Boys in figure skating Unite! High school editorial: "Stop Hating on Ice Skating!"

Discussion in 'The Trash Can' started by Sylvia, Apr 13, 2011.

  1. Sylvia

    Sylvia On to GP & U.S. Sectionals!

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    Written by Brian Benton who is a competitive figure skater: http://voice.paly.net/node/26996
    A profile article on Benton from 2009: http://voice.paly.net/node/20615
     
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2011
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  2. LilJen

    LilJen Well-Known Member

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  3. Scrufflet

    Scrufflet Active Member

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    Good on this young guy for saying what he did! I hope he's aware of the recent news item about Georges Laraque, a former hockey enforcer who skated in Canada's Battle of the Blades with Annabelle Langlois. He feels that figure skating is an "extreme sport" and wishes he had found it sooner in life. BOTB was a wonderful show. I attended a few live tapings and can tell you that those hockey players were filled with respect for their partners.
     
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  4. leafygreens

    leafygreens Well-Known Member

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    :lol::respec:

    So true, how come nobody talks about how football players wear tight pants, bend over in front of each other and pass a ball between their legs? Doesn't sound very "manly." And yes, most of them are fat, not "big boned-ed" but fat.
     
  5. SamuraiK

    SamuraiK Well-Known Member

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    Go Brian Benton !!
     
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  6. RockTheTassel

    RockTheTassel Well-Known Member

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    I have major respect for boys who figure skate, and I love what Brian said in this article. Good for him. :respec:
     
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  7. aftershocks

    aftershocks Well-Known Member

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    I love it! More guys should talk about how great figure skating is, and how athletic it is, and how challenging, and how unique with melding athleticism and artistry with music and skating skills, the endurance and dedication that is required -- the small room for error and the difficulty of making it to the top.

    Johnny Weir has talked about this before -- about how fit a skater has to be and that it is a sport that should be recognized and celebrated and appreciated in America along with the big ball sports (esp. the ones where men run around in tights and/ or baggy pants patting each other on their bums, and jumping into each others' arms).

    Similar to "no crying in baseball," there are no wimps in figure skating (despite the drama, the tears in the kiss n' cry, and the emoting on and off the ice).

    Instead of being apologetic, and or jokey/ winky and defensive about the issue of males in figure skating, why can't TPTB celebrate the fact there are all kinds of guys and girls in this sport, just as there are in other sports. This is a sport with a rich history and tradition and all kinds of stories and incidents that are too often cloaked in silence because no, let's keep stuff under wraps and pretend there's only room for macho among male skaters, as if macho is the only true acceptable standard, as if there aren't all kinds of ways to express masculinity and femininity. Why can't male skaters band together and speak up about the tough tender beauty of this sport, without feeling on the defensive or that it's necessary to promote macho, or to hide who they are? Not all male skaters are gay. Duh! And there's nothing wrong, right or extraordinary about being gay -- IMO, everyone is unique and extraordinary. Both gay and straight athletes have made enormous contributions to this sport.

    It should be okay to be who you are, and all young skaters should be able to feel the freedom of finding out who they are and of developing their skills and talents with authenticity. It can only help further enrich this sport. IMO, Johnny Weir has helped scale the barrier to freedom of expression as a male skater. He has inspired many people within and outside of the sport, whether acknowledged or not (and no this is not about his faults and weaknesses -- we all have faults and weaknesses -- and this is not a referendum on whether you like or dislike Johnny. Have the grace to be open-minded and think beyond the surface of close-minded stereotypical viewpoints).

    No matter who you are inside, figure skating attracts people who love the feeling of flight, and the joy and the beauty of self-expression that participation in it can bring.

    Thank you, Brian Benton! (Ha, ha re that last line ... no haters, I doubt he's advocating violence -- I think he means he's ready to show what those blades enable him to do on the ice!)
     
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2011
  8. manleywoman

    manleywoman podcast mistress

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    Actually, I wrote a letter to the WaPo to that very thing (football players in spandex passing balls through their crotch and smacking each other on the ass) during the Turino Olympics. It was published!
     
