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Manleywoman Skating Podcast #64: Phil Hersh interview

Discussion in 'Great Skate Debate' started by manleywoman, May 2, 2013.

  1. fenway2

    fenway2 Well-Known Member

    Oh ok, thank you. That's what I thought. So unless I missed a follow-up question, which I may have since I listened to it at work, he never clarified if he still believes today that Oksana deserved the win.
  2. TwizzlerS

    TwizzlerS Well-Known Member

    I thought he used the Oksana/Nancy story to say that he heard from the referee the next day and now he believes that the scores made sense. And, I think he has a very good point that the referee or some official should be interviewed after an event so we can know what went into the scoring.
  3. gkelly

    gkelly Well-Known Member

    Yes, this would be helpful.

    I understand why the ISU wants to protect the judges from having to justify themselves to often hostile public opinion. But I think they could diminish the distrust by offering explanations.

    I remember reading an after-the-fact article with quotes from Britta Lindgren explaining the 1994 results. I don't remember -- maybe it was written by Hersh. I wanted to see more of that kind of thing.

    So under 6.0 conditions, I thought it would be a good idea to have the referee give a press conference after the post-event judges' meeting and summarize the reasoning for some of the top results.

    With IJS, the protocols give a lot of information, but not in a way that's easily accessible to most fans. And we still have to guess what the judges' thought processes might have been to arrive at the numbers especially the PCS.

    Certainly the technical controller or whole tech panel could be available to the press to answer questions about specific calls.

    Maybe they should go back to holding post-event debriefings between referee and judges, not designed to evaluate the judges but just to identify the important issues the factored into the PCS scoring, and then the ref could summarize those issues for the press afterward.

    Or let judges attend the same press conference themselves if they want to speak for themselves, and answer specific questions from the press. But then it could seem like individual judges lobbying the media, especially where national bias issues might be involved.

    I realize the timing would not be as quick as the press would like for filing results stories. But for next-day follow-up stories about major events, explanations from the judges, directly or through the referee, and then of course filtered through the journalists, could be very informative to casual fans who otherwise wouldn't have much idea about what judges are considering when they award those scores.

    Hm, or maybe, instead of using the ref and journalists as two levels of intermediaries, if the ISU had their own PR person attend the meeting and then put out a summary press release with quotes from judges who agree to be quoted, that might minimize some of the potential political complications.
  4. Jun Y

    Jun Y Well-Known Member

    I can think of at least one important reason why no one at ISU wants to routinely hold press conferences or public Q&A sessions to explain their decisions and results. What if the tech panel and/or judges made mistakes and are confronted with them in such a public setting? An immediate example I can think of is Caroline Zhang's massive downgrades at this year's nationals. I can imagine how press and/or coaches, skaters, etc. publicly raise questions about certain decisions and prove judges or tech specialists to be wrong or potentially wrong. And I bet unresolved controversies and arguments will happen a lot if you provide the opportunity (although perhaps such controversies might improve the TV ratings). Routinely giving the public an opportunity to question and/or scrutinize judges/tech specialists would more likely decrease, rather than increase, the credibility of figure skating establishment.

    Nearly all competitive sports suffer from visible and invisible, definite and ambiguous judging mistakes, including basketball and soccer, sometimes in the most important competitions such as World Cup finals. Decisions must be made real time and not be messed with after the competition. Soccer fans know what an imperfect system it is and live with it. Some improvements in rules have been made over the years, but referees are never put to public interrogation, unless one is proven to be corrupt.

    Imagine, what if a decision or result is proven wrong after the competition? What if the referee or judges are faced with evidence of incompetence, inconsistent practice, bias or favoritism, or plain mistakes? If a few GOEs and component scores are clearly wrong, should these mistakes be corrected after the competition?

    Of course, I would LOVE to know the error rate of any given competition and any given international skating judge. However, I can totally see why the ISU does not want to know it.
    Last edited: May 3, 2013
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  5. fenway2

    fenway2 Well-Known Member

    In baseball, umpires talk to the media. A few years ago some pitcher was denied a perfect game on a bad ruling by an umpire and later that umpire told the press "I screwed up." The pitcher and umpire met later, the umpire apologized and the pitcher said there were no hard feelings. That story generated a lot of interest for the sport, especially because the umpire was so honest about his mistake. The bad call stood by the way and the pitcher never got credit for a no-hitter.

