What's it going to take? Do we need another knee whack a la Harding? How about an all out Royal Rumble, WWE style on the ice: Kim vs Asada...Round 1..Ding!
It's clear something has to be done. It's not like figure skating is an unpopular sport. On a global scale, it's huge! But what's the deal in the U.S.? What happened to the weekly...scratch that...daily skating show, competition, special, etc. of the mid to late 90s? Let's try to figure out what can be done here...
First, as much as I hate to put the pressure on the competitors, we need for U.S. skaters to start winning competitions...BIG competitions! I'm talking World's and Olympics! We couldn't get enough when we had an endless supply of Michelle's, Tara's, and Sarah's. U.S. Figure Skating and the USOC need to get together and create an athlete focused program that gets skaters to the top or, at the very least, competitive with the top. Need ideas...see Japan.
Second, we need a media platform that is willing to support figure skating despite slumping ratings. I guess that would be NBC. NBC, time to broadcast the Grand Prix, even if the ratings aren't as high as you'd like. NBC, time to broadcast the Grand Prix Final, European's, and Four Continents Cup when you'd rather be showing golf. Why, if you support it, interest will build (maybe slowly). If NBC had shown the Grand Prix, many people maybe wouldn't have been as shocked to Mroz win the silver at National's. If NBC had shown the Grand Prix, more people would have known that Abbott would be a factor. If NBC had shown the Grand Prix, people might have actually missed Kimmie Meissner or Emily Hughes (both of whom were not mentioned once in their coverage). NBC, look back at the ABC/ESPN coverage over the past decade or so and take notes.
A little drama never hurt. Not that I'm advocating terrible things happen mind you (but I guess I kind of am though...), but drama brings in viewers. There was the knee-whacking. The skating laces. Tara vs Michelle. The Uh-uh...oh no they didn't just give the Gold to the Russians! The 2006 Olympics was a snooze. The biggest story was that Michelle was withdrawing...it's been down hill from there. Also, for the sake of their sport, it would be amazing press as well as drama if Sasha and Michelle made a go at it in 2010...even if they have little shot at making it (but looking at things as they are...who knows?).
The scoring system creates a juggernaut. It makes figure skating more of a sport and more accountable and at the same time confuses the hell out of spectators. I attend skating competitions all the time and people don't have clue one about how or why skaters are placed where they are placed. It's not the overall concept that gets people. People get that if you have the most points you win aspect. What people don't get is how those points were awarded. Levels, Grades of Executions, Bonuses, Features, it's enough to blow your mind! The 6.0 system had flaws and so does the current system. They need to find a way to make the average Joe watching know how a skater did and about where a skater will be ranked while at the same time keeping the more sport-like aspect of the point system. It's a daunting task, but there are smart people out there that can figure it out. I say just let a group of informed skating junkies work it out!
Most importantly, we need to give it time. Skating's U.S. slump won't end overnight (save a Podium sweep in Vancouver in 2010!). Hopefully, the U.S. can generate some talent that can bring some glitz and glamour back to the home front. In fact, such talent exists now...it's just letting the U.S. population know it's there.