Figure skating is dying, and judges can't prop it up

Discussion in 'Great Skate Debate' started by Sugar, Mar 18, 2013.

  1. Yazmeen

    Yazmeen Well-Known Member

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    Yes, skating had ratings going through the roof after Tonya/Nancy, and it brought in more "casual" fans. But aside from any judging controversies, figure skating also shot itself in the foot by capitalizing on this new interest with a ridiculous amount of cheesy "competitions" and skating shows where the skaters who appeared kept doing the same program over and over (even Nancy said it didn't matter how you skated, you still got paid). Remember "Too Hot to Skate?" and it's ilk? Meanwhile, Dick Button's amazing Landover pro competition died. Add in 2002, and the shiny surface on skating was really getting tarnished.

    And I think the lack of a Kwan or Cohen in the US has hurt skating in the US; whether we like it or nor, casual fans in the US tend to ID the sport by its lady skaters. Lysacek (and I'm a fan) would have likely faded into near complete obscurity after Vancouver if it weren't for DWTS considering how few skating shows are available anymore, and with the loss of COI and SOI diminishing every year. I personally find skating very exciting right now mostly because I don't have any huge favorites aside from D/W in dance. It's great to watch a competition and just want the best skater that day to win instead of always pulling for a favorite. But that doesn't always work with casual fans, and well, we didn't get to see Worlds on TV anyway... Don't know what the solution is, but skating needs a kickstart here in the US.
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  2. Sylvia

    Sylvia Whee, summer club comps!

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    From another Reuters article:
    ETA: In light of the above, it's not hard to figure out why USA Today is writing articles on Tracie Gracie Gold such as this one: http://www.usatoday.com/story/sport...old-usa-figure-skating-next-big-star/1994885/
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2013
  3. escaflowne9282

    escaflowne9282 Well-Known Member

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    Tracie Gold- :rofl: Has she done anything since Growing Pains?
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  4. Asli

    Asli Well-Known Member

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    I totally agree! Aspects of the judging system can be discussed and improved - or even overturned - but the violence with which the whole sport and community are attacked by some journalists only does harm to the sport in general! :(


    Absolutely! I will not watch boxing or golf no matter how these are marketed, so why should I be surprised that fans of those sports aren't interested in figure skating?


    For someone in the arena or watching the broadcast, in what way is the IJC more difficult to understand than the 6.0 system? :confused:

    With the IJC, the skater with the highest mark wins. The casual viewer will think that this is the sum of the marks of the judges - which is correct as the general idea. You hardly need to be an accountant to understand that.

    With the 6.0 system, you saw a line of marks and placements such as: 112213132. The casual viewer could not for the life of him understand the result unless he sees the ordinals for the other skaters - and generally not even then.

    In both cases most viewers understand the placement of the skater only when it is displayed. In neither case does the casual viewer understand how the judges actually calculate their marks. However with the IJS, at least the fans who are able to read the judges' score sheet can understand the details of the elements, which was not the case with the 6.0 system.
  5. Rock2

    Rock2 New Member

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    What brings in the casual fan is human interest stories and star power which many have pointed out. There is none of this in the US whereas Asada, Tak, Plushy, Kim bring this in spades further east.

    What 6.0 was able to do was incubate stars but often times at the expense of fair judging. In the 60s through the turn of the century you had some combination of the most compelling and good skaters rising to the top and were held there to help drive the marketing machine with the most marketable skaters. I don't want to get into naming names to divert the conversation, but there were many Olympic medalists who were not the best skaters and/or did not perform nearly the best to win their medals. But this incubation of star power filled the seats in both amateur and pro arenas. That's what DWTS and other 'competitions' like Miss Universe do; reward the most marketable entries among the decent ones. Drives ratings and interest, but...

