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  1. #1
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    Exclamation Getting Up And Saying No

    I've been working on a two part piece that I really think a lot of you will find interesting. Part one looks at the courage Jeremy Abbott showed in Sochi and has exclusive interviews you won't find from anyone else with his mother Allison and sister Gwen, telling the behind the scenes story of Jeremy's Sochi story. It also begins a two part discussion on bullying and social media as it relates to figure skating that will address some very serious issues in Part 2.

    Part One is online at:

    http://www.facebook.com/SkateGuard
    http://skateguard1.blogspot.ca/2014/...no-part-1.html

  2. #2
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    THANK YOU! Best piece I've read in a while! I've been so discouraged by all the poison permeating skating discussions and I needed to read this. I think Jeremy has joined the ranks of the "True Grit" division; he's right up there with some other formidable skaters (I'm thinking Elvis skating with his injury).
    Well done! I'm looking forward to Part 2.

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    This is a fabulous article.

    Jeremy's Mom seems to be a very wise woman.

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    Thanks, that was very nice. I love the story about the young woman who hugged his mom -- just lovely. And "Don't you even think about it!"
    Charter member of the "We Always Believed in Ashley" Club and the "We Believe in Ricky" Club
    Old, lonely, pathos-hungry, and extremely gullible

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    Thank you all for your wonderful comments! Allison is GREAT people... trust me! Part 2 is going to ruffle a few feathers but it's going to VERY frankly talk about bullying, social media and an issue that we all need to be mindful of. I'm not expecting everything to change based on one blog but if this conversation can make just one person more mindful of how they treat a fellow human being, something good will have come out of this story and discussion.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Scrufflet View Post
    THANK YOU! Best piece I've read in a while! I've been so discouraged by all the poison permeating skating discussions and I needed to read this. I think Jeremy has joined the ranks of the "True Grit" division; he's right up there with some other formidable skaters (I'm thinking Elvis skating with his injury).
    Well done! I'm looking forward to Part 2.

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    "Getting Up And Saying No: Part 2." An in-depth look at bullying and social media that you are DEFINITELY going to want to read. Bullying is NEVER okay and we simply have to 'get up and say no' too:

    http://www.facebook.com/SkateGuard
    http://skateguard1.blogspot.com/2014...no-part-2.html
    Last edited by N_Halifax; 02-22-2014 at 03:56 PM.

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    N_Halifax, THANK YOU! I'm so glad that you and others are speaking up and saying enough is enough! I had so looked forward to Sochi and have felt poisoned by the results. And I'm not speaking only about who got the medals and who deserved them. This nasty mentality going in made it hard to watch. I felt I had to go to watch other competitions where everyone congratulated fellow competitors and judges worked together and with competitors (Extreme sports events) to determine the fairest outcome.
    I feel for the skaters. Good on Ashley for ignoring the haters and showing her stuff! Good on Jeremy Abbott for showing strength of character and standing up for himself! And good on the Japanese shopkeeper who stood up for Mao after the Japanese official attacked her skating ("let him go out on the ice and do it himself").
    I'll be cheering for the next generation of skaters and hoping they can keep their love of the sport alive. K. Osmond and Jason Brown look as if they really love it. I fervently hope they don't lose that.
    Thanks again for this deep profound statement! I'd be proud to sit beside you at any skate event!

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    Thank you for your kind words, Scrufflet! Really well said and I couldn't agree with you more. As unpopular as my opinion may be with many people, it's something I really felt needed to be confronted. Not everyone's going to agree with me and that's absolutely fine. It's just about being respectful towards one another - not too hard to grasp! I've shared this blog with 50+ anti-bullying organizations this morning hoping this story can be shared OUTSIDE of the skating community to a much broader audience.

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    Quote Originally Posted by N_Halifax View Post
    "Getting Up And Saying No: Part 2." An in-depth look at bullying and social media that you are DEFINITELY going to want to read. Bullying is NEVER okay and we simply have to 'get up and say no' too: http://skateguard1.blogspot.com/2014...no-part-2.html
    Thanks for writing this, although I fail to see how many of the examples you discuss constitute bullying. I feel that you may have blurred the line between legitimate (albeit harsh) criticism of elite, Olympic athletes and bullying.

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    Mixed feelings about this article. You and Jeremy's mother seem to be saying that, essentially, any criticism of a skater amounts to bullying. I disagree. Criticism is a part of life. It happens everywhere you go. If you're a student, you receive criticism from teachers through grades and the comments they write on your papers. If you're in the workforce, you get criticism from your bosses and coworkers via performance reviews and feedback. If you're a professional athlete, criticism comes from the press and your coach or your federation. Criticism has always been, and will always be, a part of human life. It is never pleasant, but you have to face it and try to take what positives you can from it.

    Criticism is different from bullying. They are not the same thing. Bullying, at least as I see it, is usually inherently irrational, intended to produce harm, and arises from emotional issues/prejudices within the bullying party. Reasonable criticism, on the other hand, derives from knowledge and/or authority, is not intended to produce personal harm, and contains constructive elements, which if followed upon, can produce improvement. A group of kids holding down that poor child in Canada and spitting in his mouth is irrational bullying. Journalists or coaches, offering a critique of skaters' performances based on some knowledge of the sport, is criticism. Two different things.