    Edited to Add: The pitcher was Armando Gallarago from the Detroit Tigers and the umpire was Jim Joyce. Here he is at a press conference with reporters admitting that he messed up. http://youtu.be/_EmEiFgDf5I?t=55s
    Last edited: May 3, 2013
  6. jiggs

    jiggs Well-Known Member

    Thanks Manleywoman for this interesting interview! One can definitely hear that he really loves the sport. I had no idea how long he has been covering figure skating competitions. Pretty impressive!
  7. Skittl1321

    Skittl1321 Well-Known Member

    That case was especially egregious because they petitioned the league to have the call over turned (with support of the umpire and THE OTHER TEAM) and they still wouldn't make the call right.
  8. manleywoman

    manleywoman podcast mistress

    Agreed. Tim Wood got the Olympic Silver medal in 1968 because of an admitted mistake. Nowadays that would result in the lost of millions of dollars in potential endorsement revenue. Changing results posthumously would open a million cans of worms.

    It was a terrible call. But again, tough to open that can of worms. How many other lawsuits would be started?
  9. B.Cooper

    B.Cooper Active Member


    Personally, I think many of these issues that Hersh talks about could easily be addressed with multiple camera angles on the ice for the tech panels and judges to utilize for review of elements. One camera...in this era of technology? Really? What if skating evolved like tennis, where the coach/athlete/NGB can instantly call for a review of an element ? Almost all sports have gone to multiple angles of review for plays. And, with Canon as an ISU sponsor, it would seem a natural fit to update the technology to include more camera angles. And, one of the most obvious issues that would help resolve poor judgments in events...transparency. The officials judging the events would be held accountable for their marks. JMO.....

    I don't disagree with other posters that Hersh is passionate about the sport. What I don't like about his approach, is the "put an athlete up on a pedestal, and then let's pull them down, when things aren't going well". He has his favorites in the sports he covers, and he has made that quite clear over the years, but I would hope he would take more care in his presentation of the facts , which he doesn't always have correct, before he sends his work to his editors. I don't view Hersh as a true journalist....more of an op-ed kind of guy.
    Last edited: May 3, 2013
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  10. gkelly

    gkelly Well-Known Member

    I can't imagine the ISU mandating multiple cameras for all IJS events anywhere at any level. But for ISU championships (and Olympics) it would make sense. Maybe senior Grand Prix. And federations with hotly contested, televised national championships would do well to include the option as well.

    In addition to one or more additional camera angles, for those major events there could also be another stage of error checking built in after the end of the event and before the results are finalized. Which would delay the medal ceremony. Not so much a problem for short programs.

    The athlete can't instantly call for a review because they're still in the middle of skating the program.

    If there were electronic displays of calls available to the coach/NGB during the program and during the reviews, or instant protocols (paper or electronic) made available to all of the above plus the skater after the program in the K&C, they could challenge specific calls at that time, to be reviewed at the end of the event before the results are finalized.

    The trick would be to allow for extra eyes and double checking in a reasonable time period while the competitors and spectators are waiting for the official results, without encouraging lots of back and forth between coaches who expected one level and tech panels who called a lower level, or threw out a whole element as a result of rule vetting. In these cases -- especially there may be rules that need to worded more clearly -- there could be disputes because of different interpretations or because of borderline eyeballed calls, even with different camera angles available. We don't want to encourage coaches to second guess every call just in hopes of overturning one every now and then. Second reviews should really only be for blatant errors or blatant confusion.

    From the journalist's point of view, seeing the protocols after watching the program can answer a lot of questions and prevent them from thinking that a program was "clean" if there were many downgraded jumps, etc. (Fortunately, the rules have changed so that jumps just over 90 degrees short that look clean in real time no longer lose a full rotation's worth of value.)

    But what I thought would be more informative than questioning the tech calls would be to get some public explanations of the component scores. There hasn't been a lot of explanation for the public about what judges are really considering -- I think that injecting those considerations into the public discourse will help fans and journalists understand better what those scores are about. And hopefully force the judges to do a better job of assigning the scores as they have to explain them.