  9. skatesindreams

    skatesindreams Well-Known Member

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    aftershocks,

    Great post.
    :respec:
     
  10. madm

    madm Active Member

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    Once this kid is in high school, he can brag about how he gets to hang around with a lot of pretty girls in spandex, rather than a bunch of smelly guys in a locker room. He may even have guys asking him to introduce him to some of those pretty girls. And if he takes up pairs and can lift girls over his head, he will start being viewed as a strong guy. In the long run, this boy will have a lot better social skills when it comes to talking to girls and respecting them. He should have no trouble getting a prom date!
     
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  11. aliceanne

    aliceanne Well-Known Member

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    Perhaps the traditional jocks disparage the sport because they can't do it. It does require a lighter more flexible body and an ability to learn complex technique.

    Anyway, 7th graders are not noted for maturity or independent thinking (at least when I was in 7th grade). Not too many of them will buck the cool kid even if they think he/she is being a jerk.
     
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  12. aftershocks

    aftershocks Well-Known Member

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    ^ Yes, that's probably true, and there's likely lots of reasons why the sport is looked down upon by "jocks" and by people who are not necessarily jocks. I think the main reason it is disparaged is because of a complete lack of understanding (abetted by the way those who control the sport view it and fail to adequately promote it due to hidebound fuddy duddy traditions and fears).

    I also think fs is disparaged by some because of the age-old, totally inaccurate notion that it is a "sissy" sport. Ironically, it was originally a sport exclusive to men -- young women in the late 1800s and early 1900s held back by long skirts and antiquated attitudes of that time, were discouraged (and thus restricted) in their participation. With the advent of shorter skirts and the era of Sonja Henie, the sport became associated more exclusively with females, and thus males whether gay or straight -- a culturally verboten topic back then, and still considered a touchy subject -- were looked upon as sissies. Thus the beginnings of the present-day sport's fear of males skating while not appearing or at least exhibiting what TPTB kowtowing to the society at-large, perceive to be macho. This fear, IMO, has been somewhat circumvented today by the expressiveness and beautiful movement qualities combined with athleticism that Johnny Weir (along with groundbreakers before him and along with some other males of his generation) have brought to the ice, which has inspired skaters and non-skaters, artists and athletes, regardless of gender or sexual orientation. It is important for male skaters to speak out about the great things about this sport and why they are drawn to it, and stop hiding their light and their love of skating behind a bushel of antiquated attitudes and tired stereotypes.
     
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2011
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  13. leafygreens

    leafygreens Well-Known Member

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    Not saying that other sports don't require practice, but figure skating is SO difficult. I don't think most people realize how difficult it is. Some do realize it and are jealous so they disparage.

    Awesome - a letter about womanly men by manleywoman?
     
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  14. skateboy

    skateboy Well-Known Member

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    Right on, manleywoman!

    And good for you, Brian Benton! (Did I just sound like Dick Button?)
     
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  15. paskatefan

    paskatefan Well-Known Member

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    Yes, and nothing wrong with that.

    Re: this article - I would make this article required reading for anyone who ridicules male figure skating.
     
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  16. aliceanne

    aliceanne Well-Known Member

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    This too. It evolved in Britain as an exclusive club sport for upper class men. The early skating clubs and rinks in the U.S. were very discriminatory also. So that contributed to it's lack of mainstream appeal.
     
  17. aftershocks

    aftershocks Well-Known Member

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    ^ Great point, aliceanne, thanks for mentioning. Reminds me of Dorothy Hamill and Carol Heiss talking about being snubbed by exclusive figure skating clubs (neither came from well-to-do families). However, their talent led to others interceding for them to help make it possible for them to join clubs, which was necessary in order to compete at Nationals. Mabel Fairbanks’ talent did not help her join a club in her day because she was African American. However, it’s been reported that Maribel Vinson Owen noticed Fairbanks’ talent and helped her get ice time and lessons. Fairbanks was able to skate internationally in shows, and she is famous for developing the spinning move (a signature move of Rudy Galindo) where you hold one leg up in front of the body, and she brought together and coached Tai Babilonia and Randy Gardner when they were very young skaters.

