Thursday, January 29, 2009

Weekly Op-Ed: U.S. Figure Skating Attempting To Masculinify Sport?

So I've decided to use this week and some interesting discussion on the blog to start a new piece on my blog, The Weekly Op-Ed. It gives me a chance to sound off on hot topics in an Olbermann, Dobbs, O'Reilly, Beck kind of way!

So it's been suggested that U.S. Figure Skating is attempting to "masculinify" the U.S. vision of figure skating.

I thought about this and really tried to hammer down concrete evidence that this was in fact taking place. It's also been suggested that the Johnny Weir is the visible face of "anti-masculine" skating that the U.S. is trying to erase. For the life of me, I couldn't find one iota of evidence that U.S. Figure Skating was attempting to 'masculinize' skating. The only possible thought I could produce is the fact that Johnny was snubbed for both the Four Continents Cup and the World Championships...but then again, he did finish fifth after a pretty lack luster free skate and the four guys ahead of him...well...skated better! A fact he took complete responsibility for in the post-event.

On the contrary, it would appear to me that U.S. Figure Skating has supported Johnny Weir. They've plastered him on the cover of Skating Magazine even when he wasn't skating great, given him little shows and pieces on Ice Network, sent him to the one and only Grand Prix event televised in the U.S., handed him Skating Magazine's MVP, and did give him the first alternate spot at the World Championships despite finishing behind Ryan Bradley. I think that U.S. Figure Skating has some strong arguments for defense here.

I will agree that there has been some harping on Johnny's 'flamboyance' but it hasn't been from U.S. Figure Skating. There have been little digs at him from other media outlets such as the L.A. Times, Washington Post, and NBC. And I think that U.S. Figure Skating has been frustrated with Johnny in the past, but not because of his vision of skating or 'flamboyance' but rather because of his training habits and lack of attention towards successful commitment. I can tell you, that if you had the pleasure of seeing all the men compete in Cleveland (not just the top 7), you'd see that Johnny's vision of skating is alive and well and really U.S. Figure Skating can't dictate what the skaters do or don't do on the ice (unless you consider the big book or crazy requirements the judging system continues to set forth).

I guess in the end, what I'm saying is, let's give U.S Figure Skating a break. And if we really want to pick on someone for trying to change the image of the sport, let's pick on the right people.

UPDATE: Interestingly...Skate Canada is actually attempting to 'masculate' figure skating! Check the link...http://outsports.com/jocktalkblog/2009/02/03/can-canada-make-figure-skating-tough/

11 comments:

salzburglar said...

indeed... rippon and halverson are proof to his "style", in the upcoming generation. it's only a matter of time before rippon reigns. his "pagliacci" exhibition last season was breathtaking... shades of toller cranston! i think weir is one of those personalities who has always felt he's pushing against something... and, so even when he isn't in reality, he conjures that up, because it's how he's used to existing in the world. but, come one... there is NO DOUBT that the usfsa would prefer a slew off lysaceks to a slew of weirs... he's less controversial, more status quo, clearly straight, likely brings in more mainstream/sport-lovin' audience, and so on.

salzburglar said...

oops... should have read: "a slew of lysaceks..."

Aaron said...

I don't think I'd be very good at speculating what U.S. Figure Skating does and does not want.

But if 'I' were U.S. Figure Skating, I'd want skaters that competed well, no matter their vision, persona, or style.

But that's just me... ;-)

salzburglar said...

COMPLETELY agree! and, thankfully the current scoring system at least doesn't attempt to address/judge this issue in any visible/overt way.

salzburglar said...

or, perhaps instead of "masculinify" it should be "masculate". haha

Anonymous said...

To say that because he came in fifth and doesn't deserve to be on the World team is kinda saying Michelle Kwan didn't deserve to be on the Olympic team last time around. Michelle was named to be on the team because the year prior, she gotten 4th place finish at the Worlds. She also won the US championship the year before. Hmmm, let's see. Weir got bronze at the Worlds last year. He should have won the Gold at the US championship last year. Oh yeah, he was not named to be on the Worlds team. End of story. PERIOD. Similar results but different treatment. Need I say more. USFSA's reason for sending Michelle instead of clumsy Emily Hughes is because in the prior year, Michelle had a higher standing in terms of the points. Hmmm, let's see does Weir have a higher standing in terms of points compare to Abbot or Mroz. CHECK! Thank you very much. I rest my case.

