Seems fitting to talk about commentators this week. Two of U.S. Figure Skating's best known stars nabbed gigs this past week: Michelle Kwan with NBC and Mirai Nagasu with T.V. Fuji Japan.
But what makes a good figure skating commentator? Is it simply knowledge about the sport of figure skating? Is it experience with the sport, i.e. having been a competitor? Is it a pre requisite that the commentator must have won something big like an Olympics or Worlds to be a good commentator? I don't really know the answer to these questions...
I can tell you who my favorites are. As much as I've criticized him for his negativity, yelled at the screen when he hated on my favorite skaters' layback spin, and corrected him numerous times for calling a triple jump a double, my favorite is Dick Button. He certainly fits the bill as far as those questions go. He is very knowledgeable about the sport. He has competed. He's a two time Olympic Gold Medalist.
I can also tell you a commentator I'm not a fan of...Peter Carruthers. He two fits the bill but I think he's overly verbose in his commentary and rambles on and on and on. Then again, so to does Button?
Scratch my not knowing the answer...I think I do know. Familiarity. Dick Button has been there, commentating for so long, we have just become familiar with him. He's like that reliable pair of shoes that never goes out of style. He's part of the experience when we watch skating on television. NBC must have picked up on that...they left him off the broadcast team for Nationals (see terrible ratings) and now he's been brought back on for the World Championships. Coincidence?
I think we are seeing a generational shift in figure skating commentary. One generations skating icon (Button) is being transitioned to another (Hamilton) and NBC is even preparing for the future with the latest icon (Kwan)!
What about our new platforms for skating coverage? This season, Universal Sports (NBC affiliate) broadcast figure skating sans commentators. Ice Network's content usually is without commentators as well (save the occasional Kerrigan, Kwiatkowski, or that boring woman who tells the elements and what level they are). I have to admit, I actually like watching without the commentary. But sometimes I get lonely and miss Dick, Peggy, and Terry (hands down...the best skating trio ever. I so miss skating on ABC/ESPN).
I suspect we'll all have our favorites and those we don't care for. I have mine, I'm sure you have yours. Share in the comments who you like, dislike, and why.