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Figure Skating's Popularity Decline In The US

Discussion in 'Great Skate Debate' started by Philly2034, Feb 1, 2013.

  1. loulou

    loulou Let It Snow

    When talking about commetators, we're of course speaking about some kind of broadcast or coverage.
    Attending an event live is a completely different scenario.

    When I mentioned: "former skater, current coach" I wasn't referring to the commentator, but to the person that enjoys listening to the commentator, although not in need of explanations.

    As for you narrowing down the field to see who that person might be, just trust my word: somewhere in the world this thing is real.

    I think good commentators aren't so hard to come by, we should keep an open mind for that talent, which (in my experience) often isn't perfectly ovelapping the skating talent or the coaching talent. Some mediocre skaters, mediocre coaches, or even fans could sometimes make very good commentators.
  2. leesaleesa

    leesaleesa Active Member

    I remember a fluff on Tonya Harding in Lillehammer-She was making Old El Paso tacos. In Norway. Where good stuff like salmon is plentiful, Tonya was mixing up some fatty ground beef with a monosodium glutamate powder base. I really liked that one, because it underhandedly illustrated how trashy and laissez faire she was, with out going into the whack.

    Nancy always got the Mother with her nose pressed into the monitor (No disrespect meant to visually impaired Mrs. Kerrigan), Kristi was born with a club foot, but Tonya got the good fluff-"I'm gonna whip her butt" and white trash tacos.

    Yeah, fluff can be good.
    AndyWarhol and (deleted member) like this.
  3. kwanfan1818

    kwanfan1818 I <3 Kozuka

    Not with Skate Radio. The commentators, at the Olympics were better than anyone except PJ Kwong (when she's on BOLD), but CBC/BOLD didn't have Olympic rights for Vancouver, and she was the arena announcer. Their commentary was what you generally hear from sports commentators in sports from baseball to curling to diving: technical analysis -- one of the commentators is a certified ISU technical specialist -- overview, background, context, and some good-natured goofing around. They announced during the practices, too. (Maybe the first was their dress rehearsal.)

    I used to laugh when I heard that huge numbers of people in the stands at Dodger Stadium brought their portable radios/Walkmen to listen to Vin Scully's announcing during a live game. Then I was sitting in Vancouver, all :wuzrobbed because the reception went dead temporarily :slinkaway

    From that, you'd have expected her to come from someplace in the US where food is white, corn is a green vegetable, and, if you ask for an order of the garnish, kale, you're asked, "Would you like cheese on that?", but she lived in freaking Oregon, where fresh salmon is the regional dish, not anything remotely exotic.
  4. Artistic Skaters

    Artistic Skaters Drawing Figures

    I have watched politicians, high ranking military leaders, doctors, lawyers, CEO's & PhD's mix up their taco kits for many years. Industrialized & highly processed food in the US was not under the same scrutiny 20 years ago that it is today. It may not be my choice for dinner, but for many I'd consider it some type of comfort food rather than attribute it to their trashiness.

    Athletes don't have to be continental sophisticates in my world. They can be comfortable in foreign countries if it helps them with their competition. Many athletes choose to bring their own food for different reasons rather than partake of offerings, so I can't say I'd fault Tonya Harding for it anymore than I would for the rest of them.
  5. AndyWarhol

    AndyWarhol Well-Known Member

    ooh, that sounds amazing!
  6. Iceman

    Iceman Well-Known Member

    I prefer no commentary while a skater is skating. It distracts from the performance for me, just as it would if someone were commentating during a ballet performance. I don't see why they can't save their comments for playbacks being shown while the judges are coming up with a score. It would help too if they kept their comments restricted to the performance. I don't need or want their personal reaction to a skate. Every time Scott pipes up it is like fingernails on a chalk board for me. As far as content, I like the British guys who commentate for Euro.
  7. Susan M

    Susan M Well-Known Member

    Actually, viewers did understand it, they just didn't think it was very fair or right. Besides, it really didn't happen all that often. Most of the time, a skater who was 1st or 2nd in the free won the event, especially after OBO scoring was adopted.

