Saturday, May 14, 2011

When Fans Do Their Work For Them

Fans who don't believe Tessa and Scott - don't believe them, versus fans or posters who absolutely know they're lying - are apologetic if they admit it. This is because of the controlling behavior of Scott and Tessa fans who behave as if they're doing God's work policing what fans are allowed to say. The post police will easily lie in order to convince others of their authority, a method that's compatible with Scott and Tessa's public relations style. It's interesting how many lies are told by some fans in order to convince other fans Tessa and Scott are telling the truth.

They frequently take what's been said for years on the internet and claim to have been informed about it personally, forgetting people have memories. As they're convinced the essentials are true, what's the difference if they lie they have independent confirmation? It's the best way to shut people up. Shutting people up seems to be important. The resentment of those with a different point of view appears intense.

Why the reality that there are people who don't believe Scott and Tessa and say so infuriates these fans is a mystery.

One message board visitor claimed to both live in the States and work for Skate Canada doing receptionist and filing work, and to have begged and been granted permission to volunteer at "summer skating camp" - described as a week long team bonding getaway where all the skaters from different disciplines frolic on the ice together and engage in hijinks off. There, this poster claimed to have seen many kisses between Scott and Jessica despite also saying she'd only seen Scott in person a total of three times. At this event, figure skaters also tossed their painstakingly aligned, razor sharp, scarily expensive, fine-tuned skates at each other in jest. The fact that Scott has struggled for years with back issues - like most men on figure skating teams - didn't forestall a charming anecdote about Jessica "playfully" pushing Scott so hard he slammed onto his back and could not at first get up.

Although the summer meeting is two days, has no rink, and it was impossible for this poster to have attended, this was not important when backing up the official Scott and Tessa (and Jessica) story is all that matters. This Utah/Skate Canadian also claimed to "have been told" personally, one of the most widely disseminated internet stories floating around for years  - the mythical fight between Scott and Bryce over that notorious femme fatale with the power to toy at will with both men, Jessica Dube.

There's a saying that something only has to be repeated ten times before the human brain believes it's true, even if the person hearing it knows better. Skate Canada, Scott and Tessa, and the fans who have taken it upon themselves to be Scott and Tessa's internet police force are believers in this one.

Another fan has informed posters that she was "told" or "informed" Scott had a crush on Jessica from their teens. This "information" is actually lifted from a well-known, widely linked 2007 FSU flare-up about Scott, Jessica, Tessa and Bryce.

It's always interesting how few people seem to know anything that's not already circulating on the internet or put there by the skaters themselves or spread as rumors by self-styled insiders. An impressive number of fans claim to have seen themselves or have a "friend" who has seen Scott and Jessica "make out" in public near a morose Bryce, in locations varying from airport security check-ins to Blue Jays games attended by the entire team (internet) to restaurants in Paris. This amazing spate of sightings is a spawn of the "Menage a Trois Sur La Glace" video piece wherein Bryce "confessed" it was hard to see Jessica and her bf together. Immediately an audience sprung up claiming to have witnessed this very thing.

It's ironic how this contradicts the other message of "Menage a Trois Sur La Glace." Jessica informed us that when she and Scott are at competitions and competition practices or attending to skating business, they both have separate jobs to focus on and would not be acting couple-like - nicely pre-empting the questions of fans who sit their asses down at events, practices, warm-ups and galas to see if they can get a load of the lovebirds for themselves.

Other fans feel that what they observe absent any media must be the truth.

Scott and Tessa and most celebs don't give a shit what the media knows - only what media says - to the public. The media isn't the problem - fans are. Members of the media are happy to blab - off the record.  Scott and Tessa only care what's on the record. They don't hide from the media til the red light is on. 

Back before Jessica and Scott started massive post-Olympic facebook friend sweeps, they had fewer skating fans as friends on their facebooks. And still, these skating fans/facebook friends policed message boards, letting anyone who doubted Scott and Tessa know that they were friends on Scott and Jessica's "private" facebooks and that there, evidence existed that Scott and Jessica were for real. Intimate evidence displayed only for a select number of fans, skating officials, relatives, dozens of other skaters both national and international, former skaters, neighbors, media, photographers, Skate Canada, coaches, Jessica's "former" bf and his family (who remained inexplicably close with her) ex-schoolmates and the rest of the logical audience for showing off "intimate personal" photographs. Fans who make montages. Fans who are regulars on message boards. Fans who write fanfic - all audience for this very personal and private stuff, but it was only hundreds - a much more private crowd than thousands for whom to parade intimate photographs of your love life.

