Monday, February 13, 2006

St. Michelle, Our Lady of the Media Overkill

Let me start by stating that figure skating is NOT a sport. Any "Sport" (Using the term loosely) where you are judged on style and/or artistic merit is not a true competition. Athletic? No arguement from me. Competition? Not even close. It's just an exhibition of athletic prowess. This goes for not just figure skating, but freestyle sking, snowboarding, and even ski jumping. All fit the descripton. Just because the Olympics and TV try to legitimize them as actual sport, doesn't make it so.

No one cares about figure skating unless it's an Olympic year. Even going that far is pushing it... Can you name who won at the last World Championships? How about the last Olympics? Who else is on the US team, male or female? I can't answer any of these questions, I'm sure you can't either. Figure skating's only reason for being is it's appeal to the female population. Broadcast pretty people skating gracefully, factor in the occasional fall, add all but genuflecting announcers, and for some reason, this equals TV ratings gold.

In that regard, the beatification of Michelle Kwan boggles the mind. Talk about laying the sappiness on molasses-like thick. Here's what USOC chairman Peter Ueberroth had to say...

"Michelle Kwan means more to the United States Olympic Committee than maybe any athlete that's ever performed. She's been a leader, she's been gracious, she's somebody that cares for so many youngsters that are training in our country.

"She's a real loss to all of the United States Olympic Committee and to the United States of America, and I think to the world."

Jesus Christ! When are they issuing the memorial postage stamp? Taking donations for a statue? Did she die a painful death? No, but it is a pulled groin...

We've been told that Kwan winning 9 national and 4 world championships was an amazing feat, making her the Michael Jordan of skating. In my mind, that says more about the lack of competition (Mostly teenagers) and skating's well established, criminally biased judging issues (Remember the SLC Olympics split gold medal free-for-all?), than her skills.

The media has all but designated Kwan as "St. Michelle." For example, last night on NBC, Jimmy Rogers waxed philosophic about the "Greatness" that is Kwan. As NBC is pulling out all the tearjerking stops about never winning "The Big One," and Rogers is busy putting her on a pedistal, film of Dan Marino and Ted Williams were flashed on screen. Stop right there...

I'm sorry, but comparing a figure skater not winning gold to the careers of Ted Williams and Dan Marino is asinine. Or for that matter, comparing it to the careers of Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, Barry Sanders, Gale Sayers, Ernie Banks, Robin Yount, I could go on... You know why Williams, Marino, and the others didn't win titles? Because they lost legitimately to better competition on the field of play.

Kwan may have not won the gold because she didn't wear a pretty enough dress that day. Maybe she didn't smile enough during the free skate. More seriously, she may have lost because her position was pre-slotted by the judges before the final skate. Could it have been due to the fact that the Eastern bloc vote was as powerful as the Chicago political machine? When you consider skating's shady past and practices, comparing figure skating and skaters to legitimate sport and athletes is comparing apples and anvils.

Am I oversimplifiying somewhat? Sure, but who in the media doesn't? Actually, I'll make it even simpler.

Figure skating isn't a sport, it's TV manufactured melodramatics. Michelle Kwan is not the Ted Williams of figure skating, she's the Rowdy Roddy Piper. Piper never won "The Big One" either...

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