Thursday, May 9, 2013

Coping with the Current State of Figure Skating via "ELEPHANT BITES"

I didn’t intend to take three weeks between the last post and this one—life is no more crazy/busy than usual, and you know as well as I do that the skating news hardly grinds to a halt once a season officially ends. And yet the procrastinating continued. Why? Because I wasn’t sure where to start... and not sure I wanted to in the first place.

Let me explain that. As I've alluded to in previous posts, the 2012-13 figure skating season might have made headlines—heavy emphasis on might—but it was for all the wrong reasons:
+      WHO was winning undeservedly?
+      WHAT is up with an overhauled judging system that’s still in need of major tweaking some 10 years after its introduction?
+      WHERE are the fans that once packed 15,000-seat stadiums (especially in Canada) but nowadays can’t even sell out venues half that size?
+      WHEN will the largest figure skating event in a non-Olympic year be easily found on TV again? (If ever?)
+      WHY won’t the ISU pull its head out of its own butt long enough to save itself, let alone regain the luster of yesteryear?

With all apologies to the journalism classes I was weaned on through high school and college... these “5 W’s” seem to cover it all. Oh, wait—it was “5 W’s and an H” in some classes, wasn’t it (with the “H” standing for “How”)? Well, the “H” came, for me, at least, in the form of all the analysis that followed...

+      HOW should the IJS be adjusted so that wildly imperfect programs can no longer “skate by” (pun intended) on components scores alone?
+      HOW could a sport that once rivaled NCAA basketball games for TV ratings fall so far in terms of general interest?
+      HOW can figure skating pull itself off “life-support” (as more than one writer has called it) in time for the Sochi Olympics?

And then, for gluttons of punishment like myself who follow at least one online message forum regularly, one more question forms: HOW can solutions come when the problems go so much deeper than just one leader and/or federation?

Sometimes it feels hopeless enough to keep me from writing about it... or even taking a closer look at those who write about it so very well. Perspective is important, of course—we’re not talking about natural disasters, economic freefalls, or cures for cancer. In its most basic terms, this is just a sport. There are hundreds of them, many (most?) of which bring out the depths of human emotion when played at their best. When people care, they care about the fairness of the play. Controversy about said fairness comes and goes, but it’s always there... and that’s generally a good thing, right?

But here’s the thing: I’m a fan of many sports—being raised in a house with swimmers, water polo players, baseball players, and football players will do that to you, I guess (not to mention marrying into a family with a deep love for basketball auto racing). But figure skating? That’s MY sport. When it comes to actual swimming, baseballing, footballing, etc. I’m a god-awful athlete. Skating, though, I can do. It’s a language that I understand as well as my native tongue; one I love to see shared and appreciated with others. And while I know full well that most of the post-Worlds analysis was written by fellow “linguists” and/or journalists that deeply respect the sport, it’s still something of a gut-punch.

What to do, short of sticking my head up my you-know-what and trying to be as clueless about the State of Figure Skating as The Powers That Be achieve with ease?

I’m going to go with an option I’m calling elephant bites. It works like this: throughout the 2013 off-season (I’ll try for once or twice a month) I’ll provide a link to an online article/post—either from an analyst or one of my fellow skundit/bloggers—and, after giving y’all a chance to offer your thoughts on the piece, I’ll do the same via my next post on the topic.

We’ll start with this article from USA Today’s Christine Brennan. Read it, re-read it if you read it in March and need a refresher, and please post your thoughts in the Comments if you’re so inclined. I’ll re-visit this “bite” from the elephant in a few weeks...

Because I want to spread this conversation out. It needs to happen, but so do other, “lighter” ones. For instance, I’d like to think that if Dorothy Hamill had not been sidelined by injury so early, I’d have effortlessly been covering her work on Dancing with the Stars even during my hiatus from writing about the other stuff. (Dorothy would’ve been in the semi-finals, you know.)

And one more thing while we’re keeping it light—have you heard that Brian Boitano’s first-ever cookbook was just published? What Would Brian Boitano Make? can be found at this link ...

And while you are shopping, don’t forget that my own book Skating on Air makes an awesome Mother’s Day gift! You can order the Kindle version of it here. 


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