    But to begin with, just make sure that the journalists aren't relying on their own untrained general knowledge to declare that the trained judges must be wrong when they disagree. Get everyone on the same page.
    Maofan7 and (deleted member) like this.
  11. Eyre

    Eyre New Member

    Unfortunately, that's what all the journalists do. Hersh has admitted that he doesn't understand IJS as well as he understands 6.0. Yet, he never hesitated to pronounce his opinions on the results of figure skating competitions, just like a half-bottle-fulled, or a half-bottle-emptied skating fan. The worst thing is that he has the power to influence the public more than the judges, and more than any ordinary skating fans.

    I love Hersh's idea of letting the judges and referees talk and explain the results though.
    Last edited: May 3, 2013
  12. mossop

    mossop New Member

    Some may think the pen is mightier than the sword. But if pen is dipped in smelly ink and held by the hands of self -importance, will the pen bring upon the people goodwill or destruction?
    alilou and (deleted member) like this.
  13. bek

    bek Guest

    Is the system suppose to serve skating or is skating suppose to serve the system.

    There are plenty of people former World and Olympic champions that are questioning the results the system is producing. Especially results that have multiple falls in a program and the kind of program components certain skaters get..

    I don't know why these people should be ignored and IJS treated like some sort of gospel.

    Its not just the casual fans complaining. There is always going to be a lot of aspects of the sport that most wont understand in terms of edges, moves on the field. Speed etc is hard to see on tv too. The commentators need to do their best to explain this to the audience.

    However, that's why I think its such an issue when skaters go out there and make multiple glaring mistakes that even the most dimwitted audience can tell, and its just pretty much ignored right now. Now I think the commentators owe it to the fans to explain one fall shouldn't ignore all of the positive aspects edges, basic skating speed etc. And I think if its explained the audience could get it.

    But once we start getting into a lot of errors.. And its not just the casual fans who think its an issue.

    Now personally I wouldn't do away with everything about IJS. I like the idea of certain elements being worth points and people being able to see the protocols. I think though it would help if skaters scores the public could see a quick screen shot of how the elements were scored...

    However, what I don't like is the concept that the whole picture isn't taken into account. I don't think balance in terms of jumping is taken into account. Difficulty as a whole, and I certainly don't think execution is valued under this system.

    I'd like to see the system evolve to where the best aspects of both systems are employed.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2013
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  14. alilou

    alilou Crazy Stalker Lady

    I'd like the judges evolve so they use the system as expressed in the rules, specifically in relation to PCS. If PCS were marked correctly all the rest would probably take care of itself.
  15. skatesindreams

    skatesindreams Well-Known Member

    End anonymous judging.
    Allow judges to explain - and if needed - defend their scores; somewhere other than a "secret" conference, after the fact,
  16. essence_of_soy

    essence_of_soy Well-Known Member

    Sandra Bezic stated in a recent interview with THE SKATING LESSON, that as a commentator she was caught between getting casual viewers interested in skating as well as appealing to hardcore fans.

    As an official sports reporter for a national newspaper syndicate, isn't it Hersh's responsibility to research the system he is commenting on rather than saying it is too hard to understand. If he indeed has Octavio Cinquanta on speed dial, why not get the President of the ISU to do an interview about IJS, why it was implimented, and to give a step by step breakdown so that everyone can understand why certain results happen.
  17. gkelly

    gkelly Well-Known Member

    Well, Cinquanta is not a figure skater or figure skating official, so he probably couldn't break down the details of why certain results came out the way they did any better than a well-informed journalist -- although he could explain the political pressures from the IOC etc.

    But a trained technical specialist, controller, and referee could explain specific results, especially those on the official for the event if allowed to speak about the event they officiated. Or a member of the relevant technical committees.

    Ideally, there should be experts available to explain who don't have a vested interest in specific skaters winning or in proving that certain rules or certain results are better than the alternatives. But someone who understands the existing rules inside and out, and who has been privy to discussions about why certain rules were instituted or why some other alternatives were not, could provide a lot of insight into why things worked out the way they did.