For real, if someone truly thinks the photos actually show Scott doing "all sorts of intimate things" don't they wonder why photos were taken? How many people actually photograph their intimate activity, let alone create albums so they can be displayed for several hundred of their most trusted friends, acquaintances, associates, ex-classmates, coaches, competitors, sponsors, members of the media, members of different skating Federations as well as their parents, siblings, and fans who frequent message boards?

Isn't "all sorts of intimate things" pretty gross for even a supposed private facebook? Should people maybe redefine what they think "intimate" actually is and what's actually shown - not implied - SHOWN - in the photos?

Quite a few fans most interested in controlling what other fans say and believe, who are the most aggressive in believing Scott and Tessa, remain on the "private" facebooks.  Flattering themselves that they're either trusted and appreciated by Scott and Tessa, or believing Scott and Tessa are ignorant and oblivious of how facebook operates, they let people know what's on facebook validates every lie Scott and Tessa tell even if they will not share the extremely personal, extremely intimate evidence (except to trusted friends and connections in pm and email, exactly how it was done before) that is reserved only for trusted semi-strangers like themselves.  In this way the same information and visuals are distributed exactly as they were before Scott & Co. gave a universe of strangers their own front row seat.

P.S. Given the unimaginative banality of Skate Canada, it's amazing how few people are able to do the obvious math as to why Jessica Dube was set up to be the girl acting as Scott Moir's "gf" even after Scott himself basically spelled it out in a comment last year.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

I Don't Have Data, But Experience Tells Me This Woman Is Probably Stupid

Old stuff, but still makes you cry. The above links an article on some of Skate Canada's pre-Vancouver 2010 marketing wisdom about targeting men as a growth demo for Skate Canada's flagging ticket sales and television ratings. As that's what you do when interest falters. Don't try to re-engage your core demo. Instead, easily convince men that figure skating is as thrilling as hockey. Let me rephrase - as thrilling FOR THE SAME REASONS.*
One solution: Get more men to tune in. To do that, Skate Canada is encouraging skating officials and athletes to use words such as "strength," "power," "speed" and "risk" when describing the sport. Team members are being asked to play up the fact that they skate faster than most hockey players, jump higher than most basketball players and fall harder than most football players -- all without padding. (Debbie Wilkes, Skate Canada's marketing director and a former figure skater, says she doesn't have data to prove those assertions, but experience tells her they're probably true.)
Here, Debbi demonstrates a fantastic grasp of why hockey, basketball and football are popular.  Word association.

Damn, marketing is EASY.

You know what my experience tells me is probably true? Hockey-loving males, hypnotized by Debbi's savvy re-education campaign into forgetting they know what figure skating is, will show up at or tune into a figure skating competition anticipating manly men and determined women in  - uh, costumes -  'pounding out' feats of SPEED, RISK and POWER. Only to be hit in the face (without padding!) with EMOTING, SPRAY TAN, MUSIC, MAKE-UP, HAIR GEL, CHOREOGRAPHY AND SPINNING. SPINNING ON THE ICE. SPINNING IN THE AIR!!  SPINNING TO MUSIC! DO YOU KNOW WHAT IS SPINNING'S TWIN SISTER? TWIRLING!!

Then, just like hockey's Sidney Crosby, the guy who performed these feats will collect his stuffed animals and flowers and wait for his score in the KissNCry, making hand-hearts to folks at home.

No lie, in actual tests, professional ballet dancers routinely outperform professional football players in strength and endurance. Show the Sugar Plum Fairy taking down Hines Ward. Ballet companies will never need a fundraiser again. I have no data, but damn, it stands to (Debbi's) reason.

A few nits: based on what I've seen of a lot of very masculine figure skating costuming, Debbi's experience may not tell her that when half the males at the gala part of the competition (there's a word that needs changing for the men, Debbi - "gala") choose to costume themselves in tight plaid shirts tucked into butt squeezing jeans, or camouflage pants paired with a wife beater, the costumes leap over conventional masculinity by several time/space continiums and bulls-eye onto a 1980s Christopher Street bar. 

