The torch has been doused. The last of the gold medals awarded. The "Today Show" is back in New York. The Winter Olympics are over, though it appears that quite a few people in the United States never cared that they even began.

NBC's ratings for the Olympics were not quite as good as the NBC execs would have liked. Shows that garnered higher ratings were House, Survivor, American Idol, Desperate Housewives and even Dancing with the Stars.

Not even the Ladies' Figure Skating final could buck the trend. People preferred watching Simon Cowell insult some wannabe pop star on American Idol than watched as Sasha Cohen fell on her butt, brushed herself off, and tore up the rest of the program.

Personally, I watched Sasha Cohen fall on her butt. I've never understood the fascination with American Idol. I don't get watching people, mostly with questionable talent, warble through a bad pop song only to be ripped to shreds by some British guy who thinks that the highest forum of wit is to tell someone they make him need to vomit.

But, as evidenced by ratings, the American public eats it up. Maybe I'm being too cynical. Maybe viewers tune in for Idol for the same reason they used to tune in to the Olympics-to watch someone pursuing their dream. That they get to watch from their couch as a person gets their dream squashed like a bug while also being humiliated in front of millions of viewers, well, that's just icing on the cake.

NBC's Olympic commentators weren't much better. It's like they were instructed to bring out their inner Simon Cowells to stem the ratings decline, with scathing critiques of minor miscues. The worst was the woman analyst for figure skating, a woman whose greatest on-ice success remains a mystery. Still, she felt perfectly fine to prattle on about some skater's horribly flawed performance.

To hear many of the sports babblers, you'd think the United States just absolutely stunk up the place. Read most of the headlines from last Friday, and it's startling to see how many focused on Cohen's fall, and not the fact that she sucked it up and nailed the rest of her performance to hang onto a silver medal.

For me, Cohen's recovery was every bit as impressive as the Japanese skater's gold medal effort. It would have been easy for Cohen to just pack it in and pout about the mistake. Instead, she got back to her feet, and did the rest of the program to the best of her ability. I think that is the mark of a great athlete. Would she have preferred gold? Undoubtedly, but second in the world ain't too shabby.

The press also chose to focus on then feud between Chad Hedrick and Shani Davis. Yeas, the two acted like a pair of spoiled brats. But that storyline shouldn't have been given greater play than Joey Cheeks, who offered up his Olympic bonus money for children's causes.

There was plenty of evidence of American athletes acting like jerks. But for every story about Bode Miller, who seems to view his Olympics as a success because of his gold medal partying, there are stories about athletes like Miller's teammate Ted Leigity, who succeeded beyond their wildest dreams, and did so with class.

Unfortunately, many Americans seem to put more importance on crass than class.

Bill Rudick, while he enjoyed the Olympics, struggled for two weeks without "My Name is Earl." Rudick's email is brudick@epix.net

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