NBC showed Ginny Thrasher's gold medal ceremony, but they didn't show a single shot of the women's 10m Air Rifle competition in which she competed to win the gold. Had Thrasher not been the first Gold Medalist from the USA, she’d have been ignored, I’m sure. I didn’t watch every minute, but I never saw any of the shooting sports on during prime time. One would think NBC could spare a minute or two and a couple cameras to break up some of the hour-long bicycle races or the three-hour marathon with clips of action at the skeet or trap ranges.
Surprisingly, there was a good dose of archery on TV this time around. Could this be another offshoot of the hit movie “Hunger Games” series? I’ll admit the Olympic archers are perfectly matched athletes with archery gear that looks like stuff more out of a sci-fi fantasy than any field shoot. Still, shooting is shooting and some of that technology may soon find itself in camo for deer hunters. Undoubtedly, the Olympic coverage will encourage new archery buffs to get into the sport. It’s been proven time and again that competitive archery is a gateway to becoming a bowhunter.
NBC certainly played up the story of the 41 year old Uzbekistanian gymnast competing in her seventh Olympiad, but the completely missed a great “home team” story in Kim Rhode's quest for a sixth consecutive Olympic medal in six consecutive Olympics. But it's also no secret that whomever actually owns NBC has absolutely zero interest in promoting anything that remotely portrays shooting sports, guns or gun owners in a positive -or even fair- light. That doesn't fit their narrative.
The Olympics are supposed to be one of those "bright, shining moments" where the world puts aside its differences to root for "the human drama of athletic competition" where we can all cheer at "thrill of victory" or commiserate "the agony of defeat." Jim McKay, I miss you and the rest of the old ABC Sports Team.