Debbi is a branding genius:
The idea of rebranding the sport's image first came up last September at a team dinner in Vancouver. At the event, Ms. Wilkes, Skate Canada's marketing director, told skaters they needed to give the public a better sense of how hard they worked. She said they should play up the injuries they've had and their rigorous practice schedules.
This will work.

"Woot woot! That's how to twizzle Charlie!!! Jesus, I think that guy split his pants last time he twizzled that fast. This sport takes a freaking BEAST!"

Soon, the men will be re-educating each OTHER:

"Ralph, did you know sometimes these guys fall down HARD, especially if they're going super fast and get cut on one of those really extra sharp blades on their feet?" "Yeah, I did." "Me too. Did you know it takes hours of tough daily training over years of commitment to skate like one of these guys?" "Yes. I'm not a fucking idiot."

Other SC initiatives included photographing figure skaters vis a vis Harley Davidsons, because Harley Davidsons aren't gay, and if the figure skaters are posing on them, the potential masculine audience will know they are not gay too. "It's not gay, Sam, I was looking in International Figure Skating magazine and one of these skaters was posing on a Harley. He even had stubble."

How come Debbi pitches her marketing strategies at people experience should tell her must be too dimwitted and devoid of life experience to earn the money for a ticket?
*and from William Thompson:
At the same time, Skate Canada is discouraging skaters from using too many sequins, feathers or anything else that dangles from their costumes. Adornments like that are "garish" and "distracting," says Skate Canada Chief Executive William Thompson, and belong "in an ice show, not a competition."
For sure. Fix the garish costume aspect, and before SC knows it, figure skating will be as popular with guys as gymnastics.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Virtue Moir Are Not Yuna Kim -- But Skate Canada Wants Us to Think They Are

The public relations behind Virtue Moir (which is mostly Skate Canada still and, sadly, probably forever) want to brand Virtue Moir as the object of near universal fan obsession throughout Canada. Not internet obsession - i.e., the dozens  of VM fans who cross-post on pages and message boards. Bieber-esque obsession. 

I started thinking about this when Scott and Tessa embarked on this year's SOI tour and bang on schedule, their very first interview was framed precisely like the tour interviews they gave last year.

"Everyone thinks you're together but you're not." If it's not a live piece segue you can set your watch by, it's one of the lead-ins in a written piece (the question with the answer) and then quotes are plugged in. Scott and Tessa spout their patented "turn it around on fans" sound bites -  the audience is confused by their "characters on the ice."

How condescending. Seriously -  somebody thought that was a good one?*

These tactics reek of Skate Canada's trademark holier-than-thou hypocrisy and entitlement.

That Scott and Tessa bald-face lie about their relationship status while pretending fan projection causes fans to wrongly imagine their relationship is romantic is just part of it. They also try to convince fans this fan projection is epidemic. IOW - they're also lying to fans about fans.

I wonder who at Skate Canada decided strategies common among sociopaths were a good Virtue/Moir public relations model.

Edited to add:
Their book - Virtue & Moir: Our Journey From Childhood Dream To Gold  -  is full of lies - from pretending their relationship is platonic to the invention of a "year long rift" stemming from a  blackout of any form of communication during her recovery from 2008 surgery. They avidly promoted this bullshit during the book tour with the expectation nobody would call them out despite archival evidence showing they're full of it.

Tessa/Scott have about reached the point where the more vehemently they assert something, the more we can be sure close to the opposite is happening. This is certainly true about what they were up to during the supposed "rift" - long-held plans being put into action for the utter opposite of estrangement. 

The more they force something upon the public the more they're trying to hide. The 4CCs sadly appears to confirm it too, from Scott's pre-competition vehemence that he and Tessa had every intention of becoming 4CC's champions, to everyone from Carol Moir to Michael Slipchuk's (and Lynn Rutherford's second-hand report on overdone emphasis on the fact that we were going to see TWO programs. Got it? Two. Dudes - no duh!!

