In Sports Commentary

U.S. figure skaters Felicia Zhang and Nathan Bartholomay compete in the Sochi games in 2014. (PHOTO: Iurii Osadchi/ )

Figure skating has all the elements of great sport and theater

Sunday was a great sports television day, but not because of the NFL games or because of golf or surfing or college football or NASCAR or soccer or even the World Series of Poker.

It was a great day because of the International Skating Union broadcast from Skate Canada, featuring what I think is the most beautiful athletic competition around with the best color commentators of any sport with the possible exception of John McEnroe in tennis.

I'm prepared to defend my manhood as I proclaim that I absolutely love figure skating.

Let me start by explaining that I know how to skate. In high school I was a member of a speed skating club. I knew how to sharpen my own skates. I wasn't great, but I could skate forward and backward. I know how to be both the anchor and the end in "crack the whip."

The other thing that I want to make clear here is that I love music. I love all kinds of music, from classical to country to rock and roll to hip-hop. I think music can move the soul and soothe the savage breast in all of us.

And finally, I love beauty. This has nothing to do sexual stuff or even with men and women. Show me something beautiful, a child, a sunset, a tree, a box full of puppies or a sparkling, powerful horse in dressage, and I can fall in love.

With figure skating you get everything that I love. There is competition. There is beautiful music. There are beautiful costumes and beautiful people. You get all of this happening on ice skates.

You get great athletes.

To this day I remember the night in 1984 when I was watching the Olympic Games from Sarajevo and Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean tore the world of figure skating apart with their gold-medal performance to Ravel's captivating "Bolero."

It was one of the most memorable sports moments I've ever seen and is as vivid today as it was the night I first saw it.

Figure skating is a sport with its share of drama, both on the ice and off the ice. Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan riveted the world. And the judging scandal 2002 was a major story that was so serious it resulted in a total revamp of the scoring system.

Now, I'll confess that not all is perfect. I much preferred the old 6.0 scoring system, just like I preferred the 10.0 system in gymnastics. Also, I don't particularly care that there may be some temptations to bend the rules in favor of one skater over another.

None of that stuff ever detracted from the amazing spectacle that figure skating is. Men's and women's singles, pairs and ice dancing all combine to create an atmosphere that is truly unique in the world of sports.

The other thing that makes this a great television sport is the incredible Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir. They were paired together during the last Olympics and were an immediate hit for their back and forth banter and for the flamboyant clothing they wore.

But once you get past the clothes and the banter they provide some of the most insightful commentary in sports. In a field where blandness sets the standard, these two rival McEnroe for frankness and insight.

They are willing to be critical of performance, music, costumes and coaching, but not in any mean sense. They also provide an insight into what it takes to be a champion and what is missing in so many performances.

All of it combines to portend a wonderful sports season coming up and if you'd like to keep up, here's a link to the broadcast schedule for this glorious sport.

And I'm not kidding.


crackerbat | Nov. 5, 2014 at 4:59 p.m. (report)

It's a competition, not a sport....

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