By DJ Gallo
Special to Page 2

Not to go all Bryant Gumbel on you -- I don't ooze masculine coolness like he does -- but the Winter Olympics need to make some serious changes if they are going to draw more interest.

Television ratings are down nearly 40 percent from four years ago and the broadcasts are getting crushed when matched head-to-head with "American Idol." (Seriously, as sad as that is.)

Obviously, something must be done if future Winter Games are going to resonate with viewers. And NBC should consider no measure too drastic considering it paid more than $600 million for the exclusive rights to this year's Olympics and hasn't seen its investment pay off.

So if I may, I'd like to humbly offer: Seven Ways to Boost Winter Olympics TV Ratings&

Add more combo sports: The Winter Olympics need more multi-disciplinary sports like the biathlon, which combines cross-country skiing and rifle shooting. For example, the biathlon should be combined with ski jumping. Competitors would ski cross-country to the ski jumping venue, and then blast jumpers from other nations out of the sky like they're shooting skeet. A combination of time and the number of kills would determine the winner -- with a point deduction if you kill or wound a jumper from your own country, of course. It's must-see TV.

American Idol
AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian
Network ratings would soar if the Olympics held tryouts like "American Idol" competitions.

Televise Olympics tryouts: Since the Olympics are being drubbed by "American Idol," organizers need to take a page out of that show's book and televise open-invitation tryouts before actual competition begins. I can't imagine anything more entertaining than a William Hung-type trying to earn a spot in the luge or snowboardcross competition. Not only would it result in multiple compound fractures, but better yet, big ratings.

Introduce more danger to the events: The viewing public loves danger -- senseless violence and blood -- and the more they see the more they'll tune in. Why not make every 10th curling stone used in competition a minor explosive that is set off by contact? And make it a rule that skeleton sliders can brake only by pressing their tongues to the ice. Those are just two quick and simple examples.

Get better announcers: I have no problem with NBC's broadcasters, except in one area -- men's ice hockey. Johnny Weir might has well be providing the color commentary. I'd love to turn on a hockey game and hear things like, "Chris Chelios doesn't appear to be feeling very princessy today." Or, "I wonder if Martin Brodeur has named his glove yet. I named mine 'Camille.'"

Tell better stories: So 17-year-old Emily Hughes has a chance to keep the Olympic gold medal in women's figure skating in her family if she can somehow win the competition this week -- a competition she wasn't even going to compete in until Michelle Kwan withdrew. That's a good story, but wouldn't it be a lot more interesting if Hughes also was battling a crack addiction? Or if she was 68-years-old and had recently been abducted and probed by aliens from the planet Vogetron? Sure, it's not true, but no one would have to know the real story and it's definitely far more compelling than the truth. James Frey could start working on all the 2010 story lines right now.

Get better mascots: Olympic mascots are historically awful. But Torino's may be the worst yet -- a cartoon ice cube and a cartoon snowball. What the Olympics need are cartoon mascots that will really get people around the world energized and excited. And something almost everyone in the world has in common is the practice of some sort of religion. So why not have cartoon forms of religious icons playing winter sports? Wait ... no. Scratch that one. I'm pretty sure that's the worst idea ever. Absolutely terrible. Really, just a horrendously awful idea on my part. Apologies.

Anyway, those are my ideas on how to boost Winter Olympics ratings. But don't try to steal them without my permission, NBC! Know that you'll have to pay a high price if you want me to implement them for you. And I can't be had for some cartoon rabbit like Al Michaels either. No way. I'm going to cost a real live rabbit. A rabbit named "Camille."

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duck hunting
AP Photo/Max Whittaker
If you could, would you go duck hunting with Coach Bob Knight and Dick Cheney?

1. I didn't have a chance to watch last night's debut of "Knight School" -- the Bob Knight reality show on ESPN -- but I hope it gets great ratings. Because if it does, that means there's a good chance there will be another Bob Knight reality show. And if there's another reality show, that means there's a chance it could be a Saturday morning outdoors show called "Big Game Hunting with Bob Knight and Dick Cheney." Each week the gun-toting pair would head into the woods with a contestant, and if the brave soul made it out alive, he or she would win $50,000. The ratings would be enormous.

2. Thursday is the NBA's trade deadline -- meaning Isiah Thomas is guaranteed to do something disastrously hilarious sometime in the next three days. And I can't wait to find out what. That said, I'm surprised and disappointed that the rumored Steve Francis-to-the-Knicks trade fell through. Surprised because it seemed like such a bad idea that I figured Thomas had to pull the trigger on it, and disappointed because of the historical implications it would have had on the sport. What I'm referring to, of course, is seeing how league officials would have ruled on the first-ever loose-ball tie-up between two players on the same team. Would they have ordered a jump ball between Francis and Stephon Marbury? Or implement some type of alternating possession arrow just for them? Or would they just let Francis and Marbury roll around on the floor together until one of them ripped the ball away or the shot clock ran out? And even when possession is determined, what do you do when a scrum for the ball inevitably happens again between the two of them five seconds later? Unfortunately, we'll never know. Although I suppose we can hope Francis gets dealt to Kobe Bryant's Lakers.

DJ Gallo is a regular contributor to ESPN The Magazine, as well as the founder and sole writer of the award-winning sports satire site SportsPickle.com. He also contributes headlines to "The Onion."




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