The tone was so conspicous, so amateurish, it called attention to itself even before the other shoe dropped. <end of additional>

The thing is, interviews like the ones Scott and Tessa give in each city when they tour pivot off promotional materials provided by their own public relations team. Local media outlets are actually not buried by inquiries about Virtue and Moir's romantic status. Fans don't flood voicemail and e-mail to declare: "I KNOW they're together!"

Entertainment reporters at retail level don't research. They receive talking points from a package (a page or so) emailed or faxed prior to the interview and usually conduct a quick pre-interview with public relations. These are commercials for the tour - trying to sell tickets. 

The relationship topic is where the public relations people want the focus, to reinforce the idea of fans across Canada obsessing over Scott and Tessa. They know they can't convince anyone that fans everywhere are obsessing over Scott and Tessa's brilliant figure skating. But Skate Canada figures it can capitalize on the concept of 'shipping by pretending fans obsess on their chemistry so much they refuse to believe Scott and Tessa aren't together, no matter how many times Scott and Tessa deny it.

Of course Scott and Tessa feign being abashed by all of this, and do their usual chipper lying and blithe truth rearrangement.

The most cursory read around the most active figure skating forums and threads -,, the facebook page addicted to Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, ontd_skating, Scott's own facebook fan page, and even the conspiracy-minded Russian livejournal page waytothestars clearly shows most fans insist Tessa and Scott are NOT together. They see no reason Scott and Tessa would lie. To not believe Scott and Tessa would make them bad fans, or delusional. There's lecturing. There's sympathizing with poor Scott and Tessa, reassuring Scott and Tessa.

That's the reality among their uber fans and almost all other fans.

Yet Scott and Tessa's promotional materials work assiduously to convince us nobody believes them, ergo, they're forced to talk about it constantly. Poor Scott and Tessa.

EVERYBODY BELIEVES THEM. Yet before even one fan ever admitted publicly that they DON'T believe them (and/or knew better), Scott and Tessa's pr team pretended NOBODY did. Like just about everything these two do for public consumption, that's a lie.  


I think Skate Canada wants us to believe Scott and Tessa are to Canada what Yuna Kim is to Korea. Scott and Tessa would prefer not to be literal whores and sell out their actual private lives together everywhere they go. However, in Skate Canada's eyes, Scott and Tessa represent hitting the jackpot. SC believes Scott and Tessa's relationship is the team's biggest selling point, so here comes the fiction the ever-convenient fans are the ones not believing they're platonic. 

Fans are believing. Believe me, they believe.

Whether Scott and Tessa have achieved Bieber-tude or not (not) Skate Canada wants us to think they come close. To paraphrase Debbi Wilkes, SC thinks Scott and Tessa "have all the makings" and the right propoganda will make it happen.  
Scott and Tessa say they can fly under the radar. As they can. But the way the conversation is framed pretends Scott and Tessa are just being modest and they're really huge stars. Obsessed fans beseige  entertainment affiliates insisting Scott and Tessa are a couple. If the media keeps asking these same questions despite the countless times Scott and Tessa have already served up the same answer, surely the media has independent reason to believe fans are clamoring for Tessa and Scott to be or admit to being a couple, right?

Actually, not right. The media is working off material provided by the skaters themselves.

VM train in Michigan – they’re anonymous.

Plenty of people on the Canadian side of the border know the score.

There is the occasional random tweet spotting them in Toronto or elsewhere but the word is random and the tweet is "hey, saw Virtue and Moir!"

I don’t think Tessa disguises herself in burkas or Virtue Moir move about in SUVs with blacked-out windows. 

They're trying to create something by pretending it already exists - not just among the usual suspects on the internet (where most people not only believe them, but keep alive the story that Tessa is with David Pelletier) - but with the general public. They want to have it both ways, as always.

What's the point? This generation of Skate Canada officials have always been obsessed with creating not just successful skaters, but star skaters. These geniuses decided if people related to skaters' personal stories, a connection would be created and the public would become so invested they'd pull out their wallets. Michael Slipchuk talked about this in 2008-2009. He wanted personal stories (facsimiles of personal stories although naturally he did not cop to that) to be the lynchpin of Skate Canada's public relations initiative.

Back when Frank Sinatra was starting out, his people would hire girls to scream, cry and faint when he came out of the hotel, and pack the front of the stage with bobby soxers instructed, like an American Idol audience, to lose their shit when he opened his mouth.


