Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Parellel Universe of IndyCar Racing and ISU Figure Skating

The reason I wanted to post about Indy 500 today (other than the fact that I was there) was because I see a lot of similarities in IndyCar racing and figure skating. My husband is about as passionate about racing between April and October as I am between October-March when it comes to skating, so while I’m fairly late to the party, I’ve become a keen observer of it. Among the things I’ve noticed:

+ Both are generally considered “niche sports” with a passionate, dedicated following.
+ Both attract athletes from around the world.
+ Both hit their mainstream stride in the 1960s and ‘70s, when…
+ Both were routinely getting TV time by way of ABC. (And, well, at least one of them still is)
+ Both have taken big hits in viewership over the past 15 years (for different reasons, but political at heart)
+ BUT… both seem to be on the comeback trail.
+ One more thing they have in common… while no one likes to admit it… any given event gets more interesting when disaster strikes. Whether it’s an ugly car crash or a disarming fall in the free skate, we kind of perk up on those “uh-oh”s.

And as I mentioned yesterday, even the best-known personalities in racing bear certain similarities to their bladed counterparts…

Dario Franchitti (2-time Indy 500 winner as of today) is like… Evan Lysacek
Because he’s proven he can peak at the best times, because he minds his manners most of the time, and because he’s not afraid to show off his super-attractive better half (for Lysacek that includes girlfriends Tanith Belbin and Nastia Liukin; for Franchitti that would be his wife, actor Ashley Judd.

Helio Castroneves (3-time Indy 500 winner who came in 9th today) is like… Kim Yu-Na
Because he’s a crazyfierce and successful competitor, because he’s omnipresent in his sport’s “world”, and because he’s multi-talented (Yu-Na sings as well as skates; Castroneves won Dancing with the Stars a few years ago).

Scott Dixon (2008 Indy 500 winner who came in 5th today) is like… Daisuke Takahashi
Because he keeps his name out of the headlines, except when it’s unavoidable because he’s won something… because he’s always a quiet force to be reckoned with in any event… and because if drivers could execute quadruple flips in competition, Dixon would probably be the one to attempt it without any grandstanding, just as Dice-K did!

Tony Kanaan (frequent lap leader at Indy 500 who has not yet won here; came in 11th today) is like…Michelle Kwan
Well, at least he is around here. Kanaan has won countless other races since becoming a part of the IndyCar series in 2002… and has looked many times like he was destined to win here in Indy… but it still hasn’t happened. (His best finish was 2nd, in 2004.) And like Kwan, he’s extremely personable and draws on his sense of humor more than most. Maybe that’s why he’s so beloved in this town.

And Danica Patrick (first woman to win an IndyCar race and first woman to take the lead at the Indy 500, though she hasn’t yet won… came in 6th today) is like… Johnny Weir
No, this isn’t in reference to their diva tendencies, or their mutual interest in fashionable shoes… I’m thinking more about their respective statuses as media darlings who tend to make more headlines for what they do while away from their sport. Oh, and the fact that they both had quick success upon entering the “senior” level of what they do, but haven’t really maintained it. Dang, now that I’m thinking about it, maybe Johnny IS Danica! Maybe that’s what’s revealed on those online Go Daddy spots in which she’s always featured…

Speaking of Weir… I went to see if his single “Dirty Love” is visible via You Tube yet, and I found
this … have you ever seen it? It’s Weir singing something called “Ice Shadows” in Russian. Yes, he can sing… how remarkably? I'll let you be the judge.


Anonymous said...

Yuna said she will start preparing for the upcoming season with competition in mind! She said she will see if she will be ready mentally and physically while training hard for October season opening and decide if she will compete for this season, but she isn't retiring for now for sure.

Anonymous said...

That's not Johnny in that song, despite the label. :-/ There *is* some footage of him singing at various fan events (and for an NBC Olympics promo) on youtube, though - he has a lovely tone to his voice, but he doesn't have a very good ear and goes off pitch very easily. I hope he used autotune for his song!

Kelli Lawrence said...

Thanks to both "anonymouses" for the info!

Edward said...

THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, Kelli, for your parellel blog about IndyCar and figure skating. As a fan of both for a very long time-nearly 20 years for IndyCar and figure skating for longer than that-your comments are, as usual, spot on. Especially about Johnny and the Princess. While I liked Johnny a lot during his World Championships broadcasting-he definitely has a future there if he wants it-his actions since have definitely shown a pain-in-the-lower-back-portion of the anatomy quality that to me is really annoying. As for the Princess, don't get me started.

Kelli Lawrence said...

Ha-- Edward, I wasn't at the track on qualifying day, but my husband and son were...

I forgot to mention another thing Danica and Johnny have in common (at least more often than not) is the "it's not me" blame game. I'm told that when Danica got out of her car after her relatively poor qualifying time and immediately blurted into the AP system the equivalent of "It's not my fault", the crowds booed her big time. You probably heard about that. What my husband said, though, was that it was more like shock and surprise followed by disgust: the crowd first said "Whaaaaa?" and then that segued right into "Boooo!"

When she led a few laps in her debut year at the 500 I was cheering as loud as anyone. But I wish I'd been there for the booing. Classic!

Thanks for your kind comments as always!

Edward said...

As usual, Kelli, you are totally spot on about the Princess-there are a few other words that I can use but this is a family blog. BTW, this has nothing to do with sexism. I am a huge women's sports fan and have great admiration for the likes of Sarah Fisher, Simona De Silvestro, Pippa Mann, and a few others.

While I am writing this, the IndyCar race at Texas is ongoing and she is in 2nd place. God help us if she wins. Even this is likely to engender the kind of slobbering talk about her that sickens me.