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  1. #1

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    Rules to help skating's popularity?

    It seems to me that different stakeholders have different preferences in what high-level skating competitions should reward. When the scoring system and the judges reward things that the fans (or skaters) consider less important, or fail to reward things they consider most important, people get outraged.

    Even judges may be outraged if the rest of the panel disagrees with them or if the scoring system sets the numerical values in such a way that they can't use the numbers honestly in such a way as to produce the results that their holistic expert judgment tells them is correct.

    Clearly not all members of each category below will value the same aspects to the same degree, and some of them are contradictory within categories. So it will never be possible to please all fans or all skaters or all officials at the same time, let alone all the categories.

    I think everyone wants the final results to match their gut sense of who they think skated best over the course of the competition. (Except the most controversy-loving journalists or conspiracy-theory-minded fans who get the most pleasure out of disagreeing with the results.) It's just that stakeholders with different emphases in what they think makes for a good performance will often disagree about who was the best.

    And individual skaters and supporters of specific skaters (family, friends, fans, federations) tend to be biased in their perceptions when it comes to that skater even if they can be completely objective when their skater is not involved.

    Casual fans/general public tend to like
    *Clean programs
    *Cutting edge jump difficulty
    *Confident performance
    *Skaters showing personality through facial expression, movement to music, etc.
    *Attractive body line
    *Big jumps, fast spins, flashy highlight moves
    *Accessible music (specific preferences will vary among individuals)
    *Program themes that are understandable from costume, music, gestures, etc.
    *Long careers that allow them to follow the same skaters from year to year and to bond with their favorites
    *Underdogs -- including newcomers -- triumphing when they skate cleanest, most confidently, with the highest difficulty, and/or with the highest artistry
    *Come-from-behind stories (winners moving up in the free skate, and also larger-scale triumph over adversity stories involving off-ice aspects of the skaters' lives)
    *Final results matching long program results, although they will understand a skater who bombed the earlier round (short program) not being able to pull up all the way to the top even by winning the free skate
    *Human drama in the scoring that allows them to feel validated when results agree with their own opinions and to enjoy outrage at specific officials with human faces when they disagree
    *Scores that are meaningful and understandable at first glance

    Media tend to like all of the above, especially
    *Controversy over results -- especially when it can be framed in terms of good guys (skaters who deserved better scores) and bad guys (corrupt officials, overmarked skaters)
    *Hometown/home country winners

    Serious fans tend to like all of the above and also
    *Good technique and good technical content that can be appreciated by knowing the elements and rules more than can be communicated within a single TV broadcast, but not necessarily nitpicky fine points of technique
    *Turnover among the medalists
    *Perennial also-rans with appealing qualities finally putting together good performances at important events to win medals
    *Watching skaters improve over the course of a season or from one year to the next and be rewarded for that improvement
    *Ability to identify specific decisions by specific officials -- to analyze the results in detail and also to identify "good" and "bad" judges/tech specialists
    *Signature moves, original moves and variations, resurrection of formerly popular moves from in a modern context
    *More challenging music selections and sophisticated whole-body choreography
    *Scores that they can understand and predict or come up with on their own based on knowledge of the sport

    Skaters tend to like
    *Difficulty being rewarded -- including difficulties of program construction, connections in and out of elements and the details of the skating between the elements
    *Quality being rewarded -- including fine points of technique that the general public can't appreciate (e.g., many will take more pride in a fall on a rotated jump than landing a severely cheated jump on one foot), including speed and edge quality
    *Significant penalties for significant errors
    *Detailed explanations for the scores -- knowing where they gained and lost points and where they can earn more next time
    *Being rewarded for good short programs as well as good free skates
    *Being rewarded for what they actually do during the performance at hand, not based on reputation (previous events, practices, etc.) or politics
    *Freedom to showcase their own best skills
    *Freedom to make up for mistakes by adding missed elements later

    Technical panels tend to like
    *Clear elements that leave no question as to what was attempted, either successfully or not, including clear edges and positions
    *Knowing exactly where each element starts and ends
    *No do-overs

    Judges tend to like
    *Good technique in the basic skating, especially fluid, steady, deep edges with effortless power and flow
    *Good technique on elements, including fine points
    *Successful elements
    *Good carriage and body line including core strength/upper body control
    *Skating with confidence and "attack"
    *Amplitude, speed, ice coverage on elements (or centering/lack of ice coverage in the case of spins)
    *Use of the full ice surface with variety of element placement, travel patterns curving and turning in both directions
    *Use of advanced turns
    *Movement that matches the music in style and also in beat-to-beat rhythm
    *Originality in the use of edges, creative entries and exits of elements, creative body positions in connection with correct edges
    *Hometown/home country skaters doing well (but if they're honest they won't let familiarity and personal connection with the skater influence their scores)
    *Veterans with good skills finally putting all the pieces together with a good skate in an important event (ditto)
    *Freedom to call it as they see it without political pressure
    *Feeling that their decisions count, not that the tech panel calls completely determine the results

    I've probably left out a few important points somewhere. Feel free to add.

