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View Full Version : What should the ISU do to resurrect Figure Skating in the US and Europe?



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duane
04-04-2011, 01:53 AM
I think part of the problem is that the commentators have done little to HELP the viewer learn it. A casual fan will not take the time to go educate themselves.
I'm still pissed over Scott Hamilton's pairs commentating during the 2002 Olympics. The little mistake made by Anton in the LP didn't at all affect the program, and was very minor. Instead of explaining this and pointing out b&s's more difficult moves and transitions, an outraged, biased Scott continually complained while showing the mistake over and over and over again. He's the one who fanned the flames of controversy. I actually received a call from my sister (not a FS fan), saying how wrong it was that the judges "cheated" and unfairly gave "the russians" the win.

loulou
04-04-2011, 12:10 PM
Actually gymnastics scores are more like old figure skating scores in that you have a top value and have to come down.

Not correct.
Gymnastics current CoP is open ended, you don't have any top value.

A gymnastics score is made like that:

Final Score = (D + E)

Where:

D = Difficulty value, i.e. the value of all the technical difficulties that you actually perform.
D is open ended.

E = Execution score = (10 - execution deductions).
E is not open ended, as it can be 10 at most.

Susan M
04-04-2011, 04:54 PM
Gymnastics current CoP is open ended, you don't have any top value.
They do in vault, because it consists of only one trick that has a specific start value (which I why I used vault in my example). But really, vault is just a simplified example. The maximum potential value of any specific routine on the other events can be calculated as well if you have a list of its elements (incl planned connections).

manleywoman
04-04-2011, 05:08 PM
I'm still pissed over Scott Hamilton's pairs commentating during the 2002 Olympics. The little mistake made by Anton in the LP didn't at all affect the program, and was very minor. Instead of explaining this and pointing out b&s's more difficult moves and transitions, an outraged, biased Scott continually complained while showing the mistake over and over and over again. He's the one who fanned the flames of controversy. I actually received a call from my sister (not a FS fan), saying how wrong it was that the judges "cheated" and unfairly gave "the russians" the win.

Me too. Though the call I got was from my SIL.

Hamilton's behavior was atrocious during that whole episode. Sandra's too.

Frau Muller
04-04-2011, 05:21 PM
....Hamilton's behavior was atrocious during that whole episode. Sandra's too.

ITA. The bias was so obvious. I was dissapointed that NBC kept Scott & Sandra on for future Olympics (& Worlds after ABC stopped doing Worlds)...then again, NBC may have been happy to have someone fanning the flames of the whole episode, thus increasing interest and viewership in the short term.

Susan M
04-04-2011, 05:53 PM
I think the introduction of the Grand Prix circuit of televised competitions was the method, correct Susan M? I do have to say some of the Pro competitions were just as cheesy as exciting, imo.

Yes the GP was a big part of it.

It has been a while now, so I am a bit fuzzy, but I think Speedy's general annoyance was that skaters became stars via ISU competitions (tho the Olympics is, strictly speaking, not an ISU championship) then instead of continuing to provide star power to help him sell ISU events, they promptly left to make their money in pro events, shows and tours. This annoyance kind of came to a head after the 94 Olympics.

In the US anyway, there was huge media interest interest in skating at the 94 Olympics, due largely to the Tonya-Nancy mess, but also to the return of the former pros. The men's event had the last 2 OGM (Boitano & Petrenko) as well as Browning and the younger eligibles. Pairs also had the return of the last 2 OGM (G&G and Mish/Dmitriev). Katarina Witt added drama and style to the ladies event, tho she was not expected to be a factor. Dance had the return of Torvill & Dean, the most famous and popular ice dancers ever (and still). So as the ISU was basking in the glow of all time popularity post Olympics, every one of those stars, plus the new ladies gold & silver passed on the 94 Worlds. (This seems normal today, but after 92 Olympics, the only medalists who passed on Worlds were Ito & the Duchesnays.)

The ISU decided that in order to keep future champions from "going pro", they had to create similar income opportunities for their stars within the ISU structure. So, they turned the biggest of the early season events into the GP series, added the GP finals, and added/increased prize money for the ISU events. I think there may also have been some changes allowing eligible skaters to get paid more for shows/tours than they had been receiving, but I am not sure.

The ISU also eliminated the reinstatement rule that had allowed the returning Olympians to compete in 94 and made the rule we see today that says absolutely no way, no how can anyone regain competition eligibility after losing it by participating in a pro competition.