    It's not so much that the new scoring system is itself incomprehensible, but that the results too often are. A lot of the places the skaters lose points (edge calls, underrotations, noncredited elements, dance levels) are not very apparent to the audience. For the scoring system to work for casual fans, there needs to be a correlation between the results and what they thought they saw on the ice. What audiences find incomprehensible are results like the multi-fall wins of Chan's or Flatt's Nationals win several years ago over a more impressive Nagasu (due to multiple underrotation calls not obvious in real time across the arena).

    When the system was new, US broadcasters did try different approaches to explaining the scores, but I think they have largely given up trying to explain the scoring in any but the most general terms. They do comment on levels in dance, but less often in the singles elements. The only time they start getting very detailed is in after-the fact explanations of controversial results. For example, I remember seeing an element by element breakdown of Lysacek vc Plushy FS at Calgary showing the advantage Lysacek gained due to GOE.

    One thing I think would help a lot is for the broadcasters to also show the results of the FS portion before they move on to the totals. So often now a skater wins due to a large advantage in the SP followed by a flawed free that finishes 2nd or 3rd. I think folks would feel better about the outcome if it was clearer the skates that looked better really did score better in that portion of the event. It would make it easier to see why the winner came out ahead and to accept the result as logical.
  8. Skittl1321

    Skittl1321 Well-Known Member

    Did you ask all the viewers? I sure as heck didn't understand 6.0! Each judge essentially got to pick what they valued about skating and score based on their own little criteria, not to mention the inane issues that moved skaters around to random places, and then the fact that if you had a bad short program no matter how good your long was you couldn't move up at all, and how much 6.0 relied on a 'wait your turn' ranking of skaters.
  9. kwanfan1818

    kwanfan1818 I <3 Kozuka

    Considering how few SP/SD's are shown in the US, it would be helpful to talk about the SP and put the FS into context before the viewer's blood pressure is raised, when they're not likely to be swayed by reason.
  10. Susan M

    Susan M Well-Known Member

    Sure, there will always be folks who don't, won't or can't grasp the fundamentals of any system. One of the Ordinal System precepts you seem not to like is that the absolute score was indeed meaningless, so there was no right or wrong about a judge giving 5.6/5.7 rather than 5.8/5.8. What mattered is whether that was a better or worse score than he gave to other skaters.

    For the most part, though, viewers did fine for decades with the idea of ordinals and the idea of a skater winning because 6 judges gave them the higher score while only 3 thought the other skater was better. I think the fact that skating was so popular here for those years supports the proposition that audiences were not put off by the scoring system.
  11. kwanfan1818

    kwanfan1818 I <3 Kozuka

    People had thought they understood ordinals, or that 6.0 was perfect/5.9 was close to perfection, when at least 5.9 meant "better than 5.8," but how many actually remembered what had come before, or that 5.9/5.7 wasn't better than 5.8/5/8 in the FS, but was in the SP? Most people had a sense that a bunch of 5.8's and 5.9's was better than a bunch of 5.3's and 5.4's, but among the top skaters, unless there was a string of 6.0's, they waited for a string of ordinals to show on the screen, and wouldn't have been able to have made heads or tails out of the numbers themselves, especially when they were close.
  12. gkelly

    gkelly Well-Known Member

    OBO did diminish the amount of place switching in the same phase of the event compared with majority calculations. But it had no effect on how often a skater who was 1st or 2nd in the free won the event, because that depended solely on the factored placements, which worked the same regardless of how the results of each phase were calculated.

    Yes, this is true. Better commentary would help viewers anticipate where skaters might gain or lose points. But even with the best knowledge and experience, it's still impossible to appreciate on TV everything that the judges or tech panels can see up close sitting rinkside. And aside from that, sometimes people including other experts will just firmly disagree with the judges' opinions. So no matter what there will be results that are hard for even the best commentators to explain with conviction.

    As I mentioned earlier, this happened under 6.0 as well. There were plenty of results that commentators disagreed with. The explanations offered typically boiled down to politics in some form or other.
  13. Aussie Willy

    Aussie Willy Hates both vegemite and peanut butter

    Do you think that results were any more comprehensable under 6.0? And I am sure there were lots of results under 6.0 that bamboolzed the casual fan as well.

