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Figure skating controversy points out big problem

By Staff
Feb. 14, 2002
I like athletic contests whose outcomes are decided by stop watches or predecided playing periods or innings or halves or quarters or sets or 18 holes.
I like them to be played out under rules that everyone knows and everyone accepts six points for a touchdown, three for a field goal, and one for an extra point. Touch the plate and you score a run that no one can take away from you. The man using the fewest strokes over 18 holes wins. Shoot the ball through the basket and get your reward.
I don't like sports in which opinions count more or less, depending on whether the person with that opinion feels good or grumpy the morning the contest is played. I especially don't like competition in which the outcome is judged by where you come from rather than what you did.
In other words I don't like figure skating. I also don't like boxing. And the latest bruhaha at the Olympics proves I've got something going for my side.
I wasn't at Salt Lake City when the Russians won the Olympic Pairs competition by a whisker over the Canadians, an event that was protested by many who know the sport and didn't hesitate to charge the fix was in. True to my own personal beliefs, my TV was watching something on another channel other than NBC. Even an old movie was preferable.
But under the "where there's smoke there's fire" standard, something very wrong apparently took place Monday night.
Three of the judges were from Eastern European countries, Russia, Ukraine and Poland. They voted in a solid block for their people. Surprise! The other two homebased in France and China. They voted for their friends too.
The good guys came from the USA, Canada, Germany and Japan. Surprise, it was 5-4 in favor of the Russians. Us against them. Them won.
I didn't see this one but I've watched enough ice skating competition (my wife is a fan) to tell you I can't find one consistent standard when the results are posted. One skater slips and falls and they lower his or her score a teeney weeney bit. Another falls and you'd think they had sprayed ice in the judges eyes.
The female skater whose performance wowed me doesn't win. The skater who looks klutzy does. Maybe they judge by who looks the cutest in those short skirts. Sort of a Hooters contest using a different part of the anatomy.
Do you know how much difference there is between a 5.5 from the French judge and a 5.8 from the American expert? Miles. Grand Canyon. Win or lose. Take home a medal or cry yourself to sleep.
I may not know much about figure skating but I do know a bit about boxing. I've been going to fights since my daddy had to hold my hand tight to make certain I didn't get lost in the crowd. Too many times the rightful winner loses and the righful loser wins at least on my card.
Figure skating judges could double in Madison Square Garden on weekends and pick up some extra money. The technique is apparently the same. Close your eyes and write down a number. Use all female judges for the male competition and give the decision to the fighter with the most attractive buns. If they can do it in figure skating why not boxing?
Scoring for both sports is call subjective. That means whatever is in the judge's minds is what it is. There is no scoreboard as the competition progresses. Only after it is over do you know who won even if you aren't told why. At least in football, basketball, baseball, golf and tennis there are scoreboards.
Even if you disagree with an official's decision, you still know the respective points and you don't have to wait until the end to get the result. Unless you're a mind reader you don't have any idea of how things stand in skating and boxing until somebody tells you. But that's all right, neither do the judges.
There are those close to the sport of figure skating who say this claimed miscarriage of justice may very well change the way such competition is judged. It would be all to the better if it does.
But just tell me about it. Don't make me watch. I'll tune back in when curling comes on.