We saw the net effect of this after the 98 games, when some of the medalists opted to either continue competing on the ISU circuit (most notably Kwan) or stopped competing but avoided pro events that would cost them their eligibility (most notably Eldredge + Stojko?). After Kwan skipped the fall 98 GP events in favor of college and a few shows, the ISu started adding rules requiring top skaters to participate in the GP events if they wanted to go to Worlds. So in the next few years, the ISU kept making it harder and harder for skaters to retain Olympic eligibility without actually competing in the full set of ISU events, making these names unavailable even for shows. (One of these rules is the one that caught up Plushy and nearly caught Rochette last spring.)

All this meant the pro event organizers had to rely mostly on the older stars to market their events. It did not help that Baiul didn't have Kristi's staying power and that Lipinsky held herself out of any but the cheesiest events.

I don't mean to imply that the ISU single-handedly killed off pro skating. To some extent, the promoters did it to themselves. As the mid-90s boom in pro skating happened, there was no overall governing body to manage these events, so any promoter who thought there was money to be made came up with another event. The CBS television network lost their contract to air football in the fall of 94 and came up with the counter-programming idea of putting skating on Sunday afternoons during the NFL season (mostly featuring Baiul & Kerrigan). All this led to some seriously cheesy events and serious over saturation of the market. Even more ardent fans like me got more than enough figure skating.

After a few years of this, the public was sick of seeing the same folks over and over in cheesy, made-for-TV events, and even the more legit of the pro competitions were hurting for competitors people would tune in to see. I don't recall which year, but I think maybe about 1999, the World Pros folks were so desperate for talent that they reached an agreement with the ISU to allow eligibles to compete at World Pros along with ineligible skaters, using a compromise of program rules. This led to what was probably the worst World Pros ever, where we got mostly eligible skaters doing that season's SP followed by watered down versions of their free skates. Most of the pro skaters were so dubious of this deal that they passed on the event. That arrangement lasted only 1 year, as I recall, but it kind of marked the beginning of the end. Natural market forces and cycles took it from there.

flutzilla1
04-04-2011, 06:55 PM
I agree. I think live skating is the hook for most people. We're all pretty jaded by what we see on tv and in movies.

ITA. Having the majority of your most recent major events in only one geographic area, and the next 2 major events in the same exact state, is definitely not helping with this issue at all. It is hugely unlikely that the average casual skating viewer in the US and their families will ever be interested in going to see unknown skaters at a Regionals or Sectionals; they want to see the skaters they see on TV when they go to a live event, which has been impossible the past few years (with the exception of Greensboro) unless you live in Spokane, Portland, Oregon or San Jose or Ontario, California.

Spreading the major events around to cover bigger and more diverse areas of the country, instead of one narrow geographic area made up of just three states, is a must at this point.

Frau Muller
04-04-2011, 07:22 PM
.....I think Speedy's general annoyance was that skaters became stars via ISU competitions .... then instead of continuing to provide star power to help him sell ISU events, they promptly left to make their money in pro events, shows and tours. ......

Now isn't there something terribly wrong with the basic premise of "selling" ISU events? Wasn't the ISU (and other int'l sports governing bodies for Olympic sports) created to oversee 'amateur' (eligible) competitions...meaning to foster the constant development of new talent??? Hence, wouldn't an attempt to keep the most popular eligibles in the ISU competitions 'forever' be contrary to the essence of natural progression of new talent?

"Constant progression" and "staying power" are not the same thing. Hence, the very idea of being a 'money making venture' seems contrary to the traditional mission of the ISU.

The scary thing, IMO, is that the ISU could have gotten away with keeping 'the oldie goldies' on Worlds podiums if it were not for Code of Points. Thank goodness for CoP, which is supposed to reward those who skate the best -- who accumulate the most points -- in that particular event, and not based on past performances! (Yeah, we occasionally see vestiges of the old 6.0 '2nd mark spirit' pop up in the PCS, e.g., Kostner...but it doesn't carry the weight of the old 2nd mark.)

And I agree with your observation about the Dec 1998 World Pros being 'the beginning of the end' of pro skating comps...even though I personally enjoyed being in the audience when Michelle Kwan debuted her 'Ariane' LP. :) But even I would not have wanted to see Michelle 'propped up' on a Worlds podium forever, past 2004.

