The opening ceremony of the London Olympics featured loads of references that were lost on American viewers who aren’t familiar with, say, the particulars of Britain’s National Health Service. When unfamiliar facts arise during NBC’s coverage, you can typically count on in-house smartypants Bob Costas to fill you in on the details. But with Costas on the sidelines until the parade of nations, former Today compatriots Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira instead engaged in a reverse battle of wits, fighting it out to see who knew least. Vieira came out on top.
Some have complained that NBC’s talking heads chattered too much during the ceremony. I take issue more with how they chattered. At the top of the bizarre set piece celebrating the virtues of texting, Vieira explained that World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee would soon be making an appearance. “If you haven’t heard of him, we hadn’t either,” she said.
Later, Lauer and Vieira described the technology that was lighting up the audience. “These are little pixel screens at every seat that allows the creative team here to actually turn the crowd into a giant LED screen,” Lauer noted. Vieira’s jokey response: “One more thing I don’t understand.”
Aside from Chris Berman-esque nicknaming, this is my least favorite sportscasting tic. Vieira is surely very intelligent. She has an army of researchers by her side both before and during the opening ceremony. And yet, likely out of a desire to seem more “relatable,” she plays dumb. This reverse snobbery is insulting to viewers—if she acts dumb, how do you think she feels about the yokels watching on the boob tube?—and perpetuates the poisonous idea that it’s uncool to know stuff.
A polite request for Meredith Vieira: Instead of chuckling that you don’t understand how the stadium’s light show works, get someone to teach you so you can explain it to people at home. You would learn something, and so would we.