I would say it's more like as the popularity of figure skating in the US is dwindling, so are Christine Brennan's opportunities for publication, and some gets more attention than "oh, what a pretty dress".
(Note that I actually like Brennan's writing 99% of the time, but IMHO what I wrote above is true for her and for every other media person that has some knowledge and experience of figure skating coverage.)
Who wants to watch rich people eat pizza? They must have loved that in Bangladesh. - Randy Newman on the 2014 Oscars broadcast
There are certainly issues about these World Championships that did not go well, but while several bloggers have written thoughtful, interesting posts on that subject, Brennan didn't. She could have written this column about any skating event; it's her generic "IJS bad, Speedy bad, skating is a niche sport in the US ergo it's doomed everywhere" crap that she churns out every time. I would be surprised if this wasn't half-written well ahead of time.
I have no respect for her. Maybe she's better at covering other sports, but I really don't wish to find out.
And it's not just Brennan saying so. Fleets of coaches, commentators, media and press, not to mention past and current skaters alike, all blame the new judging system as the primary cause for skating's chronic decline.
Surely this collective response can't be dismissed as mere drivel generated in a vacuum, can it? There has to be some validity behind their arguments, don't you think?
At the end of the day, regardless of affiliation or agenda, I think people like Brennan and Hersh, as well as everyone else addressing this decline, ultimately care deeply about the sport and don't want to see it completely fade into obscurity like those other extremely insular niche sports like curling or fencing.
Yes, skating is extremely popular in Asia, but so is badminton, and when do you ever really see or hear about that sport outside of the Olympics or Asia? That's not a fate I want for skating, to have its popularity relegated to one half of the world. I'm not expecting skating to return to its glory days of the mid-90s, but even before that era skating always seemed to enjoy a tangential relationship with the casual fan and that seems to be dying quickly.
I think I would feel more comforted if the decline were appearing to stabilize, but every season I see the audience in the stands getting smaller and smaller, and the networks broadcasting less and less. I mean, have you ever seen a Canadian audience that small at a World Championship? That's scary to see IMO from a country that has such a deeply rooted history and reverence for the sport.
Ultimately, I think hardcore skating fans get the nuance of this debate and, because we are hardcore fans, can argue down to the finest decimal the merit of COP. But sometimes I think we can't see the forest for the trees.
I think the larger picture speaks for itself: the casual fans are leaving.
Say what you will about the 6.0 system, but despite all its flaws and all the wuzrobbing back in the day, the casual fans always came back to watch. I don't think they're coming back now.
I've been a skating fan for a long time and I find the argument that COP is killing off the casual fan population to be baffling.
Why would the scoring system do that?
Casual fans did not understand the scoring system.
Skaters who didn't fall lost to skaters who did.
Controversies over results were rampant.
Everyone believed the judging was corrupt.
And this was the system people were supposed to prefer??????
For years, there were demands that skating clean up its act, fix the judging (or just die, as judged sports aren't real sports, anyway), and make it easier for fans to understand the system, and every time they did something to diddle with 6.0, it got even more confusing. I got 6.0; I never did understand OBO.
And yet, people preferred it that way? Really? Why? Because they liked the drama of it all?
There is no television coverage this year; without it, skating is dead. Casual fans by definition are not going to go online looking for links to TV coverage from other countries. They aren't even going to know Worlds is going on; they never did. They would stumble across it on the weekends while flipping channels. There is no place for them to come back to. And isn't the lack of skating on television in the US the result of some kind of contract issue?
"There are three social classes in America: upper middle class, middle class, and lower middle class." -- Judith Martin
skating need the drama, its a sport that appeals to women and gay men. Bring back the soap opera aspect I say.
Maybe brennan should try writing something positive about it once in a while. Who is going to bother watching a sport that is deemed dead by a skating reporter?
Christine's article are so beyond trash... She needs some contacts besides Audrey Weisiger and coaches who don't even have any star athletes any more.
6.0 for all its faults made intuivie and emotional sense (both of which are far more important than raw numbers for the casual and semi-casual fans that any sport needs).
Tieing the scores to judges from specific countries made the scores seem more... real. And half the fun was second judging the judges.
Crucially, before 2002 the great majority of fans trusted that the judging system wasn't totally corrupt, that some of the more questionalbe results were because of finer technical details that casual fans weren't trained to see.
2002 destroyed that and everything the ISU has done since then has simply created the impression that the ISU isn't interested in stopping cheating as much as making it more difficult to detect. No matter what it has said that has been what most people understand.
I'm very sympathetic to some of the ideas behind IJS/COP but the execution has been terrible. I still have no clear idea what a good score is and the concept of "levels" has just killed spins and footwork.