    What I'm wondering is whether it is possible to adjust the rules in such a way that will more often meet the needs of all these groups.

    And where the needs of different groups conflict, whose should take priority?


    Should the ISU change the rules to encourage results and narratives that will be most appealing to fans?

    Which fans? Sports fans or arts fans or casual fans looking for casual entertainment? US fans or Canadian fans or Russian or French or Japanese or Korean fans?

    Should there be different rules for the important televised championships than for the developmental and qualifying events that all skaters have to go through to identify the best who will make it to the championships?

    If the rules are designed primarily to reward good technical skating as a sport, can the ISU do anything to help casual viewers understand the technique without relying on TV networks to focus on fundamental but less TV-friendly skills?

  2. #2

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    Replay!

    I'm a serious fan without much tech knowledge. Without entering fully into your challenge, I'd like to add that IF the present system is to be retained, both casual and serious fans IMO would like some instant replay that clarifies the tech calls and GOEs since they have such a huge impact on scores and outcomes. The question is how to do it without slowing down the show too much. Certainly the resurfacing breaks are an opportunity, and perhaps for the final groups 15-20 seconds of analysis could be added after each result is announced, before the next skate begins. That doesn't sound like much, but in TV/real time it is a lot and a way of presenting tech info visually can certainly be developed. I am not suggesting that all the tech info be put on screen - I suggest replays of key spots where skaters gained or lost points with analyses of those spots only. Or something like that.

    This might require some redefinition of the judges' and tech panels' jobs -- they would have to start identifying key points that determine their scoring for TV purposes. I realize that ultimately the outcome might rest on something other than the key points identified in real time by judges and tech panels, but I'd like to think that this would help explain most of the results. Even if this only explained individual scores and not the overall outcomes, it would still be healthy for the sport if the tech panels had to show why they knocked somebody's levels down, and if judges had to display the GOEs they awarded. At the end of the comp there could be a recap that allows for direct comparisons of levels and GOEs.

    I could see this being pretty hard on the judges and tech callers as it would shine a bright light on what they are doing. Sorry.

  3. #3

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    Good suggestion. Should the ISU write this into the process that must be done at all (all televised) events in such a way that broadcasters would be forced to show it?

    Or make the information available to broadcasters and let them choose which details to show, if any?

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    Agree. Replays of downgraded jumps with explanation. Replays of jumps with +3 GOE, -3GOE (explanation). Announcers should ID every jump along with a few words to say possible downgrade or loss of GOE due to wonky landing or plus GOE for difficult exit (e.g.). Also ID level 4 spin/level3/etc. Pre-show should give rundown of jump base scores, explain spin levels, explain levels for twists/lifts. If it's all just a beauty contest, who cares? Explain the GD sport to the viewers so that they understand it's a sport. Explain a bit about PCS too: intricacy of choreography/ What are skating skills? How are they measured? How can I the viewer see/hear deep edges? Show me examples of transitions between elements. Show me skater A who transitions between elements and skater B who just skates from element to element. Really this could be done in 10 minutes max upfront for each discipline. Then, as the commentator describes the skate, he or she references back to levels for elements and etc.: That spin included blah,blah,blah, level 3. Not spout inanities like Scott and Sandra--the absolute worst possible ambassadors for the sport. The harm they do is incalculable.

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    Do the rules really need to be adjusted or is it simply that casual fans (and even some die hard fans here) don't have a firm understanding of levels, GOE's and PCS? Not that I blame anyone, I've looked through some of the communications on line and there are a lot of rules, bullet points, variations, etc. and they are usually modified from year to year. My guess is that casual fans rely on the commentators. I know that's what I do when I watch a sport I don't fully understand. So maybe the play by play people need to be more informed. I'll use this years IceNetwork coverage from US Nationals. I loved Tanith Belbins analysis and how she recognized a sloppy yankee section, or where the key points were missed. It really helped me to understand the scores. I do remember a few years ago, one of the networks did a whole segment on what a fully rotated jump looked like and refered back to it when skaters had under rotations. Maybe a public service segment before each discipline could explain what's required and a more "currently" knowledgeable person could be brought into the broadcast booth. It's common in the NFL's coverage to have someone on hand when a commentator questions a ref's call or needs clarification on a rule. It just seems to me that not only are we dealing with how to keep casual fans interested and informed, but we're trying to do it with casual commentators.