    By devising a scoring system that rewards more technical and basic skating ability you end up with some compelling skaters stuck in the second tier (Joubert, Abbott, Cohen, etc). This will forever make fans crazy and likely won't ever be fixed to the satisfaction of all. So posts and articles like these definitely have truth but will forever be a difficult reality for the future of skating. There are definite tweaks to be made, but we all need to understand that this is where the sport is and needs to be if it wants to stay Olympic eligible. I'll stop just short of saying "get used to it" because I think we should continue to challenge the system and application thereof.
  6. Taso

    Taso Well-Known Member

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    Fault? I'm not ashamed of my actions in any way - my skating viewing experience of the past decade, and earlier performances I viewed this season, has informed me that, no, I'm not that interested in watching anyone else right now. And aren't we are talking about loss of viewership here? My taste (developed through my own processes and watching and participating in skating in prior decades) isn't reflected in the vast majority of current skating (skaters process influenced by ISU and IOC changes). Hence skating has largely lost my viewership. It's my choice not to watch, but the fact that I'm not inspired to bother whereupon I used to be very much so is the skating factor.
  7. BlueRidge

    BlueRidge AYS's snark-sponge

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    What?! I don't get that at all! How does that work?!

    :saint:
  8. VIETgrlTerifa

    VIETgrlTerifa Well-Known Member

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    I find the sensitivity over most criticisms of IJS and its impact on the sport to be quite interesting.

    Although both systems don't make much sense for casual viewers, I think what made 6.0 easier on-the-surface and more fun to argue about was that it was absolute measure of perfection that viewers could compare to a skater's actual score. Even if someone knew NOTHING about the sport they would say "well...I would've given her a 5.8/5.8 instead of that 5.6/5.7."

    I think casual viewers who only watch during the Olympics would be better serviced if television stations would tell the viewers (before the routine and during the Kiss and Cry) a skater's base value for TES and the average PCS they had been scoring for that routine all season. Just giving a viewer a reference point to compare their score to would go a long way to engage viewers. They should also remind viewers how much mistakes such as popping and underrotations and falls actually count rather than give vague "oh, that looks underrotated...he'll be hurt there." NBC should also stop simply putting PCS as one score and give the breakdown just like almost every other television company in the world.

    Commentators and those in charge of the broadcast need to find ways for the audience to participate. If anything, COP has much more potential for that. They should tell viewers to print out a scoring sheet before a competition (like print out how many a viewer will need depending on how many skaters they show on the actual broadcast) with an element value guide, and they can mark the routines in real time and see how it matches up with the judges, etc.
  9. Skittl1321

    Skittl1321 Well-Known Member

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    Listening to the 'water cooler' talk around work today, it sounds like Figure Skating is a lot like basketball. The person/team with the most points wins. But the judges judge totally unfairly, and apparently so do the referees. Every call the refs make is wrong- they are totally favoring the other team!

    There has been as much wuzrobbing about our University's team in the office today as there is about Ten and V/M (well maybe not them) on FSU.
  10. Jammers

    Jammers Well-Known Member

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    Figure skating can't contend here in the US against crap like Keeping up with the Kardashians and other reality tv shows. Our culture wants drama and controversy figure skating it too refined to keep people's attention. We Americans have the attention span of a flea.
  11. ks777

    ks777 Well-Known Member

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    Celebrity Wife Swap.
  12. Asli

    Asli Well-Known Member

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    Oy! Figure skating will shed its remaining casual viewers if they do that! People sit in front of their TVs in order to :watch: :summer: and relax. Not in order to do homework!

    BTW, I think the CoP is an absolute disaster in judging ice dance. Not because of any of the psychological or emotional reasons related to 6.0 being perfection, but because comparing two step sequences or two dance lifts is nothing like comparing two triple axels. Two step sequences may satisfy the criteria for level 4, but one may still be more difficult than the other - actually there may be quite a difference. There is no way of reflecting that in the mark now. Plus the dancers are doing those ridiculous moves like scratching the right ear with the left blade in order to get the levels and often it is ugly. :rolleyes: Unlike in singles, quality has suffered.
  13. Vash01

    Vash01 Well-Known Member

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    Very interesting post. Thanks for pointing out the star power. The NBA has its Jordans, Kobes and Lebrons. The NFL has its Bradys, Mannings, etc. Even though those are team sports, people do go to the games to see the 'stars'. TV networks comments are geared toward the star power. I wonder if the ISU (and the national skating unions in some countries) need to tap into the star power and market the sport that way? I think the USFSA has already started doing that with Gracie Gold, and they need to do that in the men and ice dance disciplines. Now we have 2x world champions in ice dance, going for an OGM in 2014. This should make a HUGE story. I hope the USFSA is working on it, but they don't have a lot of time.