I paid no attention whatsoever to figure skating this season and it's largely because the current judging system still doesn't make intuitive or emotional sense to me and doesn't engage me the way that 6.0 did (ok, and partly because eurosport has disappeared behind a paywall where I live).
- If she had been paying any attention to the sport at all, she'd know that Denis Ten is hardly unknown.
- She (and others like her) keep conflating COP with anonymous judging. They are two separate issues altogether.
- She acknowledges that the current system is fairer, but then suggests we go back to 6.0 because even though it was flawed it made for better TV. WTF?
There is an upside to skating not being as popular as it once was in the US - hopefully it means we won't have to read drivel from Brennan and her ilk as much any more.
To think that fun is simple fun, while earnest things are earnest, proves all too plain that neither one thou truthfully discernest.
I find explanations regarding why IJS is anymore accurate than 6.0 to be a bit lacking. Yes, elements have values assigned to them, and there's a system of assigning levels, etc. But, exactly how do they come up with those numbers? Why should certain features count in gaining a level while others not?
Nobody really explains why the numbers make sense. They just argue results are fair because the system says it is. That's fair since competitions are taking place by the system in place, but I've never really understood why people are so quick to accept the system in itself isn't deeply flawed in truly measuring what's put out there on the ice.
Not to say there aren't many positives to it. Elements like footwork and spins are given much more importance than they ever were under 6.0, skaters that are close after the short program have a real shot of moving up with a cumulative points system rather than a factored placement system (an example would be 2002 Ladies SP where it didn't seem fair that comparable skates did not have the same shot of a medal), technique problems like flutzing and underrotations are finally being dealt with, and skaters themselves can see areas in which to improve if they want to move up in the rankings.
However, with all those positives and constant tweakings to "perfect" the system, can anybody really say that the actual numbered values and system of adding up numbers really properly evaluates programs in the sport at least any better than 6.0? Yes, it is a more detailed approach and puts many more things in consideration, but as a whole, is it better?
BTW, Brennan is really a bad journalist when it comes to figure skating. Yes, she has inside information and can provide gossip, and I guess skating knowledge at the most basic level (though I find her conclusions to be weak based on what information she gives). However, she's not well-researched nor does she really do any real work to understand how anything in figure skating works. That was true under 6.0 as well as she never understood what was required for the presentation mark.
Ah, thank you Mafke. ITA!
You hit the nail on the head. My thoughts exactly.Originally Posted by Mafke
You make great points too, VIETgrlTerifa.
Christine Brennan could definitely make some improvements in terms of her research, writing and her overall approach to reporting on figure skating. However, the sport of figure skating IMO evidences a great deal more room for improvement. In any case, why kill the messenger?
Last edited by aftershocks; 03-18-2013 at 11:58 AM.
As to Christine Brennan’s article, of course Denis Ten is not unknown to hardcore fs fans, but obviously he doesn't have high name recognition among the general public. And how many skaters do anyway these days? Sure that characterization of Ten is a minor flaw which we could probably send off suggestions to Brennan for rephrasing. However, regardless of opinions on Brennan's writing skills, her motivation, her knowledge and accuracy, and her tendency to over-dramatize the current fs scene in a negative fashion, she does make points that have merit and substance.
I agree with the above. What's the point of hard-core fans and powers at the top of the ISU right down to the federations keeping their heads buried in the sand? Why keep denying that the judging system is not a bastion of perfection? Changes needed to have been made well before 2002. Trying to rush in a system in order to sweep a scandal under the rug doesn't vouch much for the changes that were implemented and that as a result have had to be constantly tweaked and re-tweaked. Changes to the judging system were necessary, but completely eliminating 6.0 as a brand (Lysacek's apt term) was a huge mistake, IMO.While the sport still is thriving in Asia and Russia, it feels way too old in North America and Europe. The sport's leaders will never vote themselves out of office, but they should, to be replaced by a younger, fresher team that understands technology, TV and appealing to an audience that isn't almost entirely over 50... It remains stuck in the past.
Also, the sport could certainly benefit by an infusion of fresh blood at the top, preferably younger people who have vision and solid experience and knowledge of the sport of figure skating (not speed skating). It remains that judges are so mesmerized by Patrick's skating skills, while not seeming to understand where they come from. Power mongers running the sport in the late 80s and early 90s apparently didn't realize the importance of figures training, nor did they seem to understand that practicing figures is an essential and basic foundation which helps skaters develop proper technique on their jumps. Doing away with figures in competition was an important move, but wiping out the requirement to do them at all helped cut the sport off at the ankles.