    And then if it's still a controversial result, the experts or a non-biased knowledgeable journalist could mention in passing things like under 2010 or 2006 rules there would have been more points gained here or lost there. Or that there has been some talk behind the scenes about introducing new rules to deal with a recognized problem but they haven't worked out the details yet because they don't want to jump the gun and fix one problem in a way that will end up causing five new problems. Or other relevant comments to indicate awareness of unpopular effects under the current system and what issues would be involved in trying to fix them.
  18. alilou

    alilou Crazy Stalker Lady

    ^^^^^THIS! I'm so sick of (particularly US) media moaning about IJS instead of doing their homework and learning how it works. It's not that hard! And I'd bet anything that Hersh doesn't understand ordinals and how/why they'd flip, even though he says he understands 6.0 better. It's just plain laziness and in no way serves the sport or fulfills their responsibilities as journalists.

    Cinquanta. That would be funny listening to Cinquanta explain it. I bet he doesn't know either :lol:
  19. aftershocks

    aftershocks Well-Known Member

    The arguments re how to improve the scoring system and make the sport more accessible will continue. The question is whether or not persons with the ability to effect change are actually listening.

    Wow, just wow! I'd never heard about that before. Since it was a clerical error, and the Canadian judge had intended to give Tim Wood a mark that would have awarded him the gold, I fail to see why the error couldn't have been corrected. Persnickety, antiquated rules. Obviously, if the error was found out well after the fact, it presented more of a problem in taking the gold away from the person who had received it due to the error, but still ... :eek:

    :lol: Yeah, seems as if Phil might be interested in nosing into his critics' dirty laundry in order to disdain and under-appreciate them, eh succubus! ;)

    Seriously, to me Phil seems like a huge teddy bear with a rough exterior and a heart of gold. :) I've actually heard his speaking voice before on IN pre-event press teleconferences. Did you get him to speak some French, manleywoman? :lol: With others, I echo thanks to manleywoman and to Phil for this delightful interview. Lots of good nuggets in there and food for thought. Sure Phil has an out-sized ego and seemingly an over-large sense of self-importance too. But then, he is a crusty, curmudgeonly sportswriter in the rumpled newsroom vein of Woodward and Bernstein. :D Indeed, a dying breed. When there's a byline to write and daily deadlines to meet, I suppose one's ego and turns of phrase must be up to the challenge. ;) Above all, maybe we should try to keep Phil on the side of us die-hard figure skating fans, eh? Certainly that doesn't mean we will always agree with everything he writes. A lot of us don't see eye-to-eye either about the myriad problems the sport is facing. But if we expect Phil to be kind and gentle, we might try extending him that favor too on occasion.

    I do admire that Phil speaks of his desire to "tell it like it is." I also appreciate and respect the fact that he loves figure skating and that he has years of knowledge and experience in covering it. He could probably write a book re all the behind-the-scenes stories he has to tell. OTOH, he could have more fully admitted that ice dancing is simply not his forte or his favorite discipline and that he thinks it kind of dances around the notion of actually being a sport. ;) There may be some truth to that point of view, but actually exploring the whys and wherefores could make for an excellent figure skating article. It would require researching more about the history of the sport and the rise of ice dance, as well as exploring the changes ice dance has undergone over the years. It's part of the sport vs art debate that's seems to be ubiquitous in figure skating.

    Personally, I don't have complaints about Phil's tendency to focus on the sport's many problems. I agree with a lot of what he says, but I think he could be less harsh in his language and criticisms of individual skaters in particular. And although I respect his journalistic acumen and his years of knowledge and access to the sport of figure skating, I think Phil (and many people, including Cinquanta) could benefit from immersing themselves more in studying figure skating's past. An excellent book I would recommend, published in 1938, is Maribel Y Vinson's (she wasn't married then): Primer of Figure Skating. Of course, it is out-of-print, but anyone who loves figure skating could really enhance their technical knowledge by finding and reading a copy of this book (no matter how old it is, the book provides excellent basic instructional tips and a solid understanding of how important a well-practiced technical foundation is to being a good skater).