    Having judged with 6.0 it is purely a placement system. If you are judging a large group of skaters the marks mean nothing because all you are trying to do is squeeze skaters into the position you feel the skater should be in. Quite random really.

    However I don't think the casual fan really cares nor has the inclination to want to understand the detail of the sport. They just watch it. If they like what they see well and good and if they don't they turn off.

    I think some people are reading too much into how much of a role the system plays in attracting fans. It might be one factor but it is not the only factor.
  14. rvi5

    rvi5 Active Member

    Perhaps it has already been mentioned (I haven't read the entire thread), but copied below is my opinion which I previously posted in another thread. It was mostly aimed at Canadians, but likely also applies to other countries...

    As some have mentioned, the "general public" does not know anything about how scores are calculated in either the new or old system. The "general public" base their opinions of skaters on how they like the music, overall skating performance (not necessarily the details re: deep edges, transitions, etc. ... what's that?). They also count mistakes ie. skater A fell two times, skater B fell three, therefore skater A wins unless the other skater has a much more likeable overall performance. Don't expect the "general public" to know that a Lutz is more difficult than a Flip, and should have a higher score. From the "general public" view, all jumps look alike...jump up, spin around, land. They hear the commentator mention the jump names, but have no idea why they are different.

    It has been argued elsewhere that the old 6.0 system provides an upper limit which allows people to know how the skater performed compared to perfection, but I don't think the "general public" cares enough for it to be a deal breaker re: figure skating popularity decline. The "general public" are more interested in how skaters rank compared to each other in that current competition. ie. who will win in the here-and-now. They are less concerned with how skaters rank compared to other skaters in the figure skating universe...skaters who's names they may not know (that is more of a concern for "avid" fans). Other popular sports such as Baseball, Soccer, Hockey, Football, Basketball, etc. are not suffering without it.
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2013
  15. danceronice

    danceronice Corgi Wrangler

    I think the two systems had one problem in common--when they see a cleaner problem visually lose to a skater who looked messier (Mirai comes to mind--my parents are the casualest of casual fans and watch if they notice skating's on, usually to ask "Is anyone you know [from SCOB] competing?" and they couldn't understand why she lost to Flatt, or why she got so badly marked this time. In fact, seeing a skater with no falls lose to one WITH falls had my dad saying "It's still fixed, huh.") without any kind of explanation, whether it's 6.0 or IJS, they don't like it.

    I disagree with rvi5 that the casual viewer isn't interested in the 'close to perfection' thing--having a "perfect score" gives them at least some benchmark to gauge the performance, like a 10 in gymnastics. I doubt 90% of the people who went wild over Nadia's perfect tens had any idea why in detail she got them or what was so great about her gymnastics (I have no idea; rather like jumps to a non-skating fan, about all I can tell is "fell off apparatus or didn't") but they knew the 'authorities' of her sport had just said it was as perfect as it could humanly be. People like having absolute numbers. You can't compare it to direct-competition sports, where the goal is to score points off the opposing team--there you know who's better because they're directly beating their opponents. (And those sports care more about rank for teams than most skating fans care about seasonally ranking skaters--baseball fans know where in the league their team is ranked in relation to other teams all the time.) They don't know what the jump is, but they like seeing a judge say it's a perfect score.

    Where 6.0 was a problem is that ranking scores are hard to do when everyone goes one at a time. IJS means you use total points, the confusion for the viewer is when points are given with pluses and minuses on values that aren't explained (to the casual viewer, if you don't finish the jump on your butt, there's no difference between one lutz and another besides triple > double) and when deductions severe enough to make a good-looking program score low are given for things like URs the viewer can't see.
  16. rvi5

    rvi5 Active Member

    Fans of those sports get the rankings from newspaper, television, and in this modern age...from the internet. They don't attempt to build it into the scoring system.

    But is it a deal breaker? Has figure skating really declined because it isn't as easy to determine from the score how perfect a skater is?

