25 January 2009

US Women's Figure Skating: Feel good now, but it won't end well

Let me, as Richard Nixon used to say, make this "perfectly clear": I like competitive figure skating. I find it entertaining to watch; I recognize both the difficulty in doing it well and the inherent athleticism that it requires to do it at all.

I also freely admit it's not a sport.

It's not a sport because winners can be declared due to intangible factors (reputation, maturity, order of performance, etc.) and silly scoring rules (did someone actually mention on the air last night an opportunity for late-in-the-program "bonus" points?!!!).

In true sports, sometime the "lesser opponent" wins ... consider the 2008/9 Arizona Cardinals. If reputation had any role in the decision, they wouldn't be in the Super Bowl. And what would anyone think if a run scored in the 9th inning was somehow worth more than a one scored in the 4th?

I am inspired to write this since the US has a new women's figure skating champion, whose performance was not as clean as the second or third place finisher. She fell once (!) and did lesser jumps, but she was more "mature" and "radiant" and "shook off those mistakes." From my viewing, she didn't shake off nothing -- only the judges did!

Hey, I know it's her 8th trip to the Senior Nationals; she was the local favorite; she has Brian Boitano as an advisor; but she simply wasn't as good a skater last night as the runner up.

In two months when she falls again (as she has done in the big competitions throughout her career) and loses in the World Championships, remember how "warm and fuzzy" we all feel for her now -- and realize that few true sports, and even fewer champions, are warm and fuzzy.


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