Wednesday, January 28, 2009

U.S. Pairs & Dance: Here's to "The Rest"

Poor Pairs and Dance disciplines. In the U.S., anyway, TV coverage treats them like second-class citizens even when one such discipline (Dance) has generated an Olympic medalist in recent memory. Not that I expected them to show up in the Saturday night broadcast when the ladies are the ones Nielsen ratings have been made of for decades in this country, mind you...

But they’re like “The rest” on the Gilligan’s Island theme song. Know what I’m talking about? In the early seasons of that 60s sitcom—if you don’t know what I’m talking about, here, we’ll make it the
Clip of the Day ; and you’re welcome—the song included Gilligan, the Skipper too… (consider those two the ladies this year, at least in terms of NBC programming)

The millionaire and his wife… (that would be the men with the late afternoon Sunday slot)

The movie star (eh, I guess the closest we’ve got is Sasha Cohen; she’s not here this year, who knows about next year yet, let’s move on…)


Yes, in later seasons “the rest” got props as who they really were—The Professor and Mary-Ann—but it took a while. In U.S. skating terms, you’d think world and Olympic medals might make the difference and bridge the time gap, except… whoops… that couple didn’t skate this year due to injury.

Coincidence?? Yeah, it probably is. I’m not sure NBC would have put a spotlight on the dance event even if Tanith and Ben had 2 world golds to their name, skated to all hip-hop, and wore costumes comprised of thongs and band-aids. It’s just not as interesting as, you know, THE RIVALRY.

Not that I’m complaining; the men’s event was a humdinger as I outlined in the last post. It just makes me wonder what might happen if ALL the variations on Team USA were considered marquee material.

But I digress. Perhaps I’m hypocritical in my own coverage here, as they’re getting mashed into one piece when I devoted individual pieces to the singles skaters… but NBC packaged them almost as if they were highlights material, so that’s what I’m working with—for now. When time allows I’m going to loiter at IceNetwork a good long time and see what shimmers among the lesser-knowns.

For now, though, here are my Top Five Notes from the Pairs & Dance Events:

+ Just because they didn’t skate on the Senior GP Circuit doesn’t mean they’re unworthy. The most obvious example is Caydee Denney/Jeremy Barrett, who nearly upset McLaughlin/Brubaker for the pairs’ title, but rookie seniors Madison & Keiffer Hubbell showed real potential for making the dance podium too—particularly when veterans Navarro/Bommentre fared so poorly on the OD.

+ Just because they DID skate on the circuit doesn’t mean they can’t get tripped up on the same element two competitions in a row. You might think I’m talking about John Baldwin’s SBS triple toe loop—and I certainly could be—but what’s really on my mind is that one spin in Samuelson/Bates’ free dance that currently serves the dubious honor of grinding an otherwise fine performance to a halt. I feel for them, because it’s not like a jump that is over in about 3 seconds—rather, it’s about 20- 30 seconds of Oh-God-can-we-please-get-through-this-without faltering. Can’t be fun. Methinks the monkey that was reportedly on Alissa Czisny’s back until Saturday night has now found it’s way to these two.

+ Just because a brother and sister team is ice dancing doesn’t mean it has to be the oh-so-marvelous Kerrs. Again I point to the Hubbells, a really enjoyable pair that I hope can nab a couple of GP assignments next season. (Special shout-out to the Kerrs, by the way, for grabbing bronze at Euros last week! I’ll be revisiting that event in upcoming posts.)

+ Just because a team doesn’t do their best doesn’t mean they shouldn’t win. As with Czisny, there seems to be some debate as to whether or not Mc/Bru should have won over Denney/Barrett. I thought this one was even clearer cut than the Czisny/Flatt debate… but maybe not. My thought is that Mc/Bru is now strong enough to take on other, clearly less experienced young guns and win, short of their total implosion. And there was no implosion that I could see. I look forward to seeing how both pairs do in their inaugural senior Worlds.

+ Just because you and your partner are literally twice as old as the majority of your competitors doesn’t mean you should hang it up. Oh, wait, yeah it does. (Sorry Inoue/Baldwin… if you’d missed the 2006 Olympic team I might get it, but you’ve had your turn. And earned a place in history to boot! Please, please move on, before you deny a perfectly deserving team a spot because they happened to slip when you happened to stand up.


Laura said...

After reading the last observation that it may be time for Inoue and Baldwin to hang up their skates...I am wondering how you feel about the media hyping (or begging for) potential comebacks from Michelle Kwan and Sasha Cohen? Do you think they've already had their turns as well, or do you think the relative quality and strength of their skating would justify a return?

Kelli Lawrence said...

Laura, I read your post about Hersh's article on Kwan-- good stuff as always!

Hmm, this sounds like subject matter for a whole new blog post
:-) The short answer is I think it's a case-by-case sort of thing. In I/B's case, I just don't see the point... I think they are already doing quite well to compete against such youngins when they are SO much older. But Baldwin in particular just seems to me like the "professional student" who never leaves college; just keeps earning different degrees because he doesn't want to deal with the real world. They said Saturday that he's been at TWENTY-THREE nationals. I can only imagine how hard it must be to move on from that after attending for nearly a quarter-century, but my goodness... just go get married and figure the rest out already. JMHO ;-)

Laura said...

Haa, I like the professional student comparison, it does seem apt. But I guess that when you wrote that I/B had had their "turn," I was wondering if that was a standard that could apply to other skaters as well. Thanks for the response.

I agree that the question in general is a case by case thing...hopefully the American ladies who are skating the best (whether that's Kwan and Cohen or the younger ladies) will be the ones who make the Olympic team.

Aaron said...

Oh goodness...the bit about Samuelson and Bates' dance true! It's like "fix it already!"

And the bit about Inoue and Baldwin...I wouldn't have a problem with them sticking around if they just got better choreography and John spent a summer learning how to land a triple toe loop. For someone who used to compete as a single skater, a triple toe shouldn't be a problem...guess it is?

wouldntyouliketoknow said...

I think I/B should probably retire. Although history has shown that (rarely) past skating greats (or even good-enough's) can re-emerge and do great things, too often that it is not the case.

As for Kwan, I don't think she can keep up with the jump demands anymore. She was already having trouble with that before the last Olympics. Cohen...well, she hasn't quite made the big comeback yet, so we'll see how that goes. I honestly don't think she'll do it, but I'd like to be surprised.

When these elite skaters retire and/or go pro, often something seems to go out of them, and it never comes back.

Kelli Lawrence said...

Aaron-- I think Baldwin's inconsistency with the triples had a lot to do with him switching to pairs (as is the case with a lot of pairs skaters, I'm guessing)... but to be that consistently poor with what is considered by most to be the easiest triple jump? Ugh!

And I hate to bring up his age again, but I just don't know if he can "unlearn" whatever he's doing wrong with it at this point. Though if they're going to stick around, he certainly should try...

Sharon said...

Very much agree with your assessment that pairs and dance are "the rest"! It makes me so is my favorite discipline, always has been. And we have 2 teams in the top six with S/B a very likely top ten. I think that's worthy of some recognition. We should take a lesson from Canada who adores their dancers! And the Russians as well.