    The sport’s exclusivity (snubbing of talented skaters) and fear of anything less than the appearance of macho in male skating has so hurt the sport. Fortunately, because it is such a wonderful sport, it somehow has survived in spite of its more faulty traditions. Since the sport has been going through a difficult transitional phase, it is hard to determine what this period will mean for the sport’s future. Certainly, a young man like Brian Benton speaking out is a good thing that will hopefully lead to more young men speaking out and more youngsters of every background and gender becoming involved in the sport, whether or not they reach the highest levels. And hopefully, at some point, TPTB will learn to develop a more inclusive vision, and understand how to better promote fs, and how to nurture all the skaters with less politics – a lot to ask for sure. In any case, simply to skate is to be filled with joy. I think that is the essence of the sport’s appeal.
     
  18. manleywoman

    manleywoman podcast mistress

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    USFS ignored adult skaters for years too. They failed to realize that once skaters turn 18, they would like to keep skating. And eventually those 18 year olds grow up and have income that they can keep spending on skating for decades.

    Mindboggling how slow they are to adapt.
     
  19. ltnskater

    ltnskater Active Member

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    Haha, I can just picture Dick Button going good for you, lucinda ruh!

    It's funny how this reminded me about a time when one of my skating teammates commenting on football players practice. So football players are complaining about 6 am practice, because they have to get up at 6 am.

    My friend responded..."No no, you don't call getting up at 6 am, a 6 am practice, you only call it a 6 am practice when you're ON THE ICE at 6 am like we are (or on the field...etc.).

    And of course, there was that other time where the school newspaper wrote about the gruelling and tough 6 or 7 am practices the men's hockey team had to go through (nu-uh, they are never on the ice at 6 am, only 7 am for only 2 days a week, and we train 4 days a week at 6 in the mornings). Way to get the facts wrong...cause we were on the ice before the hockey team from 6 - 7 am, and they got on the ice after our practice...hmmm
     
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  20. aftershocks

    aftershocks Well-Known Member

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    Wow, manleywoman, your comments about adult skaters add another fascinating dimension to this, and you certainly have firsthand experience. That’s so true about the mind-boggling inability of TPTB to lead with vision. I actually think that many people who control the sport of figure skating understand very little about it, and that may be at the root of the sport’s problems. I don’t like to compare fs with tennis, but at least many players are involved in the leadership decision-making for tennis, and that sport has been promoted fairly well to the larger population which provides an important source of revenue.

    It goes without saying that speed skating and figure skating have little in common except ice. Speed skating was developed out of the practical need to find a way to traverse the ice in winter, and later racing across the ice was organized as a sport, while figure skating developed as a leisure pastime. It is completely antiquated that these two individual sports are still bound together. The biggest problem is that few figure skaters hold important decision-making roles at the highest levels of the ISU. Why should speed skaters control what happens in the sport of figure skating? If speed skating needs to piggy back on another sport, why not join the USATF, and become the winter version of track and field?

    Okay, if that’s not gonna happen, couldn’t they at least get with it, and update the way figure skating and speed skating are organized? Above all, they need to allow more figure skaters to control the decision-making process for the sport of figure skating. Get with the times please, and learn how to adapt to the twenty-first century.

    Dick Button is a great ambassador for the sport. I learned much of what I know about figure skating from listening to his entertaining and expert commentary over the years. If the sport were understood and better appreciated by the larger public, it would be a no-brainer to everyone that Mr. Button is a national treasure.
     