    I disagree somewhat with your last paragraph. I don't want to just live with an imperfect system. It needs to be a work in progress, and improvements need to be made every year. Rules and requirements for the skaters are changed all the time. Why should the judging be exempt? The system needs some major tweaks at this point to make the sport more like a sport and less like a pre-determined result. I am not just talking about Chan's win here. V&T had a win with a very poor skate during the GP series. Things like that should not be allowed to happen.
  14. Cachoo

    Cachoo Well-Known Member

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    :lol:
  15. VIETgrlTerifa

    VIETgrlTerifa Well-Known Member

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    I didn't say it was mandatory. However, people who want to watch a sport, will want to understand it and take it seriously. If we want to only continue pushing figure skating for the soap opera drama, then by all means keep it as it is, but don't get mad if the ratings and overall interest in major markets continue to dwindle to the point that it only becomes popular in Asia (due to their superstars) like sumo wrestling.

    Being surrounded by huge football, basketball, and baseball fans, I know that they LOVE to learn the rulebook and understand referee decisions, so they can decry them when they don't work out in their favored team's favor. They can't do that without really understanding the sport, and I find that figure skating's broadcast does a piss-poor job educating anyone.

    I'm not saying we shouldn't play up the drama and the theatricality of skating because I am sure that is what attracted most of us in the first place, but we also have to promote the scoring system and allow people to be able to understand the numbers side in a much more in-depth fashion since that is how the game is played now. The broadcast companies should push hard for viewers to learn more about it rather than ignore it and only having dedicated fans like us to do it ourselves...which judging from this forum, a great number of people on a dedicated figure skating forum have not really done that due to disenfranchisement.

    I think an app would work out that can do the complicated math (with the multiplying of its factors, etc.) automatically.
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2013
  16. Zemgirl

    Zemgirl Well-Known Member

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    Thank you for this! I keep reading comments about how the IJS has done wonders for ice dance, and I strongly disagree - often I feel like I'm watching acrobatic speed skating and not ice dance. I was beginning to wonder if I was the only one who was unhappy with what ice dance looks like these days...

    Also, bring back the CDs :mitchell:
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  17. gkelly

    gkelly Well-Known Member

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    A committee (the ISU technical committees for each discipline?) decided initially what were skills they wanted to reward, and they've made changes to the rules each year adding and subtracting features when they discovered that some had been overlooked or were being overused or weren't that difficult after all, etc., after getting feedback from coaches and skaters. I'm sure they will continue to make such changes from time to time.

    Ideally more skaters and coaches should have given input before the initial design of the system, and there should have been more tests of the mathematical ramifications, but we know that it was rushed into use because of the SLC scandal. Too late to go back and start from scratch now, hence the frequent readjustments.

    Hopefully the changes to level features will settle down to more like every four years rather than every year.
  18. equatorial

    equatorial New Member

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    Did Hoffmann ever represent Esta Germany as a judge? What Cold War was there in 1994? Why would China side with the "Eastern bloc"?
  19. Mathman

    Mathman New Member

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    6.0 draws the audience in. CoP shuts them out.

    When you see a row of marks like 1211314 you know exactly what it means. It means the Slovakian judge thought my skater was best, the Chinese judge thought my skater was second best, and so on. Then you get the satisfaction of yelling at the TV, what is that Swedish judge smoking -- how dare he put my girl way down in fourth place!

    Under CoP, the score comes up 149.62. We don't know how that score is arrived at, but we are assured that if you calmly go to the protocols then you will see that she got -.7 GOE for an e call, etc., and if you get out your calculator you can see how it all adds up.