    In my opinion, as stated in my previous post, the biggest problem is the lack of home grown heroes to cheer. This has been evident in Canada re: women's single skaters. Now with Osmond, people are becoming much more interested in that discipline. Shockingly, the Toronto Star even dedicated two full pages to figure skating. Complete with a large picture of Kaetlyn. In the Gala TV recording when Kaetlyn was exiting the ice after her performance, you can see her briefly hold up her finger while looking to the side. A little girl was shouting for Kaetlyn to autograph that photo on the newspaper page.

    P.S. the little girl eventually got the autograph when all the skaters were taking turns doing lifts, jumps, etc. Kaetlyn happened to be standing along the boards near the girl, and took a moment to sign the page. :)
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2013
  17. MacMadame

    MacMadame Cat Lady-in-Training

    And you know this how?

    And they weren't before? There was never controversy before? :rofl:

    This is what I am getting from this discussion:

    I don't like ISJ and viewership has declined therefore it must be IJS's fault! I will now make up a bunch of reasons why IJS must be causing this decline in viewership.

    The problem with this "logic" is that viewership was in a decline before IJS was around. Therefore, IJS can't be responsible for the decline. It may or may not be contributing to it and it sure hasn't reversed it, as Speedy had hoped, but it certainly didn't cause it since it wasn't even here when viewership started declining.

    Therefore, it really doesn't matter what you think of IJS or what reasons you pull out of your butt for why it supposedly is incomprehensible and "casual" viewers supposedly don't like it.

    What I find interesting is that in other countries, the TV shows made a real effort to explain ISJ and in many of those countries viewership is not only not declining, but growing. Which pokes yet another hole in the "ISJ is causing the decline in viewership" theory.
  18. gkelly

    gkelly Well-Known Member

    It could be the case that US viewers in aggregate would hate IJS regardless of the quality of commentary because Americans in general just don't like analyzing performances in numerical terms and will never accept a performance sport where the numbers matter as much as or more than the overall effect of the performance.

    I don't think that's true, but if the decline in interest is culture specific then there could be culture-specific reasons for that decline.

    Still, if that were the case, then there would be no way the ISU could please every culture all the time. So who says US preferences should take precedence?

    Sucks for skating fans in the US who want more skating on TV, especially those who want old-style skating on TV. But broadcast TV needs multiple millions of viewers to be cost effective in the US, and there just aren't that many skating fans who care that much.
  19. MacMadame

    MacMadame Cat Lady-in-Training

    I don't think it's true either because Americans in general love baseball. ;)
  20. gkelly

    gkelly Well-Known Member

    I figure there are at least three or four different potential audience groups for figure skating within the US:

    *Sports fans, who want clear objective standards that are as black-and-white as possible, rewarding athletic risk and success. They would likely be interested in numbers insofar as they correlated to higher scores for higher difficulty and higher penalties for obvious mistakes but would have less patience for anything subtle and qualitative that's a matter of opinion and/or not obvious on TV. This probably also includes a lot of officials in the IOC and the speedskating side of the ISU, who think that skewing skating to appeal to these potential fans will increase viewership for figure skating.

    In the US, however, I think this contingent largely consists of people who tend to be turned off by the qualitative aspects that are inherent in very concept of figure skating scoring and/or by the external trappings (sequins, classical music) that they can't bear to watch, or can't bear to watch men doing it. And that is a cultural preference.

    *Arts fans who especially enjoy the expressive possibilities of skating movement along with the external glamour of the way skating has traditionally presented itself. Their primary interest is in the overall aesthetic effect of the performances; they may not be interested at all in technical difficulty and technical correctness, or only insofar as bravura feats and security of execution enhance the aesthetic experience. Holistic scoring a la 6.0 would resonate best with how these fans experience skating contests, more as a performing art than a sport.

    *Skating fans who are turned on by the inherent specifics of skating itself and the ways different aspects conflict with each other (speed, glide, technical precision, explosive athleticism, beauty, musicality, etc.) enough to want to learn more and to analyze the fine points of why results come out the way they do.

    That's us, folks. :D Of course, we each have different areas that we think are more or less important -- some of us lean more toward the sport side or the art side, some of us like the juxtposition of the two, some of us who are skaters ourselves focus more on fine points of blade-on-ice technique than on obvious athleticism -- we often disagree with each other and with judges, which makes for spirited discussion here. But we love the basics of skating itself enough to follow it even when the emphasis swings toward the areas we're less interested in.