Some anecdotes from Tom Dickson help explain the importance of figures practice (from his interview with manleywoman on February 28, 2010): http://www.manleywoman.com/episode-36-tom-dickson/
I’ve worked with both [skaters with and without figures experience]. People like Matt Savoie and Ryan Jahnke did figures all the way up to about novice, and there is a difference. If you’ve learned [figures] loops you know how to pull a tight edge, whereas now, I train people daily who need to know how to do that. I make them do paragraph loop pulls, back change loop pulls, because those are skills [these people] haven’t learned, and it’s incredibly useful as a movement tool to be able to do tight lobes. Jeremy Abbott, my first lesson with him was an outside eight. He’s done some figures, I think he passed his second test, but he didn’t remember how difficult an outside eight was [laughs]. He had a great run of his blade, but he had some issues like — I call it balancing your head on your spine, and we went back to the outside eight as a way of learning that. And he was like, wow, I didn’t realize how difficult this is... In the past I’d given him some very simple exercises to do very slowly, like doing a forward inside choctaw to a back outside counter, and he still does those… [A]n element that skaters don’t have in their repertoire these days, is that calming sort of concentrated feeling that figures give you. I call it yoga on ice, it’s how to get into difficult positions and relax and sustain it…
We have a figures session at our rink once a week. And people like Ryan Bradley, I’ve made them do it [laughs]. He also passed his third test, but it’s been years since he did figures. But he says when he gets on the ice after doing figures, he actually jumps better. And I’m like, that’s because everything you’re doing in a jump is based on compulsory figures. Every position you take, the way you rotate with a curve or against a curve, all those are the foundation for shifting your weight off the ice and jumping. And that part’s been forgotten. But it would be really interesting now, because in the past, we had all these [figures] skills that we didn’t use [in freeskating]. No one would dream of doing loops or rockers in a footwork sequence, so we had all these skills that were left on the compulsory figures side… But we look back now and we’re like, wow, we could use them now for what we’re required to do.
Pity the poor fan who opened USA Today (perhaps in NC or wherever) and got totally misinformed by Christine Brennan's ignorant rant.
Was the arena really empty during the first half of the championships Christine Brennan calls it "a wake".
IMO for ticket sales the traditional schedule of the championships was better. I mean only one LP a day and no LPs on weekday afternoon sessions.
If Christine Brennan really loves figure skating, maybe putting all the emphasis on one judging decision she doesn't agree with is not the best approach to help the sport's popularity.
What about the astonishing number of fantastic young talents from the USA, Russia, China, Canada, Ukraine and even Slovakia in the women's event? Has there ever been such a wealth of 16-17-year olds from so many countries? What about the Olympic champion coming back after a break and giving one of the best technical performances in memory? What about milking the rivalry between the three world champions on the ladies' podium and the Olympic gold and silver medalists on the dance podium? What about the fact that in the men's category two countries won medals for the first time in history? What about Volosozhar/Trankov - I mean, maybe they won't sell papers in the US but does figure skating get any better?
Last edited by Asli; 03-18-2013 at 12:32 PM.
What's worse, Brennan's sometimes less than accurate reporting which tends toward negative over-dramatization and weak conclusions, but also offers some points that bear further examination and reflection? Or, losing both casual and hard-core fans fed up with the repetitive programs, inconsistent scoring, confusing results, and inability to easily gain viewing access to major competitions?
There's a lot of research that shows that human memory reconfigures the past rather than recording it. Its remarkable what people "remember" about skating under the old judging system. Someone should do some research so we don't have to rely on memory--maybe its my memory that is faulty but I think it would turn up almost constant complaints about the judging being corrupt (find some old US broadcasts from the 1980s with Dick Button raving on and on about the block judging in favor of Soviet skaters).
The ranting and raving about every result that was disagreed with by enough people is what ended up with SLC and that insanity. And the new judging system. But figure skating keeps taking hits every time people scream about a result as if it were not just what is inevitably going to happen in a subjectively judged sport but an injustice that deserves world wide concern.
IF people want to promote the sport and have it be more popular in the US and any other countries where it may not be as popular as people wish, celebrate the sport! Worlds was a magnificent display of figure skating and ice dance! Tearing the sport down is hardly going to bring it up. And it will do the skaters no good to be convinced its not their skating that determines their placements. Then they don't improve their skating they end up bitter and sad.
Chan won. Sure its arguable. Judging is subjective. Let's not take the whole sport down again.
If people saw skating on TV and weren't taken with it, its because they just aren't into it! People in the skating world need to stop tearing their hair out over this. Celebrate the sport, spread the joy of watching. That's the only way to generate interest.
Sour grapes and ramped up screaming controversy might get people to read your articles but they don't promote the sport.
“I am happy that it’s over. Happy that I did well.” Yu Na Kim
I do think that the 2002 fiasco is overrated as far as discouraging fans.