    What's the fun of that?
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  20. gkelly

    gkelly Well-Known Member

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    Would the ISU be better off using a scoring system that helps casual audiences have fun or one that helps skaters understand where they're being rewarded and penalized?

    Is there any way to do both at the same time?

    Please see my thread for brainstorming.
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  21. Mathman

    Mathman New Member

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    I don't know when Hoffmann first started judging.

    The Eastern bloc versus the Western Bloc in terms of ISU politics did not end with the demise of the soviet union. Its vestiges continue to this day.

    Well...they did. :)
  22. That Don Guy

    That Don Guy New Member

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    It seems to me that bridging the gap between 6.0 and the current system is simple - each judge awards two marks of 0.0-10.0 (now that figures are gone, 6.0 is an anachronism); in each set, throw out the high and the low, and add up the remaining 14 numbers.

    One problem with the old system is, nobody even bothered to explain it. When there was a flip-flop, it was usually explained with a term like "in the crazy world of figure skating scoring." I actually shelled out for a USFSA rulebook back in 1992 just to find out how ordinals were calculated (nowadays, it would be a free download from ISU). It was as if casual fans were treated with a pat on the head and "Don't worry your pretty little heads about the scoring; just watch the skating and we'll look behind the curtain and tell you who's in what place." (Of course, it was impossible for the fans to figure it out on their own (except for pairs) before, what, 1983, when, rather than scoring each segment separately, a judge's ordinal for a skater would be based on the combined scores for that skater, so we would have to know the scores for every skater on every compulsory figure.)

    Then again, I don't remember fans turning away in droves from women's gymnastics after FIG got rid of the "perfect 10" system...
  23. Mathman

    Mathman New Member

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    One that helps skaters understand where they are being rewarded and penalized.

    It's just this. Every time an article like this appears saying that casual fans don't like the CoP, the Internet explodes with a thousand reasons why they should.

    But they don't.

    Seriously. They don't. There is no reason to kill the messengers, like Christine Brennan.

    I don't think so. It's not the details that are different, it is the whole concept.

    By the way, do you agree that, in the World Championships just concluded, Kim Yu-na's 6.0 style program was far and away the star of the show and in fact, saved the event pretty much single-handedly?
  24. purple skates

    purple skates Shadow dancing

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    It would also help if they could get a commentator who knew what the hell he was talking about (I'm looking at you, Peter). During the ladies event he was raving about a skater's lutz (Murikami's?) and saying how awesome it was and how it was just like Yu-Na's blah blah blah. Then they showed Yu-Na's in slow motion, clearly a lutz, and the other girl's in slow motion, clearly a flutz, and Peter never acknowledged the flaw nor the fact that the flutz would get a lot less points than Yu-Na's lutz.

    Stuff like this is what leaves the casual fan all :confused:.

    ETA - I watched a gymnastics event on tv recently. I am a very casual fan of the sport - in fact, I found the event because I was channel surfing. The announcers did an excellent job of explaining some of the faults and flaws, and the differences in technique and how they effected scoring. I was impressed and remember thinking at the time that US skating announcers should take a page from their book.
  25. VIETgrlTerifa

    VIETgrlTerifa Well-Known Member

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    I'm surprised that you found them to be informative. NBC's broadcasts of gymnastics is considered to be absolutely horrific by gymnastics fans. In fact, they prefer figure skating commentary from what I've found.

    Also, gymnastics fans have been very turned off by the way the code has changed their sport, and many prefer to watch NCAA. The artistry and attention to flow and lines and basics is certainly dying in that sport despite high difficulty. It may be more precise, but it's not as fun to watch. There's something to be said about presentation. Back then, the gymnasts just presented their skills that just impressed those in attendance (you'd hear gasps). Now, someone can do an insane skill but it's just not the same because the gymnasts are not taught how to present anything and they are simply too busy to.
  26. BreakfastClub

