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Dear NBC, a little less U.S., please

I always have thought my European friends were being just the tiniest bit picky when they complained about what they saw as U.S. geocentrism in news reporting.

I've had people in the middle of a war come up to me and complain that the scores from their favorite English football team weren't in the paper or that the election results from Luxembourg didn't make it, or that we were missing some really big story in the Italian Parliament.

My response has always been that, although we do have a national/international news section, we are a Florida newspaper, and also that I haven't seen papers in Amsterdam, Lucerne or Paris overloaded with U.S. news and hardly ever read anything about Dade City in the foreign press unless it involves Jim Courier or an incest case that we would all just as soon forget.

But on the question of the Olympics, I have to agree that they have a point.

My goal was to watch as little Olympics coverage as possible. It was, of course, an unrealizable goal for a TV addict who _ confronted with choices such as Bonanza reruns centered on Hop Sing having a bad day, infomercials with over-the-hill athletes selling exercise machines and pay television movies with the word "bikini" in their titles _ will finally give up and tune in.

As far as I can tell from my viewing, there has been no Olympic event this year in which any match occurred not involving U.S. participation.

And there have been precious few events, judging from available viewing time, in which U.S. teams and athletes have not dominated.

I'm sure all of this has been good news to those in charge of music at the various venues, who haven't had to learn any songs other than The Star-Spangled Banner, and camera folks going for the eyes-on-the-flag, teardrop-on-the-cheek shot don't have to worry a lot about position or lighting.

Don't get me wrong.

As a former sportswriter, I have an idea of what goes into training for Olympic competition, and I admire the determination of our athletes as much as anybody else. And yes, I shed a tear or two when Bela Karolyi carried Kerri Strug around the Georgia Dome after her courageous performance ensured the women's gymnastics team a gold medal.

But I have a nagging suspicion that somewhere, sometime, a Jamaican kid or a Polish kid or a French kid also might have done something courageous, gritty or flawless.

The continuing pretense that the Olympics are being shown in

real time is equally irritating. When real news, like the Centennial Park bombing, breaks and you switch to CNN, it's not unusual tosee the final standings of the event for which non-existent drama was being built on NBC a few seconds earlier.

Maybe we could risk the ire of soap opera fans (who have been known to complain when things like attempted assassinations of popes and presidents or the toppling of a U.S. administration interfered with their latest dose of fantasy life) and show real-time performances of athletes from other countries.

Or maybe when the network coverage goes into one of those soft-focus-dreamy-background-music setups that tells us we're about to be treated to a piece about some U.S. athlete and his dog or her toe shoes fading into an Atlanta sunrise and the moment of truth, they could show us just how things are going for smaller and poorer countries.

There is an appeal, to me, about the stories behind athletes who train in subfreezing gyms lifting concrete blocks instead of weights and considering themselves lucky to be getting a meal with protein in it rather than trying to sandwich a meeting with their nutritionist between conferences with their business managers and private coaches.

I, for one, for reasons known to Grateful Dead fans everywhere, would like to have seen the Lithuanians play basketball. They were the subject of a short feature piece, and maybe a few minutes of one of their games even made it to air time, if there was a break in action in some other sport in which the American team had a shot at a medal.

It will be fun to see what control Australians exert over coverage in 2000.

If there are any complaints about too much coverage of the boomerang, wallaby wrestling and kangaroo boxing events _ I don't want to hear it.

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