    I do understand your argument that Brennan/Lease might at times stray from a technical critique of skaters' performance to analysis of more personal aspects of a skater's competitive makeup. At times, any journalist is likely to overreach somewhat in their writing. Does this constitute bullying? I say no, and here's why. Individuals who choose to represent their country or their business or another group must realize they are taking on a role larger than themselves. They are representing a larger group and, as such, they are to some extent beholden to that group. To expect the group will have no opinion on, or disappointment in, poor performance, is not realistic.

    On the other hand, I completely agree with the point you and Jeremy's mom made about how easily social media can be utilized to engage in bullying/character assassination. Hiding behind the cloak of anonymity, people can and do say whatever the heck they want, and yes this is wrong and mean and often constitutes bullying. That's why, after a lot of thought about this issue, I recently decided to only post/comment online under my real name.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by N_Halifax View Post
    I've been working on a two part piece that I really think a lot of you will find interesting. Part one looks at the courage Jeremy Abbott showed in Sochi and has exclusive interviews you won't find from anyone else with his mother Allison and sister Gwen, telling the behind the scenes story of Jeremy's Sochi story. It also begins a two part discussion on bullying and social media as it relates to figure skating that will address some very serious issues in Part 2.

    Part One is online at:

    http://www.facebook.com/SkateGuard
    http://skateguard1.blogspot.ca/2014/...no-part-1.html
    I have trouble loading your page because of all the codes. It freezes up my browser.

    I did manage to look at the first part on a different computer. I too have mixed feelings. I don't believe everything has to be pat-on-the-back in life -- not just in skating. I have gotten very harsh criticisms on me and it hurt, but it makes me a better person in the end. All smiles and gentle words is all good, but I also believe in wake up calls.

    Quote Originally Posted by Skittl1321 View Post
    Jeremy's Mom seems to be a very wise woman.
    All skating parents are wise but I also think no skating parents, or any parent, is perfect either. That's why I don't believe any one skating parent should be set up as a role model, because some parents are hands off and that works just as well as very intense parents. Each style has its strengths and weaknesses.

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    Thank you all for your comments and feedback on this article. I think there's a definite line between constructive and destructive criticism. There's a difference between completely tearing someone or a program to shreds and making factual comments and sharing constructive criticism on a bad skate. I do feel the examples that I shared all constitute bullying, and yes, some are worse than others. If someone falls four times in their free skate, you can say that they fell four times... they did. That's fact. I think there's definitely a line that people like Christine Brennan and The Skating Lesson consistently cross that goes from being constructive to destructive. People have different tastes and I really have an issue with people just going overboard with many of their criticisms of skaters on social media and in the media.

    Claire, I agree with your statement "Criticism has always been, and will always be, a part of human life. It is never pleasant, but you have to face it and try to take what positives you can from it." Absolutely. I think that how that criticism is conveyed is an entirely different matter. There's a line between saying a skater had a really bad skate and talking about why, there's a line when you're ripping apart people who are minors especially. I just think many people tend to forget that these skaters are PEOPLE - human beings who aren't perfect - and that tearing someone a new one over a rough performance really accomplishes nothing.

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    Quote Originally Posted by N_Halifax View Post
    I just think many people tend to forget that these skaters are PEOPLE - human beings who aren't perfect - and that tearing someone a new one over a rough performance really accomplishes nothing.
    Such a good point. Like you say, the goal of criticism should be improvement, not making someone feel like a complete and utter failure. At times I think we forget that, because we get so invested in our favorite skaters and want them to do well. When they don't, sometimes we overreact.

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    Good article and dissuasion here. Athletes who compete in public must be able to take criticism and distinguish between criticism from those who matter and those who don't. Really, why pay any attention to someone's tweet if they are "nobody", a coward who couldn't say the same thing to you in person, or a commentator who is not an athlete or coach in your sport. So what if some people don't like you. Believe in yourself, listen to your coach, your real friends, your family, and enjoy your accomplishments. If you listen to everyone, your life will turn into chaos. You can't find peace and centering from the general world of people who think their opinion is important to the universe.

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    Quote Originally Posted by N_Halifax View Post
    There's a line between saying a skater had a really bad skate and talking about why, there's a line when you're ripping apart people who are minors especially. I just think many people tend to forget that these skaters are PEOPLE - human beings who aren't perfect - and that tearing someone a new one over a rough performance really accomplishes nothing.
    There is also a pretty wide gap between criticism that you (Ryan Stevens) personally wouldn't give a skater and what constitutes bullying. I don't think everyone has to be a "Peggy Flemming of twitter" or a Doug Mattis. And those who express negative opinions or tweet snarky comments (like TSL's Kevin Reynolds two-footed jumps tweet) are not automatically bullies.