    BreakfastClub Active Member

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    Amen. Dance used to be my favorite discipline behind men -- the best skaters, the best artists and really original material in the only discipline where the skating had to be fully intertwined with the music. No one stopped to spins, the lady did the twizzles as they fit with the music, lifts were meant to accent the music, and speed and depth of edges and partnering skills (at that speed) were what set the teams apart. Now it's all about who can do the most gymnastic entry into a curve lift, who can twizzle 50 times in a row as fast as possible in unison (don't forget with a crazy blade grabbing position!) and who can pretzel tighter in a "dance spin." I'm still WTF over a "dance spin" - something that was non-existent until the ISU mandated them in 1999. Leave the pair spinning to the pairs. :shuffle:

    I literally can't watch dance any longer. I mean, in 2002 I sat through every compulsory dance at Europeans in Lausanne - that was back when there were still 2 compulsories and it went on all day for like 7-8 hours. In Zagreb this year, I went sightseeing during the short dance and went to see the Zagreb Symphony during the free dance.
  27. pat c

    pat c Well-Known Member

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    Using both to springboard.........how soon we forget. I'm going to use G&P, icedancers, as an example. We loved to hate them in NA. They fell, they were boring, they had an attitude, you name it they had something we hated.

    But think if they skating now, how we'd view them under COP. They were fast, precise, excellent timing, and they lost points for x,y and z, but still won. Deservedly so.

    I lament the fact that under the old 6.0 skaters like the above were vilified. There was no good reason for it except that we could not figure out what the judges were marking. Now we could. And I was never a G&P fan, altho I could recognize their skill. How nice it would be for *them* to get the recognition that they probably deserved in the skating fandom world. The old system certainly rewarded them, but the cost was high. Now under the new COP system, we might rail at the marks like we do now, but at least we do have a chance at understanding why someone wins. We might not like it, might not like their skating style, but now they do at least get some semblance of respect. Bring on COP, keep the old 6.0.
  28. gkelly

    gkelly Well-Known Member

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    This would certainly make it simple to explain what happens to the numbers. Some pro competitions used exactly this procedure.

    In the late 90s, before IJS was on the horizon, as a thought experiment I tried to analyze what would happen if 6.0-style scores were added up instead of using ordinals.

    What I figured out was that if judges gave scores exactly the way they had been, including the tiebreakers, and then the high and low technical scores were dropped and the high and low presentation scores were dropped, in close contests it was possible to get a result that disagreed with the rankings of a unanimous panel! That to me was a deal-breaker for that kind of number crunching. In those cases it would be more accurate not to drop the high and low scores.

    If we gave the judges ways to come up with meaningful technical scores and meaningful presentation scores each on a separate scale and not used to balance each other out, so that judges were not ranking skaters but scoring their technical content and scoring their presentation, then it might make sense to add up the scores.

    Essentially that's what the TES and PCS do, in much finer detail.

    So as a compromise maybe we could have a single score for technical elements, one for basic skating quality, and one for artistic impression, and add them up. Or break some of those down a little further, e.g., one score for jumps, another for spins, etc.

    I definitely agree with you about the media's inability or unwillingness to explain ordinals either.

    So either the ISU needs to decide that they're not interested in catering to fans, or they need to find ways to make a skater-centric system friendlier to fans. But a fan-centric system is not going to work for the sport as sport.

    Maybe something like replacing the exhibition with a fans'-choice competition after the technical event would allow fans to engage with the results of an event featuring their favorite skaters who qualified through the technical. With real official medals to make it meaningful as a performance contests. Probably wouldn't be accepted by the IOC. And which fans are able to vote on the results (the location of the event, or which locations have access to live coverage) would significantly bias the results.

    I was not able to watch the ladies' programs straight through and still haven't seen all of them, so I'm not in a position to answer that question.
  29. kwanfan1818

    kwanfan1818 I

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    Why: she gets paid multiple times for the same riff.

    Then she'd have to write another article.

    There was a fluff piece investigative report after the pairs scandal -- not sure if it was on CBC or US TV -- in which many of the judges gave a few sentences about why they voted the way they did.