  21. Justathoughtabl

    Justathoughtabl Active Member

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    Very interesting thread. I especially enjoyed your comments, Aftershocks. As someone who is not an expert and really only followed figure skating at the Olympics until recently, I know from my own experience that I always thought of the sport as enjoyable, but also very old fashioned. I never went to a skating show because I thought the commercials made them seem hopelessly outdated. Most of the men seemed ...not feminine, but not macho either. They seemed to appeal to the over-65 crowd by playing up a sort of Disney showbiz aspect of skating. I'm talking about Scott Hamilton, for instance. I was not aware of many skaters at the time. I was interested somewhat because unlike a lot of people my age, I love the MGM musicals and have a soft spot for that kind of thing. So when Kurt Browning did Singing in the Rain, I loved it. But if you're going to try to sell your sport as entertainment, you can't keep pedaling the same thing decade after decade. You've got to be open to a variety of types of performers and entertainers. You've also got to be open to different kinds of performances. I was surprised reading Johnny Weir's description of the resistance that he, Melissa Gregory, and Denis Pethukov faced when they tried to skate as a trio. Why is that such an oddity in skating shows? And that number turned out to be a success. If skating officials can play up all those different personalities and encourage them to explore many different kinds of performances, it seems to me they'll get more people watching during competitions as well. Imagine the possibilities. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon on Ice, artful and athletic. What boy wouldn't like that?

    As for attracting more boys to the sport, I think shows like Battle of the Blades can do a world of good. At least two hockey players from that show have expressed their newfound respect for figure skating. But more than that, I think it's going to take a sea change in the way North Americans think of figure skating. And I don't know if that's going to happen, as long as boys don't get experience skating so they realize how hard it is. It's the same thinking as ballet.
     
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  22. aftershocks

    aftershocks Well-Known Member

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    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JXtd7xq7URM :) Kurt as Kelly

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FVnAVkMI_A4&feature=fvsr So much fun

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2SxtqOEi6og&feature=related Classic

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IIhB-My2_KE "Mesmerizing ..."

    Thanks Justathoughtabl, for citing the above great performances… I also had to include Kurt’s Brick House and Casablanca. :)

    The Fallen Angels performance by Johnny, Melissa and Denis was so different, engaging and creative. Their program having been treated with resistance by TPTB, is so typical and so self-defeating for the sport. A trio of dancers performing to great music and choreography is the kind of outside-the-box creativity that elevates the sport. Check out all the youtube comments (as well as the commentators’ words of praise).

    I agree with your above post – your observations offer lots of food for thought. In ballet during the 1960s, Rudolf Nureyev and NY City Ballet’s Edward Villella were influential in changing the way male dancers were perceived (as was Mikhail Baryshnikov during the 1970s). Villella is now CEO and founding artistic director of the Miami Ballet
    http://www.miamicityballet.org/edward.php

    "Villella showed that a tough brash kid out of Maritime College could turn into a major artist, and in doing so, changed the way men danced in America as well as the way male dancers were perceived."

    Makes no difference that Nureyev was gay and Villella was straight. What mattered was their enormous talent, the strength of their personalities and their virtuoso athleticism and artistry. What matters, I think, is transcending stereotypes so that sexual preferences are no longer an issue (hidden, ignored, ridiculed, challenged via macho pretenses, accepted under the surface but an uncomfortable topic to bring out in the open). Gender differences and sexual preferences truly shouldn’t be an issue in either figure skating or dance or in any field of endeavor.
     
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  23. Aceon6

    Aceon6 Get off my lawn

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    I think it goes beyond just skating. Nearly all the "upper class" sports have been ridiculed at one time or another, including golf and tennis. Golf had Arnold Palmer to get it into the mainstream, and tennis had McEnroe and many others. There are now many ways for young people to participate in golf or tennis without a huge financial sacrifice, so a typical 7th grader probably knows many people who play.

    Unfortunately, that's not true for figure skating, so said 7th grader has no reference at all, or just a passing reference from TV.
     
  24. aliceanne

    aliceanne Well-Known Member

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    I think it is hard to promote skating as both art and sport at the same time. Sport demands uniformity otherwise how can you compare the athletes and score them fairly? If you are a competitive skater with an extensive support team who is spending $50K a year to skate you are going to do the jumps and spins that give you the most points whether they suit your body type or not. This in turn limits the music selections. Also what is the point of inventing your own moves if they can't be scored?