I don't see anything wrong with figure skating not being wildly popular with the general public. This is not a "Sunday afternoon beer-guzzling, nachos-eating" sort of sport. That's why I hated seeing football-style gimmicks like the Smuckers Skycam, "Stro-Mo Camera presented by Chevy," silly montages at the start of TV coverage, etc. by ABC/ESPN in the final years of their coverage. I love the Universal Sports approach: just the basics! -- open with a map pinpointing the location of the host city, a long shot of the arena's exterior, then quickly into the competition. No fluff - no crap.

aliceanne
04-04-2011, 07:58 PM
I don't see anything wrong with figure skating not being wildly popular with the general public. This is not a "Sunday afternoon beer-guzzling, nachos-eating" sort of sport. That's why I hated seeing football-style gimmicks like the Smuckers Skycam, "Stro-Mo Camera presented by Chevy," silly montages at the start of TV coverage, etc. by ABC/ESPN in the final years of their coverage. I love the Universal Sports approach: just the basics!

I guess you're right. Popular entertainment is pretty faddish and skating skills take years to develop. It's is probably unrealistic to expect skaters to be cutting edge entertainers. Still, I enjoy skating as entertainment and it's sad when you only get to see the top competitive athletes. There are so many creative souls out there - thank goodness for youtube!

gkelly
04-04-2011, 08:41 PM
Now isn't there something terribly wrong with the basic premise of "selling" ISU events? Wasn't the ISU (and other int'l sports governing bodies for Olympic sports) created to oversee 'amateur' (eligible) competitions...meaning to foster the constant development of new talent???

Yes, all that is true. But most other amateur-oriented Olympic sports don't have high-paying professional careers available to them as competitors. Once amateurism rules were relaxed, athletes could coach, endorse products, or otherwise earn money through their fame and expertise and still continue to compete.

If the purpose of these sports is to organize competition for athletes at all levels with a focus on those aiming to become the best in the world as determined by world championships and Olympic medals, then there is no imperative to push out older athletes. Let them retire on their own time when they're ready, or be pushed out of the top echelons by younger athletes who defeat them in competition.

All of which has nothing to do with selling the competitions as an entertainment product.


Hence, wouldn't an attempt to keep the most popular eligibles in the ISU competitions 'forever' be contrary to the essence of natural progression of new talent?

Only if it's done so by propping up the older competitors' results, at the expense of more deserving new talents. In fair competition, 16-year-olds can compete against 36-year-olds on an even playing field, and may the best athlete win. You see that in other amateur-oriented sports, so why not in skating?

duane
04-04-2011, 08:47 PM
I don't see anything wrong with figure skating not being wildly popular with the general public. This is not a "Sunday afternoon beer-guzzling, nachos-eating" sort of sport. That's why I hated seeing football-style gimmicks like the Smuckers Skycam, "Stro-Mo Camera presented by Chevy," silly montages at the start of TV coverage, etc. by ABC/ESPN in the final years of their coverage. I love the Universal Sports approach: just the basics!
But are "the basics" televised? I remember after FS became wildly popular after the famous WACK, skating competitions were shown regularly on television--all the national/international competitions (Nationals, Worlds, SA, SC, Four Seasons, Europeans...), as well as the professional competitions. My brother could name every player on every football team, but I could name all the skaters! ;)

Frau Muller
04-04-2011, 09:06 PM
But are "the basics" televised?

They are shown on UnivSports, by your definition - Nats, Worlds, Four Cs, G-P events and finals, etc. But by 'the basics' I mean what is shown in every program, such as:

a. a short intro
b. the actual skating competition (at least the final flight of each discipline)
c. a quick results board showing final placement

Not fluff pieces, intro montages, long interviews, Truth Booths, etc.

GKelly - I'm all for allowing everyone -- even Dick Button -- to compete today, assuming Dick earns his way up the ranks by first going to his Regionals competition and placing top 4, etc. As you say, IF the scoring is fair -- which it now is most of the time with Code of Points -- then why not? BUT I think that we can all agree that if Dick wins the 2012 Worlds, it would be an aberration to the 'natural progression' of talent. However, we differ in the issue of older competitors' placements in ISU events having nothing to do with the 'entertainment product.' The marketing of SOI and other shows is very much tied to name recognition among the general public - the older, long-lasting competitors...but the Code of Points doesn't really lend itself to making long-term champions who win year after year unless those champions are super human and never falter. Look at how a reigning World Champ, Asada, even failed to make the Grand-prix finals! Look at Czisny's wildly-fluctuating results.

julieann
04-04-2011, 11:28 PM
Look at how a reigning World Champ, Asada, even failed to make the Grand-prix finals!