    In fact, Maribel Vinson's own life story is an education in itself and again she's an excellent model of research for Phil, especially since she served for a time as the first female sportswriter for The New York Times. Indeed, the tragic loss of Maribel Vinson Owen (and others) in the Sabena airlines crash has so many implications for how the sport did and did not develop after the 1960s. Just as Dick Button is the dean of figure skating broadcasting and event organizing, Maribel Vinson Owen is the dean of U.S. figure skating coaches, and she could have been the one person who might have been able to help grow and improve the modern-day media's figure skating sports coverage. Perhaps she especially might have been helpful in spearheading a revolution to avoid hype, simplistic summaries, and the tendency to approach figure skating in the same way as other sports. Another good book to check out: Figure Skating: A History, by James R. Hines.

    Cool of Phil to acknowledge the help and graciousness of Scott H and Brian B re his early days of covering the sport and trying to learn all he could about the ins and outs. Ultimately, it's hard to teach an old dog new tricks, but let's appreciate that old dog for it's loyalty and it's good qualities, and let's encourage more companionship and beneficial interaction. As Phil mentions, there are fewer people covering the sport now in the print media, and no one coming up to take their places. Part of that has to do with the dying of print media in addition to the dying wider-spread popularity of figure skating. In the coming absence of Phil, Christine and other fs sportswriters, it seems as if manleywoman, Dave and Jenny, Tony Wheeler, Susan Chun of Lifeskate, DP's Goldenskate, and other fs fans, some whom are members of FSU, are the ones filling the void and broadening online coverage. If we don't do it ourselves, I suppose we can't expect someone else to do it the way we would like them to.

    BTW, I don't think Phil necessarily is contradicting himself re his mention of ice dancing having been egregiously prejudged for many years, and his mention of the Shibs suddenly being out of favor. Maybe it escapes Phil or he's overlooking the fact that the Shibs have been the focus of a lot of backlash for lucking into winning World bronze a few seasons ago when the French team faltered.

    I totally agree with Phil if he's trying to point out that the Shibs are kinda unfairly being looked down upon/ marked down recently. Some of it isn't fair, but they definitely have experienced some growing pains in terms of their on-ice identity and artistic development over the last two seasons in addition to the bronze medal win backlash. In light of their difficulties, Maia and Alex are weathering the storm and I hope they are able to pull some magic out of the hat in upcoming seasons, particularly with Chock/ Bates coming on strong as a top team under Shpilband (post Shpilband-Zueva break-up).
    Last edited: May 5, 2013
  20. caseyedwards

    caseyedwards Well-Known Member

    If you're going to discuss the Shibutani's you have mention that their technical merit has declined a lot. What happened to the all level 4 team that was at Moscow! In Nice Alex didn't even do a twizzle! So you have mention that. There was no effort to get rid of the Shibutani's they went way downhill in technical merit! Even in 2013 in London what happened to them there? Free dance level 2 everywhere. So you can have all different types of results in ice dance that is skater performance based. It's not like their PCS went into a huge hole with them still doing all level 4 elements! There was no twizzle in NIce and there were tons of level 2's in London! Maybe this level 2 step sequence thing is a part of the IJS problem because what is involved in getting a level 2 step sequence. Like Alex's total lack of twizzling in Nice was obvious to see to everyone!! Just no twizzling going on there! And there was no reason to act like ice dance was corrupt in Nice because V/M won over D/W like hersh did! It wasn't being snarky it was explicit in its "ice dance nonsense scoring!"

    Good to hear a Plushenko reference in relation to skaters who actually won titles skating well!! LOL!! IJS does involved lots and lots of skate wins and performances that are messy and clean ones with great technical merit are rare. You can have a win be based on a clean skate with a real lack of technical merit 2010 mens Olympics and 2012 ladies worlds.

    Totally agree in every way about SS being affected by falls! Not being on your "ass"! LOL. Good to heart that mentioned!

