Thursday, February 23, 2006

Ice Follies

American Sasha Cohen, Japan's Shizuka Arakawa and Russian Irina Slutskaya (c) Amy Sancetta/APOne of the things I get to do as a sports writer during the Olympics is know the results as they happen - instead of having to wait for Bobbie Costas and the NBC folks to bombard us with hours of ads to see the results.

This AP shot by Amy Sancetta shows the women's figure skating winner, Japan's Shizuka Arakawa, and American Sasha Cohen and Irina Slutskaya of Russia.(Arakawa skated a flawless program and was genuinely surprised to win. Sasha is holding her medal like it stinks and Slutskaya looks like she's over it!)

Cohen was leading Slutskaya after the short program in Turin, but both fell in the long program and Arakawa gave Japan its first Winter Olympic gold medal in women's figure skating. But one great thing about it all - we don't have to listen to Dick Button and Scott Hamilton make their stupid remarks any more.

There was one skater that the kindest thing they said about her was that she "didn't tie up her skates properly!" I mean come on! Granted these two guys are former champions, but one was champion when Eisenhower was president and the other seems like he has to yell everything he says.

I wonder some times if Dick Button has a "Golden Book of Crappy Remarks" on his desk. I have met him at the 2003 World championships and he is as much of a pedant in person as he is on the tv. I mean the man was gushing over Johnny Weir, but sounded like somebody's critical old grandmother most of the time. He makes Simon from American Idol look like an Up With People motivational speaker.

And who told Scott Hamilton he had to yell everything? Scott was over the top on the commentary all the time.

What would be really great, is if there were a way to get the closed-circuit feed, the one they show in the press center that does not have the lame commentary. I actually watched the 1996 women's gymnastics final that way, and I was able to reach my own conclusions about who won and who lost. And it was great.

NBC wonders why its ratings were down for this Games? Maybe it's because of the Internet, because people can find out the results long before we have to sit through 11 million coke and Chevrolet and FedEx and IBM commercials to find out what happened. Maybe it's the time difference. By the time most of us on the East Coast sat down to dinner, it was all over, so we really didn't care. Maybe it was that this is a Winter Olympics, and the number of people who ski, or skate, or sled is smaller than those who run, or throw, or play basketball.

And maybe, just maybe it's because the drama of the athletic competition would be enough without the lame features meant to appeal to women in the audience. All the soft focus and strings was getting sickening.

Granted, it's great that Irina Slutskaya has overcome injury and illness and her mother's kidney problem. It's great that Vonetta Flowers has a son who is just able to hear her for the first time because of a revolutionary operation. It's heart warming to hear that Jeret "Speedy" Anderson is a sexual abuse survivor - as is Chris Witty. But two weeks of that is enough! Show us more of the actual competition . That's what we want to see. The athletes, the events, the good and the bad.

And just once, I would like to see a figure skater come off the ice and do the interview with Andrea Joyce or whoever else happened to be working the sideline "Kiss and Cry" area and answer like Jim Mora when he was coach of the New Orleans Saints:

"I sucked. I stunk. I couldn't hit a salchow, couldn't land my triples. My spins were slow, my footwork sucked, and my music was off. It was a horsesh** performance. I mean, MEDALS? We can't talk about MEDALS. It'd be nice to get across the ice without falling on my a**! I couldn't do diddley-poo, it was an absolute embarrassment."

Now that would be worth watching.

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