  6. #6

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    I would love to see a series of 1-minute educational montages about skating skills and other technical and PCS details.

    The ISU can't force the networks to produce or show such segments. But maybe if the ISU produced them and provided them to the networks and also posted them on their website, that would encourage the networks either to show them or to get the networks to take a few seconds to say and/or show something like "Want to understand what judges are looking for? Go to isu.org and look for the Recognize Skills link." (Or whatever would be an easy-to-find link)

    Better if networks actually broadcast the segments themselves, so even apathetic fans would learn something without making an effort. But pointing interested fans to an easy way to learn more would be almost as useful.

  7. #7
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    I don't thin the declining popularity of skating is caused by people not understanding the rules. I think it is caused in part by audiences thinking the skates that look the best are not the ones that win, but I think the bigger problem is that the things COP rewards are leading coaches and choreographers to design vastly less entertaining and impressive programs. The skating itself is simply not as enjoyable to watch.

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by gkelly View Post
    I would love to see a series of 1-minute educational montages about skating skills and other technical and PCS details.

    The ISU can't force the networks to produce or show such segments. But maybe if the ISU produced them and provided them to the networks and also posted them on their website, that would encourage the networks either to show them or to get the networks to take a few seconds to say and/or show something like "Want to understand what judges are looking for? Go to isu.org and look for the Recognize Skills link." (Or whatever would be an easy-to-find link)

    Better if networks actually broadcast the segments themselves, so even apathetic fans would learn something without making an effort. But pointing interested fans to an easy way to learn more would be almost as useful.
    They already have, here are the five playlists for each component:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_U6up...5A7E305C8FD655
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cex94...713979B390DCD8
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JfB13...F916B22804D190
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bu1TF...3B645BA5A421EF
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JRDiG...7ED6826B33795A

    I've watched them all many times and as a serious fan who completely understands both systems (and has watched all the USFSA moves in the field videos prior to CoP), I still prefer 6.0. Skating should be about judging the forest, not the individual trees and that's where both some of serious and (it seems like) most casual fans have been lost.

  9. #9
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    As a long time watcher of ice dance (from back in the days when television had rabbit ears, 3 major networks and a couple of PBS stations), I don't miss the previous style of judging at all. Is IJS perfect, no, but neither was 6.0 I remember watching dance teams slip and stumble in side by side comparisons and just because it was their "time", they would get the nod from the judges. Most of the time back then, I didn't think the better performing team won. Of course nowadays, there are 800+ television channels to choose from, so that makes it harder to garner anything more than casual fans, even if there was a perfect scoring system. What I'd really love to see is a Skating channel, or at least an attempt at one. I'd pay a monthly subscription for it, or simply add it to an existing cable/satellite sports package.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Susan M View Post
    I don't thin the declining popularity of skating is caused by people not understanding the rules. I think it is caused in part by audiences thinking the skates that look the best are not the ones that win, but I think the bigger problem is that the things COP rewards are leading coaches and choreographers to design vastly less entertaining and impressive programs. The skating itself is simply not as enjoyable to watch.
    This. I did not used to be bored watching Ladiezzz. I am now. It's like watching bronze solo/showcases at a pro-am competition now--once in a very great while you get something awesome, but mostly it's someone plowing through their normal routine/elements with some music playing in the background.

    Quote Originally Posted by gkelly View Post
    I would love to see a series of 1-minute educational montages about skating skills and other technical and PCS details.
    I distinctly remember, years and years ago (pre-IJS, probably post-whack, though I started watching more in 91-92 so that's not not a given) especially for the Olympics they would have a little segment during all the fluff with someone showing examples of different jumps or spins and explaining what they were. Obviously the average viewer isn't going to become an expert at differentiating a Salchow from a loop in one three-minute filler segment, but things like that at least give them SOMETHING to go on. I go back to the "show" done for Torino with Mary Carillo as host/viewer surrogate. It was fun for fans and fun for non-fans.

  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by danceronice View Post
    I distinctly remember, years and years ago (pre-IJS, probably post-whack, though I started watching more in 91-92 so that's not not a given) especially for the Olympics they would have a little segment during all the fluff with someone showing examples of different jumps or spins and explaining what they were. Obviously the average viewer isn't going to become an expert at differentiating a Salchow from a loop in one three-minute filler segment, but things like that at least give them SOMETHING to go on. I go back to the "show" done for Torino with Mary Carillo as host/viewer surrogate. It was fun for fans and fun for non-fans.
    Yes, I liked those.