How is that different than a Superbowl champ not making the playoffs? Not all players/skaters have to be good all the time. Some falter and come back the next year, it is OK in any sport.

I remember as a kid skating was always on either ABC or NBC on any given weekend during the winter. Now you have is some random cable channel very few get or pay for it on the internet. It's not even on ESPN anymore.

If they would show the competitions on the TV, more would be interested, they don't even have to show all of it just the top ten. There's not that many competitions in a season. They don't have to show it live and cut the fluff. I bet they would win back viewers in no time, whack not needed.

Susan M
04-05-2011, 01:37 AM
Now isn't there something terribly wrong with the basic premise of "selling" ISU events? Wasn't the ISU (and other int'l sports governing bodies for Olympic sports) created to oversee 'amateur' (eligible) competitions...meaning to foster the constant development of new talent???
Well, yes. The whole Olympic movement is supposed to be about encouraging athletic participation, but from the POV of a governing body, issues like revenue generation are realistic concerns as well.


I don't see anything wrong with figure skating not being wildly popular with the general public.
What's wrong with the level it has currently reached in the US is that people are so disinterested, we no longer even have an over the air network broadcasting many of its premier events or they resort to packaging the whole event into a couple hours for later broadcast. Universal Sports is not that widely available. It is probably on most cable systems, but, for example, is not available to DirecTV subscribers. And, please don't suggest Ice Network watched on computer monitor is a legitimate alternative to a network broadcast you can watch from the couch. You need network (or at least ESPN) coverage to reach the marginal fan. The other outlets are options only for the dedicated fans who go looking for them.

In a way, we are kind of back to how skating was shown in the the 1970s. Compare what we get today to the mid 90s, when the men's final at Nationals was shown in a live network broadcast on Thursday night in prime time. I think the fans of a sport suffer when its popularity reaches such a low that nobody want to buy the rights to the GP finals.

The loss of US TV revenue has also cost the USFS and the ISU, and that has been reflected, in part, in a cut in payouts to skaters. The two USFS cheese fests and its accompanying prize money have been eliminated, for example, along with the annual appearance contracts top skaters used to get from the USFS. So, eventually, the sport as a whole suffers as well.

Made4Dancin
04-05-2011, 03:31 AM
Thanks guys for all the explanations. I did fall off as a fan in the mid-nineties so I hadn't even realized that the rules had become so strict. It was after these Olympics that I went to look up the Champions on Ice tour and found out that it had gone out of business long ago. That was the show I used to go to because it had skaters from everywhere. I really don't feel like seeing the casts Stars on Ice puts together. Never did. Because I live in MA I was able to see the "Thin Ice" taping in CT (I went specifically to see Lambiel), but besides that I really have no way of seeing the international skaters I watch in competition in real life unless I sell a kidney to be able to afford a ticket to Europe to see an Art on Ice type show or to go to Worlds. Most fans can't afford trips the diehard fans save up for. They depend on TV. And in my area Universal Sports isn't even available if you wanted to pay for it. I did purchase the Ice Network subscription this year but I don't think it was worth it. Every time someone went up for a jump the stream froze. lol

The only thing that has done anything to keep my interest in figure skating, which was rekindled at the Vancouver games, was Youtube. But I had to search it out. It didn't come to me. That's why I think NBC dropped the ball. I watched the entire Grand Prix on NBC but I have to say when I think of what figure skating I watched on TV this year, it's still Brian Boitano's special that pops into my mind. And of course the only new people in it were the Americans. So it sucks for someone like me who isn't 'Rah, Rah, Americana'. All the skaters I re-became a fan of after not paying attention between Olympics like Joubert, Lambiel, Plushenko, Weir, have barely appeared on my TV this year. In fact I'm 99.9% certain Joubert hasn't at all. Plushenko? No way. Save for repeats of "Be Good Johnny Weir" I've been mostly watching the skaters I kinda like a little bit. lol And even though Johnny has been on TV a lot and was on "Skating with the Stars" I think he only actually skated once there and once on ATS:LA. Even Evan I think skated only a few times on TV right?

It's a shame what they did to the Professional Skating. I think it's needed. Not just for fans and revenue, but for the skaters. That's probably why they're so reluctant to quit competing. There's nowhere for them to go. :(