Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Daily News: A Book (about Skating), A Rant (about a Rant), and A Ratings Report

Here's a shameless plug #1 from Yours Truly while I’ve got y’all here…and I’m not particularly good at this self-promotion thing, but bear with me…

Because I’ve written a book (!) About figure skating (!!) That I think just about every fan of the sport will enjoy.

It’s currently titled SKATING ON AIR: THE BROADCAST HISTORY OF AN OLYMPIC MARQUEE SPORT… and is scheduled to be released by McFarland Publishing near the end of the year. Here are some quick things to know about it:

+ It tells the story of how figure skating reached the masses in the first half of the 20th century… rose to headliner status on TV, particularly with Olympic broadcasts, in the second half of the century… and is struggling to maintain that status nowadays in light of a multitude of changes, both in the sport and otherwise, through the past 15 years.

+ By way of interviews with over 30 sources (including on-screen talent and figure-skaters-turned-broadcasters), it seeks to explain the unique relationship shared between TV and skating—including the ways TV has changed the sport and vice-versa.

+ Consequently it’s filled to the brim with interesting stories about “the old days” of covering the sport, the various battles for broadcast rights, the struggles to make coverage more progressive… and of course behind-the-scenes accounts of the stories you probably remember best… maybe some you’d forgotten about too.

+ It features a foreword by CBS’ Verne Lundquist... who, as you might recall, used to cover this Olympics thing for CBS alongside Scott Hamilton and Tracy Wilson.

I’ll share more about this book from time to time on the blog, and next week will try to find a lull in the Olympic coverage to tell a little more about it… but in the meantime, please send me a note
at this email address if you’re interested in SKATING ON AIR and would like to keep tabs on it (send any questions there too!). And please… spread the word if you’re so inclined. Thanks!

And now the news…

I don’t know if every skating blogger out there feels compelled to chip in their 2 cents about the Plushenko medal aftermath, but here are just a few things I’ll throw in there that I haven’t heard discussed much yet:

1) Plushy seems to, in essence, be blaming the “new” judging system for rewarding Lysacek with gold. In fact, his statement to Andrea Joyce shortly after the competition implied that with the 6.0 system, his efforts would have been properly acknowledged. Funny how he didn’t mention that the “new” system was in place in Torino… you know… where he DID win gold? It just so happened that back in 2006, no other men could come close to his level of excellence, so the quad/no quad thing was almost a moot point (too many butts were hitting the ice, to be blunt).

2) Speaking of that pesky quad… remember when people were speculating as to whether or not Plushy would do TWO quads in his free skate? For example, when it was learned he’d drawn the last skate of the night… the question became “do you think he’ll do two quads?” “Well, it’ll probably depend on what his competitors do, and how well they do it.”

Guess what? He only did one quad… never came close to trying a second. Had he LANDED a second quad, he might be the gold medalist right now. But he didn’t. He decided one was enough. He either miscalculated… or underestimated. Either way, this isn’t anyone’s problem but his.

3) And even Evan didn’t say anything about this, and I guess it was the wise choice to do so… he DOES have a quad, but in the interest of his own physical health (namely the stress-fracture that was brought on by training it in the past), he opted not to do it.

I might mention this is quite different from, say, Patrick Chan proclaiming
I have it, but I don’t need it because my skating is overall so much better than yours.

The latter I can see Plushy taking issue with. But is he now trying to call Lysacek out for not “taking the dare”, as it were? Essentially saying
injury schminjury, come on, be a MAN?

Wasn’t Plushy the oldest competitor in the men’s event? Suddenly it doesn’t seem like it.

4) One more thing, and this is more about the reported Russian reaction in general… for all the media, politicians, skating federations, etc. over there that appear to be up in arms over the decision the judges made, might I point to
EXHIBIT "A" —an article that ran just after the 2002 pairs judging scandal got underway in Salt Lake City…including this quote:

Alexander Kuznetsov, figure skating coach, said: "The Russians would never have brought up this issue. (RE: the scandal)

"The Russians would have proven their right to victory at the next competition.

"As far as I know, Russia's never protested a result in the last several years."

This doesn’t count as a formal protest, I know…but at least we know now that Russia’s as capable of crying foul as we are.

It’ll be interesting to see how long this carries on. Even in Salt Lake, the pressure was on virtually everyone involved to get the spotlight off the scandal so the other events (figure skating included) didn’t get lost in the shadows.

Though, hint to Russia… if you want NBC to benefit from this dust-up, by all means, keep those quips and statements to the press coming!


It’s getting confusing… in cross-checking numbers for a given night I’m finding different numbers, and if it’s an overnight-ratings-vs.-true ratings difference, I’m not sure which is which. So here’s what I can tell you with any certainty:

+ The best ratings night yet (including Opening Ceremonies, I think) was this past Wednesday. Unfortunately, we can’t attribute it to figure skating as it wasn’t on; this victory goes instead to the likes of Lindsay Vonn and Shaun White. But from what I read, this was the first time the Olympics had defeated American Idol since it had to go head-to-head with it several times in Torino.

