August 11, 2012 in Nation/World

Americans show gold-medal procrastination

Professionals across the nation struggle to balance responsibilities with following the Olympics
Leanne Italie Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

Julie O’Grady watches the 2012 Olympics with her daughter Molly and dog Bosco on Thursday in her home in Palo Alto, Calif.
(Full-size photo)

NEW YORK – Chores piling up. DVRs stuffed and groaning with unwatched favorites. Late, bleary strolls into the office.

Welcome to the Great Olympic Time Suck, that unsung sport that has millions glued to coverage of the London Games rather than tending to real life.

At 34-year-old Angie Butcher’s house in suburban Chicago, the suck looks like this:

“Dishes are not getting done. Kids are not getting baths at night. Kids are up hours past bedtime,” said Butcher, whose family has been watching anything and everything. “Nice summer evenings are going by and none of us are outside to enjoy it. Dinner has been picnic style on the living room rug more than once.”

The suck has been so bad that her neighbors even wondered whether the family of five was out of town.

The family is far from alone. Nielsen said 29.1 million people watched NBC’s Wednesday coverage, making it the 12th time in 13 nights that the audience for the London Games beat the corresponding night in Beijing.

Nearly eight in 10 Americans, in fact, have watched or followed the games either on television, online or via social networks, according to a survey done Aug. 2-5 by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.

If Bosco, Julie O’Grady’s Australian shepherd in Palo Alto, Calif., could speak, he’d likely be shrieking, “Get a grip woman!” His pained, pathetic pleas haven’t been enough to pry the tech industry public relations specialist away from the Olympics.

“He’s not getting his nightly walk. Period,” a contrite O’Grady admitted.

In Miami, Jim Angleton has a financial services business to run. He’s always been a big Olympics fan, and has attended several in person. This time around, his late-night viewing obsession has him heading to the office at 11 a.m. rather than his usual 8:30, ditching his nightly jogs, shedding his signature suits in favor of jeans, and failing to return calls and emails on time to make room for the games.

He, too, had a dog problem on one out-of-it day.

“I forgot to walk the dog before I left for my office. Yup, found a surprise when I arrived home,” said Angleton, 56.

Emilie Yount, 30, a writer and actor in Chicago, was a sprinter in high school and her first year of college. She’s been a swimmer all her life and has a friend who works at the rowing venue, Eton Dorney, so she’s been glued to her TV and London.

Her 7 a.m. alarm has been more jarring than usual. “I haven’t socialized and I missed a birthday party for a close friend,” Yount said.

Paula Wade, 41, a quality assurance tech for a company in Oklahoma City, was sure she wouldn’t get sucked in. “I mean, really, who watches archery or table tennis? And yet there I am, cheering the Italians, or whoever, on. And now I’m to the point that I have things auto-deleting off of the DVR.”

Sunday’s closing ceremony – and the end of the collective hangover – can’t come soon enough.

“I love Team USA, but I really need to get back to my regular crap TV,” she added.

Paul Dergarabedian, a box-office analyst for Hollywood.com, said games came at just the right time, so soon after the Colorado theater shooting that left 12 dead and 58 others injured, and the slaying of six Sikh worshippers at a Wisconsin temple.

“There’s been some pretty terrible stuff in the news of late,” he said. “These Olympics are a welcome relief from what’s going on in the world. It’s such an innately positive event.”

The uptick in viewing popularity, he said, also has to do with NBC’s coverage strategy of streaming online during the day, offering coverage on sister channels and highlighting big events at night, followed by a post-midnight recap. Let alone the usual summer dearth of fresh programming elsewhere.

“This is an insomniac’s dream come true,” Dergarabedian said from Los Angeles.

Yvonne Miaoulis, 23, works in Elmwood Park, N.J., as a marketing manager. She’s been sleeping less, like so many others, but she’s also given up multitasking in front of the TV.

“I’ll usually be on my laptop, but I’ve eliminated that during the games because it’s so easy to miss a great vault or a critical dig,” she said.

O’Grady won’t allow for distractions, either. “I find myself not folding or putting away laundry, even though it’s sitting right in front of me.”

A commercial break mentality has taken over Christine Zust, a corporate coach, and her husband in Westlake, Ohio. If it can’t be done during NBC’s commercials it’s clearly not worth doing, at least until the Olympics are over, she said. They’ve also bid favorites like Jon Stewart and his “Daily Show” a ta ta for now.

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