Ice Follies

by: Peter Bodo | February 14, 2006

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The Olympic Games are on, so let's forget tennis for a moment. How are you all feeling about these winter Games?

I got home last night, all fired up to watch the Olympics, now that that Davis Cup is over . . . . I haven’t seen any of the women’s downhill competition—an awesome event, made that much more intriguing this year by a spate of crashes in training runs—or much of the highly underrated short-track skating (a race with real people skating/skiing/running against each other, rather than a clock, is always superior in my book). And what do I get when I flick on the tube?

Figure skating. Men’s short program.

Call me crazy, but does it strike anyone else that it’s just a little bit weird to watch a bunch of men flitting around on the ice, swanning and swooning, dressed in costumes featuring sequins and fishnets? I mean, am I missing something here? Aren’t you supposed wear a uniform in sports, not a costume? The whole thing looked like a drag show, which is OK, I guess, if that’s what you’re into. But this is supposed to be the Olympic Games, right?

And then one of these skaters gets some NBC face time and starts bashing “Republicans” and babbling about how much he loves being who he is (or some equally confusing New Age garbage), after which he segues into comparing his program to a shot of vodka instead of a snort of coke, or vice versa, I forget which, but it made me wonder—why am I watching and listening to this self-infatuated, arrogant little jerk?

I think they should throw figure skating out of the Olympics. It isn’t really sports, any more than ballet, modern dance—or drag shows—are. This whole thing with costumes is crazy, even when it’s women wearing them. Why should you get jock points because some designer came up with a better looking costume than the next lass—or lad—has? If anything, they should all be forced to wear the same, simple kit, so that people can focus on what is—presumably—the important part: skating proficiency.

For the credibility of sports, they should throw out all the men’s events but still allow pairs (and what’s with this reactionary mixed gender thing; why shouldn’t two men—or two women—be allowed to skate as pairs, if we’re being so progressive?). It’s not like this would kill the “sport” either; you have a flourishing fan base and a huge, official infrastructure that puts on all kinds of skating events, right up to world championships. Tennis wasn’t in the Olympics until relatively recently, right?

But the real problem posed by skating is bigger. The real problem is that the Olympic Games allows sports that are judged by humans, who invariably exercise their subjective, aesthetic preferences. Aren’t you sick of the endless scoring controversies (never mind the outright examples of corruption, horse-trading for scores, logrolling, etc.)?

Subjective scoring goes against the grain of sports, period. The whole idea of sports is to compete against an objective standard; a scoring system that makes you a winner or loser against someone else, or a clock. A part of me would hate to see all the human judgment–based sports go, because I like snowboarding and freestyle skiing, and it would really, really hurt to see boxing have to go.

Call me Judas; I’ll give up boxing if you can get figure skating out of my line of vision.

There’s my Olympics rant, now let’s get back to the tennis, shall we?

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