    In one of her books, Brennan made a big deal about the brave Czech judge who refused to bow to pressure and award the Euro title to a Russian skater over Curry. I think it was in The Second Mark that he was quoted or paraphrased as having said that he didn't vote for the Russian skater for fear of going out of the corridor, because he couldn't believe the rest of the panel wouldn't have placed Curry first, and knew he was doomed when he saw the scores and found to his astonishment that four "Eastern-friendly" judges did. That was a rare, public time a judge that there were clear ramifications for a judge, but he was punished by his federation. (Flipping that, The Second Mark made Lavoie look heroic, when in PJ Kwong's book, Lavoie wrote the letter to te ISU and faced sanctions because the Swiss judge who heard Legounge say she had already promised her vote for B/S in Fall 2001 was about to come forward.)

    I lost the post about not accepting new stars, but it's the same in dance and opera in my experience, an almost palpable resentment that someone new is on the scene. It's exascerbated in ballet because there's a hierarchy and lots of, "(wuzrobbed) I'm seeing the "B" (or "C") cast because she's a corps member or soloist, not at the top rank" when they're seeing the young Kistler or Obraztsova.
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2013
  30. judiz

    judiz Well-Known Member

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    One of my best memories growing up was watching skating on a Sunday afternoon on Wide World of Sports with Jim McKay and Dick Button. I remember watching dance and pairs on Saturday afternoon and the ladies skating live Saturday night and then the men skating live on Sunday. As a kid I didn't care about the scores, I just watched the beautiful skating - Jill, Tiffany, Elaine, Debbie, Todd, Christopher, Scott, Mark, Paul and Brian - such lasting memories - a whole generation will never experience this.
  31. equatorial

    equatorial New Member

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    The Chinese judge gave the 1st place ordinal to Baiul, there is zero evidence that it was an instance of bloc judging.
  32. Mathman

    Mathman New Member

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    I think they have already decided. Cinquanta has been quoted as saying that he is sorry that fans don't like the scoring system, but he has a sport to run.

    I am not as grumpy on this issue as I sound. I do not think that the IJS is a major reason for the decline of popularity of skating as a spectator sport in the U.S. I don't think the Salt Lake City controversy or the lack of a U.S. lady superstar is, either.

    I do think that the IJS is a mild hindrance to marketing the sport.
  33. purple skates

    purple skates Shadow dancing

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    It wasn't on NBC - it was on one of those sports channels that I have buried at the back end of my Direct TV listings. Couldn't tell you what channel, or even what competition, except that it was last month and it was international. I only caught the last 45 minutes or so.
  34. VIETgrlTerifa

    VIETgrlTerifa Well-Known Member

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    Oh that explains it.
  35. ks777

    ks777 Well-Known Member

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    I don't think you understood what Taso meant.
  36. Mathman

    Mathman New Member

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    I am not sure exactly what you would accept as "evidence." There have been quite a few statistical studies of which countries have tended to vote in synch in different eras. But certainly (if my poor old memory serves :) ) in this case the pre-Olympic buzz was that "everybody knew" that there was a four-four division in the panel, with Hoffmann holding the swing vote.

    That is why all the attention afterword focused on Hoffmann's vote, even though he was only one of five who voted for Baiul.

    The same thing happened in the pairs event in Salt Lake City. It was well recognized going in that there were four B&S judges (Russia, China, Ukraine, and Poland) and four S&P judges (USA, Canada, Germany, and Japan). That put the spotlight on the French judge.
  37. ks777

    ks777 Well-Known Member

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    But the casual fans will never go to the ISU website to look at the score sheets. Maybe they need to show the score sheets as the score comes up on tv so people can understand what is going on.
  38. BlueRidge

    BlueRidge AYS's snark-sponge

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    I'm curious how many folks who are baseball fans here don't ever look at the box scores?
  39. overedge

    overedge Well-Known Member

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    (raises hand) Me. I only look if I missed the game and want a breakdown of what happened.
  40. BlueRidge

    BlueRidge AYS's snark-sponge

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    Do you think they are either too difficult to understand and/or unnecessary to appreciating the game?