    And then there are also
    *Casual viewers who really aren't interested in skating except to root for the home team during the Olympics or occasionally be entertained by watching pretty girls, or pretty boys depending on preference, and on the human drama of high-stakes competition. But people gliding and twirling on (and above) ice is not something that grabs their interest on its own merits.

    The Harding/Kerrigan scandal pulled some members of the last group into the other groups -- once they had a reason to watch, they found the actual skating was more interesting than they anticipated.

    I wonder if there's anything the sport can do to encourage more viewers in the first two groups to join the third. And if appealing more to the first group would necessarily chase off members of the second, and vice versa.
  21. kwanfan1818

    kwanfan1818 I <3 Kozuka

    I disagree with your characterizations of both arts and sports fans. From listening to endless commentators on many sports, if most sports fans were only interested in the visuals, there wouldn't be incessant commentary about statistics or the miniscule changes in golfers' swings. Sports fans want to know what and why, or most sports commentators for baseball, rugby, golf, speedskating, or gymnastics (at least as Shewfelt did it). The other thing that commentators emphasize is strategy/approach, and often this leads to a discussion of changes over time in style and philosophy.

    As far as !rts fans are concerned, we're not neatly categorized into aesthetes who.look.at the arts with a broad sweep, technique be damned. Some of biggest schisms among fans in music and dance are over style and technique and the extent to which style can be achieved without technique "without" forming a spectrum. Another schism in many arts is over the appriateness of music for the genre. Another is the conservatism of audiences. Another is how much other forms should influence the current form, and at what point does the art stop being itself. Another is the prevalence of big tricks and how they distort/influence/change the balance and focus of the form.

    All of these can be applied to skating.
  22. misskarne

    misskarne #AustraliaForTheTeamEvent

    I think different people look for different things in commentary. I can't stand the US/Canadian commentators, tolerate the British ones, but much prefer the eastern European/Russian ones (even if I can't understand them) who do all their talking before and after the program and actually leave me to get into the program unless something totally crazy happens. But I can identify each element, so that's not a problem for me. Perhaps a balance might be a quick identification of the element, maybe a single-word or two word comment (very nice, or oh dear, or something) and then shut up. Few things in commentary irritate me more than mindless babble in the middle of the program. (Yes, Joshua Farris broke his ankle at Nationals two years ago! That's only the 78136413547th time you mentioned it!)

    At the end of the day the music is an important part of skating, and it's really frustrating when you're struggling to hear it over the commentators.
  23. query5

    query5 New Member

    part of it is the fact. the judges, federations don't apply the same rules to everyone just certain skaters.

    rules are a guideline for some skaters not all. no matter how well a skater skates if federation don't want them, they will use the rules/guielines to keep them down.

    do they even want the non-skating public fans. broaden their base.
    they use the skaters faces to promote the products to sell to the non-figure skating fans, but does figure skating themselves do anything to attract yu na free skate at her nationals, gracie free skate at u.s. nationals,kaetlyn osmond short program at her canadian nationals. and the on-going duel between Davis/White and Virtue and Moir these past 4 years. christina gao short program at 4cc. i didn't think she could skate like that .not to leave out yuzuru hanyu, volsohar/trankov , savchenko & szolkowy. have skaters /try their best at all times not half ass , wait until the olympics and then i will skate. (they may not have it).
    figure skating fans-criticizing non-fans by how much they don't know, can't tell difference in jump. read the rules and see they aren't applied to all. see

    due to new systems . you see them skate once you see them skate all year. they all look alike now more than ever.
    no personality shines through.
  24. Susan M