    But I'd like to see segments that go a little more into depth about basic skating skills. Not quite as far as the component judging videos BreakfastClub cited. By all means the ISU should make those readily available to interested fans and encourage broadcasters to direct viewers there.
    But for new or casual fans who don't already know the terminology, it would be more helpful to have shorter, quicker paced, more enthusiastically narrated pieces. Make them fun to watch, or at least short and sweet.

    And I would start with skating skills: the general concepts covered in the component videos but in shorter sound bites, identifying edges, identifying turns.

    I wouldn't expect new fans to learn to recognize all the different kinds of turns -- but knowing that there are different kinds and that some are harder than others would be useful knowledge in understanding the kinds of skills skaters need to develop and that they're being judged on. If a fan is especially interested s/he can replay the segments demonstrating and identifying each turn until s/he can see the differences.

    Then when there are segments on identifying jumps, if viewers already know the difference between an inside and an outside edge it might help them recognize the difference between a salchow and a loop.

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    I think one simple but very important thing to do is for ISU to make a disclaimer at the end of each competition on the TV screen that detailed breakdown of the scoring can be reached through an easily accessible URL.

    It's not THE solution, not by a long shot. But there will be people with inquisitive mind who would actually go and analyse the numbers if they don't understand why the judging was the way it happened. Educate the public's knowledge on COP is really important.

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    I am a skater, I sort of agree with your points

    I would rather see someone go out and try difficult moves and fail over the watered down easy clean program!
    Unless they fall on everything.

    In terms of this worlds I still preferred Patricks performances over Denis Ten. I was glad that Patrick still won.

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    If one is interested, one will take the effort and time to understand. For those who claim difficulty in understanding, either you need to expand your brain or stop watching.

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    Judges like: *Good technique in the basic skating, especially fluid, steady, deep edges with effortless power and flow
    Not only judges, it is other skaters and TC who recognize this ability which is what creates speed. The one thing that is difficult to determine for the casual or even avid fan who only ever watches skating on TV is speed and flow across the ice. When a camera follows a skater and keeps them always in the center of the frame, perception of ice coverage is lost.

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    When results are shown on the screen (at the rink or on TV screen), they should break down the TES and PCS points further:

    TES: 50

    Jump points: 30

    Spin points: 15

    Steps points: 5

    Jumps UR: 0

    Jumps DG: 2

    Elements invalidated: 1

    PCS: 50

    SS: 6

    TR: 7

    PE: 6

    CH: 8

    IN: 4

    Deductions: 2 (music, costume)

    TSS: 98

    Rank in segment: 3

    Rank overall: 1

    These aren't rules as much as just something simple that helps audience understands what is going on.

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    Quote Originally Posted by CoralReef View Post
    What I'd really love to see is a Skating channel, or at least an attempt at one. I'd pay a monthly subscription for it, or simply add it to an existing cable/satellite sports package.
    Unfortunately exotic gourmet cable stations don't reach to the average layman fan that is flipping channels and the average kid that becomes tomorrow's senior skater usually gets into the sport by watching a skating event on tv and later on asking mommy and daddy to pay for classes. If you can't bring skating to a mainstream audience to discover how cool it is, how can you bring new blood into a dying sport?

    I haven't seen figure ice skating on tv every since ESPN Latin America stopped showing it in 2008. They showed the 2010 Olympics in Mexico but with HORRIBLE coverage (previous Olympics used to have excellent coverage). Unfortunately I couldn't see the 2010 Olympics because I didn't have tv where I was working that year and much less the cash to buy a tv with satellite TV.

    Without ESPN Skating has gone into the realms of exotic sports people see for 4 hours every 4 years. Latin America's economy is booming, the mexican peso is appreciating at an almost alarming rate against the dollar and yen, both Mexico and Brazil have 50 million more people than the USA. Can you imagine half a billion people can no longer see skating?

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by mossop View Post
    If one is interested, one will take the effort and time to understand. For those who claim difficulty in understanding, either you need to expand your brain or stop watching.
    They have stopped watching. This is not a victory.

  19. #19

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    If skating wants to finance itself through things like TV rights, they have to give the casual fans what they want ... otherwise, they will watch something else. If skating wants to be more of a sport, they have to find a new way of financing itself ... and skating fans have to stop complaining about the lack of skating on TV. (IMO)

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by mossop View Post
    If one is interested, one will take the effort and time to understand. For those who claim difficulty in understanding, either you need to expand your brain or stop watching.
    I have the same kind of snobbish attitude.

    But honestly, figure skating is a really complex and difficult sport. You can't make it easy to understand.

    I just don't see what the solution is. Simplify it so only jumps count?

    Turn it into Dancing on Ice?

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