USFSA would of course rather have Lysacek as its champion than Weir. Last year's result was the most blatant example. If you think Evan deserved that gold medal, I would have to say you are blind. Now why would USFSA rather have Lysacek as its face? Let's see, Weir plays by his own rules. He says bone head things that perhaps USFSA would rather him not say (like how much he loves Russia, etc.). I understand that as the face of USFSA, he really should be much more gun ho about USA than former USSR in terms of public relations. Wouldn't USFSA love to have a Joubert as its champion? Joubert is a mainstream celebrity in France. He dated Ms. France for god's sake. Nothing USFSA would like more than to have its poster child be masculine like Joubert. Ah, here we have Lysacek. He's skates well. He's "Straight" acting. He doesn't say he loves former USSR. He's relatively good looking. Just what USFSA needs to promote this sport (let's face it, ever since Michelle retired, figure skating ratings on TV has just gone down hill. It's to a point that grand prix is no longer showed on national television besides Skate America). I totally understand where USFSA coming from. But I would rather think that this sports is not tainted by these outside considerations. But then again, I guess I should not be that naive. Reality bites after all.

By the way, he was plastered on the skating magazine because US ladies is in shambles ever since Sasha and Michelle retired and the have no one else to put on the magazine cover to move the magazine. Weir is the most recognizable person in figure skating right now (probably because of all the bone head things he said to the press). I bet when you ask a none figure skating person who Weir or Lysacek is, they'll much more likely to recognize Weir than Lysacek. Let's see. Would Skating Magazine sell better if they put someone who's more recognizable like Weir on the front cover or someone like Rachael Flatt? I rest my case.

Oh yeah, who else is at the Skate America....? The person who shouldn't have won the championship last year: Evan. If they put Evan at the Skate America, certainly Weir more than deserves to be there. Period. And why shouldn't he get the Skating magazine's MVP. They padded him accolades because they robbed him his gold last year at the Championship. And what did he do at the Worlds last year? He brought back a bronze for US. Thank you. Next!

Aaron said...

I appreciate your passion! But again...it's all speculation. I'm looking for concrete evidence...not just perceptions and believed thoughts. What concrete (i.e. can be backed up by sources, quoted officials, statements, etc.) do we have that U.S. Figure Skating is attempting to, I guess the word is now 'masculate' U.S. men's skating?

Anonymous said...

Let's reverse the question. What concrete (i.e. can be backed up by sources, quoted officials, statements, etc.) do we have that U.S. Figure Skating is attempting to NOT 'masculate' U.S. men's skating? I don't see any. Do you?

Aaron said...

Several...they are listed in the blog post. :-)

Anonymous said...

To dear anonymous, 'Let's reverse the question. What concrete (i.e. can be backed up by sources, quoted officials, statements, etc.) do we have that U.S. Figure Skating is attempting to NOT 'masculate' U.S. men's skating? I don't see any. Do you?'

I think you are someone who has made up his/her mind, likes the conclusion you have come to and no amount of arguing will ever change it. It's silly to ask what you did. I mean, is there any evidence that USFS is trying to 'feminize' figure skating? There isn't. At the same time, is there any evidence that they are not trying to feminize figure skating? No. Maybe they don't have an opinion on this. Maybe they are more broad-minded than you will ever be and ackowledge that there is no such thing as 'masculine' or 'feminine' beyond blind and constricting stereotypes. Maybe they see figure skating as a sport, not a display of sexual orientation.


To salzburglar, why would one imagine there is no doubt as to what USFSA would prefer? Would they prefer anything as opposed to simply wanting athletes who are committed and can deliver? What makes you think that more Lysaceks would bring in more mainstream/sport-lovin' watchers? Where are those watchers? What do they watch? Maybe they don't watch figure skating not because it seems gay but because they don't like the concept. You have to admit it's certainly very different from basketball, football, tennis and golf. Was skating ever as popular as those other sports? I'm sure it wasn't just the gay that chased people away. There were really flamboyant guys way back then too--like Toller Cranston.

Thanks for writing this Aaron. I found it very balanced and refreshing. In general I really love your blog. :)

salzburglar said...

http://www.canada.com/sports/Skate+Canada+tough+spot/1254125/story.html