    I also agree that too much time is spent on the "75 turns" of a step sequence! That was a great quote and so true and it is so true that the great thing about 6.0 step sequences could be the speed! And actual serpentine or straigt or circular patterns. Now every single step sequence looks alike really.
    Last edited: May 4, 2013
  21. VarBar

    VarBar Well-Known Member

    Yes but I think that the judges should be told specifically what rules they didn't apply correctly in a particular case, how the PCs of the skater in question should have been marked and why that skater should have received a certain score on each of the five components and not another score. I would expect the judges to defend their scores if they were asked and allowed to provide an explanation and if you disagree with them, do you think you would be able to defend YOUR scores and prove that some of the judges or most of the judges were in breach of the rules or they misinterpreted the ISU guidelines? Because just saying that the judges don't use the system properly is too vague IMO.
  22. alilou

    alilou Crazy Stalker Lady

    Yes you're probably right, it is vague, and honestly I'm too lazy to go look up the exact criteria. I do know there's been endless FSU discussion about what criteria the judges are supposed to look at for each component, and that Patrick still getting high P/E marks with a 3 fall LP seems ludicrous, and the endless discussions of skaters getting 7's in SS, and then 7's in transitions also when they had none at all, and the judges so-called marking corridor so they don't called out if their marks are too different from everyone else. Heck Even Joe Inman sending that email before the last Olys implied transitions weren't being judged properly. Everything I've read has led me to believe the judges give component marks in a blind rush at the end of a skate that they've not been able to watch as a whole, and that they aim to stay in the corridor, and that they are as influenced by skate order, and reputation as ever they were. Just saying, in an ideal world, it would be nice if they had the time and inclination to really study the criteria, and then the time and inclination to really apply them. I think in an ideal world there'd be a separate panel for components. Five judges for tech, and five for PCS. Each group of judges would then have the time to focus on what they were judging. Let's hope they would also have the inclination to judge what they see and not be influenced by skate order and/or reputation. Same applies to GOE's. In an ideal world.
  23. orbitz

    orbitz Well-Known Member

    I'm not saying Phil is going to do that nor would he want to. Just giving an example as to why people usually don't use their real names when posting in forums. Those that do use their real names are more likely to be more civil in their responses and type responses that are more thought out. All the childish criticisms leveled at Phil at FSU, ie he's an idiot, blah, blah, blah,.... do you really think we would see comments like on FSU if everyone was using his/her real names? I certainly wouldn't want any future employers or current employer googling my name and the result returns a bunch of forum postings that are more typical of a 12 year old brat with no manners.
    spikydurian and (deleted member) like this.
  24. VarBar

    VarBar Well-Known Member

    Since you mentioned vested interest, we all know the names of the judges who judged at the latest Worlds as well as the countries they come from, specifically for the men's event: Belarus, Spain, Germany, Italy, Russia, Japan, Czech Republic, Poland, Bulgaria. Which ones of them do you think would have had a vested interest in Patrick Chan winning and why? It's a question for everyone reading this thread.

    Honestly, me too.:eek:

    Yes, it seems that the scoring system has numerous major flaws since so many people complain about almost everything.

    You would think some people have split personality, they are mature and civil under their reals names but start acting like a bunch of kids with no manners when they use fake names.
  25. manleywoman

    manleywoman podcast mistress

  26. Zemgirl

    Zemgirl Well-Known Member

    Thank you for getting the transcription up :) I do much better with reading than listening, and I'm glad I finally had the chance to check out this (very interesting) interview.
  27. Simone411

    Simone411 FSU Uber fan

    manleywoman, as always - thanks to you and Fiona. :)
  28. analia

    analia Well-Known Member

    Great interview, though I don't know why Hersh is under the impression everyone thinks he is too "critical". I don't think he is nearly critical enough. I would love him to talk to a few people about why Chan deserves/doesn't deserve his medal. Direct quotes, from knowledgable sources, no assumptions, preferably a quote from Cinquanta himself.

    Although these days, in his position, there is simply no way to really cover anything in depth. The rift between Zueva and Shpilband, Chan and Krall are still mysteries.
  29. gkelly

    gkelly Well-Known Member

    Why Cinquanta the speedskater/administrator? Why not ask actual figure skating experts?
  30. LilJen

    LilJen Reaching out with my hand sensitively

    I love his idea of having judges talk about their reasoning behind scoring (a la "interviewing the officials" in other sports). It'll never happen, but it would be really interesting.