+ Looks like Thursday (Men’s free skate) pulled in the best skating-night Olympic numbers thus far; a reported 25.3 million viewers was the average the night Lysacek won his gold.

+ Overall, ratings are up considerably from tape-delayed Torino… but down from similarly-time-zoned Salt Lake City. Not sure if the 8-YEAR time difference was accounted for, though… or that a lot of the high numbers from SLC had to do with that little judging scandal I just referred to above.

Coming up on Sunday night… that beloved ORIGINAL DANCE!


Lotta said...

Wow! I would love to read this book! I remember the days of when, during the Grand Prix series, the men's and women's events were held on ABC or ESPN and the dance and pairs' events were being held in Lifetime. Plus, Lifetime had Junior Worlds, too!

Katrina said...

I think it's interesting that Plushy is complaining because he lost the 03 words to Tim Geobel (which coincidentally coached by Frank Carroll) who did two quads (he ain't called the quad king for nothing!)

Kelli Lawrence said...

Katarina-- HA! I forgot Plushy complained about that!

Lotta-- Yep, the whole ABC/ESPN/Lifetime thing is part of the story... send me your email :-)

Elizabeth said...

I'm looking forward to your book. What a great combination of your wit with a cool topic!

Skating has definitely grown and changed right along with TV. While people bemoan the lack of TV coverage now, I think people have ignored the "long-tail" effect of the internet and skating coverage on blogs and live web feeds. I feel like I get way more info on skating including on your excellent blog.

I think we're gonna lose compulsory dances because it's not fun to watch on TV for the average viewer. However, I've enjoyed watching the compulsory event online to see the difference between the skater's skills.

Laura said...

Very excited for your book!!!

And thanks for the Russia quotes from 2002, those were interesting.

Anonymous said...

I have to say I was utterly disappointed in the men's long program. No one, not even one, skated an inspiring program. The person who won was the one was didn't make mistakes but skated cautiously. Remembering the joy of Sarah Hughes or even Tara? Both skated with abandonment and at the end we celebrated with them their brilliant skates. Evan, the gold winner was cautious. He was stiff. It was like he's going through a skating exercise. There was no performance value. He also was suppose to do a triple triple during the second half and ended up with a triple double. While not a mistake per se but certainly not perfect. Plushy was just all over the place. Sure he didn't fall and sure he had a quad triple combo. But his jumps were mostly wonky and I do think Evan deserves to win over him. Had Plushy skated perfectly, then he definitely deserves to win over Evan. I was disappointed with Takahashi. I knew he wasn't going to skate a clean skate because he just recovered from a bad injury and throughout this season, his lp has been off. But had he skated clean, the audience would have been treated to a fantastic program. His sp+lp is much more exciting with much more personality than Evan's. It's really too bad that Lambiel had not been skating until this season. I wish he had stuck with it. I believe he would have had a much better chance of winning gold had he been skating during the last four years and tweak his triple axel. Is Patrick Chan over scored or what? That was a pathetic outing and he should have come in minimally below Oda. I'm not surprised that Johnny Weir came in sixth. The judges have been signaling to him the whole season by giving him so so scores that his programs are just too easy. But he's stubborn and stick to the same thing that earned him similar scores all season long. Well, just because it's Olympics doesn't mean the judges will all of a sudden decide to give him a better score than what they had been dishing out to him. It's like earth to Johnny, come in Johnny, you need to up your program. For god's sake take Evan's footwork from last season and just copy it exactly. You would have gotten a level 4 on your footwork GOE instead of a level 2, etc. Well, he reap what he sew. And no medal is what Weir got. Nothing to show for for all the hard work he put in. Having been in the senior world for a decade with only a bronze at the World to show for, it's really not a good showing for someone with his skating talent. Just really sad. And people will forever remember him as the guy with sound bites and nothing more. This Olympic pretty much shows that if you are athletic enough to do several quads with clean triples, you'll win. Otherwise, stick with tried and true triple triples. You'll do fine. In many ways, I think the men's skating has regressed. From Kulik to Plushy, every single one of them did minimally one quad to win the Olympic gold. For figure skating to be taken seriously, technically it needs to be pushed. It's like skate boarding half pipe. Flying tomato keeps on inventing harder and harder tricks. In his interview on NBC he is like "if I do the same thing I did four years ago, I might get into the finals but I won't be getting a gold medal for sure." So instead of doing quad quads, in figure skating, we are going back to do triple triples. And no wonder people don't take figure skating seriously! BTW, I wonder how much Evan was coached before that whole question and answering with Bob Costa. If he didn't get the questions before hand and answered everything on the fly, then I'm very impressed. But I have a suspicion that he was coached. And he never answered about men's figure skating has been regressed by him winning the gold without a quad. I wish Bob would press the question and have him answer it yes or no. Rather than have Evan ramble on without directly answering it.