    Most of the innovative and artistic skaters were also involved with the arts (Cranston, Curry, Cousins). They in turn invited other artistic skaters (dancers and musicians) to join their tours. All of them were men and none of them were male role models. They also competed at a time when figures took up a good part of a skater's practice time. They were not pressured to include all of the technical difficulty that skater's are today. The difficult moves were the highlights in their programs, not the beginning, middle, and end.

    As long as you have costumes and music I don't think skating will be a "manly" sport, and afterall, sport is about the only thing the macho men have left. Very few jobs nowadays call for their talents.
     
  25. aliceanne

    aliceanne Well-Known Member

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    Maybe the skaters who want to do their own thing should start youtube channels like Nicole. They could bypass the judges and rules, or someone else owning the rights to their performances. Skating fans watch a lot of stuff on youtube anyway.
     
  26. heckles

    heckles Well-Known Member

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    If Brian Benton's everyday attitude is reflected in the editorial, his skating is not the reason that his classmates don't like him.
     
  27. ltnskater

    ltnskater Active Member

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    I think you're reading too much into the direct quote from the editorial, the way it is written puts it in such a way that makes it a sharp contrast to him being made fun of for being a figure skater. It is just a way of making the reading more interesting and emphasizes certain points by using such contrasting elements, frequently seen in pieces of literary work.

    I seriously doubt he wore that t-shirt to school and started bragging about how good he was for competing at nationals... much more likely is that he wore the shirt because he was proud of his accomplishment, unexpectedly, however, his classmates made fun of him because he was a figure skater which is the point he was trying to make in the editorial.
     
  28. aftershocks

    aftershocks Well-Known Member

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    Edited to add:

    icenetwork news feature dated 4/21/11

    http://web.icenetwork.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20110421&content_id=18076588&vkey=ice_news

    Seems as if someone is catching on, as it's highly likely Scrufflet's #3 post in this thread inspired the above feature. We know Hersh comes to FSU to see what fans are thinking and to get ideas, so obviously other reporters and icenetwork officials do the same.

    Good to see this coverage by icenetwork in the U.S., since Battle of the Blades is not broadcast here, and can only be viewed on youtube by U.S. fans, which means it is unlikely to be seen by a mainstream U.S. audience. I heard about Laroque earlier this year in the FSU thread on BOTB, but I didn't know the aftermath of his experience with figure skating had led to the wonderful things he is doing to advocate for the sport.

    I don't think anyone is advocating for figure skating to be a "manly" sport. The point is that TPTB need to learn how to promote the sport, and how to promote the skaters, and the public-at-large need to understand that fs is a very difficult sport that deserves more fans and recognition for its unique history, qualities, and for its amazing athletes/ artists. FS should not be considered a "sissy" sport, and the focus should be on all the skaters, not just the ladies. The men's field is so strong and has such depth right now, so this is a great opportunity to take advantage of that and to promote the fact that the sport is made up of all kinds of people who are drawn to it because of the rewards of mastering the difficult technical elements and the huge challenge of developing as an artist.

    Just because it hasn't been done and may be difficult to do, doesn't mean that figure skating can't be promoted as both art and sport at the same time.
     
    Last edited: Apr 23, 2011
  29. heckles

    heckles Well-Known Member

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    He chose to write that "direct quote"; the reader can choose to see him as a whiner who is upset that the world doesn't buy into his perceived greatness. The rest of his editorial doesn't make him look any better.
     
  30. aftershocks

    aftershocks Well-Known Member

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    Yep, everyone has free will. Common sense, however, is often in short supply. While Benton's editorial might not make him "look better" than any of his peers, I'll bet he can skate better than any of them.

    Takes courage to speak out and stand up for your beliefs. Takes little energy, even less thought and no courage at all to heckle this editorial by a high school student, heckles. If that one sentence you cited sums up for you what Benton is talking about, then I think your "everyday attitude is reflected" by the lack of perspective and limited perception you exhibit in your comments. Sure, anyone can disagree with what Benton is saying, and back it up with their differing viewpoints, but that's not what you are doing, so far.
     
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2011