    Rereading the piece, I have a hard time with most of your examples of bullying. By definition, bullying involves a real or perceived imbalance of power. Standard bullying includes actions like making threats, spreading rumors, persistent physical/verbal attacks, and excluding someone from a group on purpose. Is everyone who writes something harsh/mean/snarky about LeBron James on Twitter during a playoff game a bully? I don't think anyone would say that, because there is not an imbalance of power. Also, LeBron makes a ton of money. Is skating different, like Dave Lease said in your article, because skaters are "pretty" and appear fragile? Is it different because there is less money involved compared to other sports?

    While I think Brennan is over the top, I find nothing at all "bullying" about her article or tone. Jeremy is a professional athlete (the #1 ranked skater in his country) at the Olympic games. He is 28-years-old. Is it the job of Brennan and others to pat him on the back in articles and write about the inspirational nature of his personal redemption? I don't think that is realistic and it's also not the job of a sports writer. It's ok for a sports writer to call a 12th place finish the failure/disappointment that it is. I also don't think calling Jeremy's comments "pathetic" makes Brennan a bully.

    Is it okay for Jeremy Abbott to "bully" the media (by telling them to f*ck off)? When you call out Brennan and TSL in this piece are you "bullying" them? When you call TSL "the Perez Hilton style site" and gleefully recall their credential debacle, is that bullying? I don't think so, but by your own vague definition in this piece, I'm not sure.

    Overusing "bully" and "bullying" is something I think you might want to be careful about.

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    my 2 cents:
    Saying someone is pathetic is mean but it's not bullying, imho. YMWV

    My honest opinion is that most people have a double standard on who they think they can just criticize and who they think should be nice to. For instance some people think athletic performance is off limits, BUT they may have no trouble tearing politicians and government officials apart based on a piece of what they see.

    And most people have, at some point, quickly judged a stranger based on a small sliver of that stranger's life too, whther it is a parent being cold to a child in public or a stranger doing something stupid while driving. Except they just may not post it on twitter, lol.

    snap judgement is always there. What is the difference between all these scenarios? The line gets blurry there.

  18. #18
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    I read the first part, will have to read the second part later today, so this comment is halfway formed.

    I agree with clairecoutier's comment. I just read that article in Vanity Fair by Nancy Jo Sales (the same writer who wrote about the bling ring) about social media, hooking up, and a little bit about bullying (mostly about how girls feels compelled to be oversexualized via social media), and my overall feeling is that I can't believe that society has gotten to this point, I'm glad I just made the cut-off, generationally, to not be in to or beholden to these things, but also, is it just another form of what we've always done?

    Social media and cyber anonymity makes it waaay the hell easier to say things you wouldn't say to someone's face. Kinda like that thread here about the overuse of "psychopath" and "sociopath". I personally just happen to not have a distinction between my online personality and actual personality, so I'm as vulnerable and polite and foolish here as I am in real life. But that's not true for most people in the internet age. Plug in smartphones and ADD apps, and voila, recipe for mass quantities of mean sh*t spread everywhere. I like the Claire's idea of "rebelling" against this by connecting from one's real identity.

    I think that as this pertains to figure skating and journalism, though, my main problem is that sports journalists know close to nothing about the intricacies of how skating works and is scored, and they don't even take a general empathetic view of what it's like to literally work on a 6 minute total of performance for 4 years at an elite level that maybe 20 people in the world can achieve, and what it might be like to be asked to do something that's not 100% guaranteed to go right even in a daily training environment. This all ties in to the other threads about maxing out on difficulty and what the judging system demands, but it seems that the current level of winning skating performances require not only 4 years of perfecting one's craft in rehearsal, but it includes some skills that are not even "perfectable". A ton of things can go wrong in a jump (or spin, or footwork). Throw in the bright lights, cameras, and mobs of fans and detractors, in a Coliseum setting ... it takes a strong person to get out there and want to do this crazy stuff.

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    Quote Originally Posted by reese View Post
    Thanks for writing this, although I fail to see how many of the examples you discuss constitute bullying. I feel that you may have blurred the line between legitimate (albeit harsh) criticism of elite, Olympic athletes and bullying.
    Going on Sotnikova's FB wall to post death threats directed at her is bullying.

    Saying that Jeremy Abbott cannot deal with competition pressure (which his international competition track record proves) and criticising his unprofessional and childish FU rant is criticism.

    The double standard here really irks me. What Abbott did was much more aggressive than what Brennan wrote or any posts I've seen on skating forums criticising him.
    Last edited by Ziggy; 02-22-2014 at 09:27 PM.

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    The responses to this piece have been many and varied. The majority have been overwhelmingly positive. I do agree that there's a very fine line between harsh and destructive criticism and bullying, and I certainly was absolutely well aware that some might not want to hear or agree with what I have to say about the topic. I think one thing that I failed to really touch on in the article, which I pared down significantly for brevity and so as not to focus entirely on certain skaters, was the PATTERN of harsh criticism towards particular skaters... Of "kicking people when they're down."

    "Reese", you used the example "persistent verbal attacks" to defend your opinion on what constitutes bullying. This is the second time (the first being an Anonymous response to the blog itself) I've received this message almost verbatim today. That in itself is a "persistent verbal attack". We will have to agree to disagree.

    I'm heartened by the attention that has been brought to this issue and hope that the dialogue continues.

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