    Susan M Well-Known Member

    The odd thing, for me, is that I generally agreed with the results, even most of the more famously fixed ones. Of course, at the time, I did not know how much the outcomes were pre-determined by back-room bargaining, but when controversy broke out, I usually found I agreed with the judges and not with the complainers. There are some exceptions - Poetsh over Fratiani in Lake Placid and Bestamianova/Bukin over Klimova-Ponamarenko from about 1986 on, but the other controversies were mostly about skaters who did not really deserve a better placement to my eye. For example, I agreed with Baiul over Kerrigan, with Petrenko over Wylie, with Anisssina/Pezerat over Bourne/Kraatz for the bronze in Nagano and over everybody for the gold in SLC, and even with Berezhnaya/Sikh over the gray Canadians. So, however they got there, the judges nearly always came up with results that agreed with my taste. I'm not saying it wasn't morally wrong to determine results by backroom politiks, just that, as an ignorant viewer, the actual results rarely seemed incorrect to me.
    Cherub721 and (deleted member) like this.
  25. danceronice

    danceronice Corgi Wrangler

    I profoundly disagree on Baiul/Kerrigan (for starters I'd have docked Baiul artistic points for her hideous costumes alone; still can't get over how ugly they are, plus I just don't like how little girls look on ice-would have done the same to Lipinski versus Kwan, and then there were the small, messy jumps) and with 2002 pairs, I'd have used the technical mark to put the Canadians first (and if Shen/Zhao had landed the quad I'd have been in favor of solving the whole problem by giving THEM the gold and being done with it, art be damend.) The 'artistry' is taste and about equal depending on taste, so the bobbles would have killed it for the Russians in both cases.

    For the US, if the USFS and networks cannot pry themselves away from the mind-numbing ladies' program, they really ought to consider what they're presenting artistically. I can't see anything artistic in ANY of the final-group ladies' performances. I don't see any passion, and I didn't see anyone REALLY skating to the same somnambulous Romantic classical pieces that everyone uses. I also noted in the mens' competition how Adam Rippon actually seemed very into his program and to me, his expressions didn't seem forced but logical to the music, and noted the commentary saying how this was such a departure from his normal music and he seemed very different...maybe *he liked it better* than heavy classical. Why do the ladies get the same general uninspired classical selections over and over and over? Not even a Lyra Angelica in the bunch.
  26. MacMadame

    MacMadame Cat Lady-in-Training

    I don't know what that this had to with ISJ vs. 6.0 and skating's decline in popularity though. First of all, no matter what you two think of any particular individual results, we know that the public thought certain results were controversial and that this has happened throughout figure skating's history no matter what the scoring system was.

    Is the controversy a turn off? It might be if the commentary makes it seem like "the results are all fixed." OTOH, other sports have controversial calls and it doesn't seem to hurt them. Heck, there was a controversial call at this year's Super Bowl right at the end that hurt my team. I'm still watching them next year.

    As for a feeling that it's all fixed, "everyone" knew that cycling was full of dopers back when Lance Armstrong was winning the Tour de France a bazillion times. Did that hurt their viewership? It didn't seem to. WWF is completely fixed and it has amazing viewership numbers.

    So controversy, in and of itself, doesn't hurt sports. Evidence of corruption doesn't always do it either. Neither does being a spectacle and not a real sport.

    I think figure skating's "problem" is not IJS, it's not even corrupt judging (or perception of same) even though as a fan I want my sport to be clean. I think the problem is that the sport doesn't have mass appeal in the US. I don't think you can solve that kind of problem.
  27. joeperryfan

    joeperryfan Well-Known Member

    I agree with you, but I'd say that with proper promotion it could extend its appeal even if never reaching the heights of team sports.
  28. Sandy

    Sandy New Member

    :( I do not really think Figure Skating is not popular because of the viewing audience, I believe that here in the US, we do not get to watch all the events. I do not think Four Continents was televised here and some others. The ones that we did have televised were after the competitions were completed. I do not mind having to wait a week but we do not even get that lately. I do have to say I miss having Universal Sports, at least we could see all the events.
  29. Aussie Willy

    Aussie Willy Hates both vegemite and peanut butter

    It is a rating games. If the ratings for skating has been dropping, then there is less likelihood that any will be prepared to show them.
  30. kwanfan1818

    kwanfan1818 I <3 Kozuka

    If older women were buying huge numbers of sports cars, phone sex, liquor, and electronic toys instead od Swiffers, dishwasher fluid, jam, diet meals, and orange juice, we'd see 4C's in North America.