For figure skaters, this public relations theory is junk. Masses of the public aren't going to buy tickets cause they 'ship. Michelle Kwan didn't sell out venues when she competed or toured because people knew her personal life. Johnny Weir - a celebrity who does transcend figure skating - only admitted to a couple of non-specific intimate personal life details recently.
You don't become a star by obsessively revising and rehashing your personal history and certainly not by incessantly raising the topic of the public's imagined obsession with you (which is just ASININE). You role model the Americans. Engage the public by touting charities, through smart sponsorship and affiliations, through deals with corporations that know what a compelling promotional campaign looks like (boy does Roots suck by making Tessa and Scott  kiss its ass for the duration of an inane promotional video) and through other proven fan outreach strategems. These all brand better and invest more fans than the strategy of figurative streetwalking. Buy a ticket - I have a compelling personal story! Buy a ticket - fans think we're secretly screwing! Come check out why!

Maybe you look at Tessa Virtue and then at the huge, relatively untapped market of skater-and-dance-obsessed girls and tweens, and their devoted parents, and a lightbulb will go on. Or - if you're inept - it won't.

Within the entire distastefully conducted spectrum of Virtue Moir media and social media management, using fans as pretext and scapegoat for Skate Canada's own feeble, and none-too-successful, public relations strategems continues to be one of the most obnoxious ploys in sports.* 
*The tiredest is "characters on the ice". It's off ice demeanor and behavior that prompts speculation, not Tessa and Scott's acting abilities. They know this, yet push "actors" "characters" and "George Clooney" crap onto the fans, Tessa often waxing empathetic that she "understands" because she, too, wants movie characters to get together in real life. Overreaching - these two can't help themselves.

*Scott magnanimously shared that this fan behavior doesn't really "annoy" him. Big of you Scott.

*I sometimes imagine they must sit around thinking up new ways to be dicks. But it actually seems to come naturally. All involved believe they 'get it' more than other people, and their default setting appears to be contempt.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Pause in Regular Programming for Tangent. And Revisiting Old Controversies

Caveat: Virtue and Moir are the best ice dancers in the world and proved it again at Worlds. Fans pitching a fit over the results (including some of Scott's family and friends on his aunt's facebook) should learn how skaters accumulate points under CoP - something you'd think Scott's family and friends would know already. Watch Tessa and Scott's wonderful skate and see where they left points on the ice. And grow the fuck up.

After sitting out most of the season and seriously training the free for only the past two months, not to mention competing it for the first time at Worlds, Scott and Tessa were just a footwork level and a couple of slightly cautiously executed elements away from gold. For Davis White fans, in the context of this season, that must be devastating.

Davis and White were as polished as they possibly can get. The program was trained to their maximum over many many months of competing, re-working and refining - long before Scott and Tessa seriously started getting their free dance ready. While not the danciest ice dancers on the planet, Meryl and Charlie are an extremely capable and powerful elite level team. Yet they won with only a 3.5 margin over a VM who are just beginning to stretch their legs. (VM's winning margin in the Vancouver Olympics, touted as a close contest with DW, was 5 points.)

The win wasn't about talent, dance ability and whose program was more engaging -  it's who accumulated the most points. You can't speed up muscle memory - it takes a season to make a program seamless. But what I'm reading is that an undertrained, sloppy(ish) in spots, a bit slow(er) and tireder in others Scott and Tessa should be able to defeat their maximum trained, maximum competed, maximum performing training mates. Scott must be lying when he says he knows he and Tessa must be at their best to beat Meryl and Charlie. At Worlds, Scott and Tessa were great but not their best - with more time they are capable of skating that free so as to make the Worlds outing look like a placeholding gala rehearsal. You know it's a compliment to say this wasn't their best, right? That they can be better, but Meryl and Charlie hit their ceiling?

Tessa and Scott will presumably compete a full season next season. If that's not enough, it should be Tessa's first pain free season in three years. The sky's their limit. Gratitude wouldn't be amiss.  

Davis White got 110 but I think that happened because the judges threw every point they could possibly find at Tessa and Scott and then some - that's how much they loved VM. Since Davis White had tons of difficulty, speed, and greater polish and I think at least one higher element level, the judges had to dig around for more points for them. We want judging to be fair - and it's lots more fair under CoP. At least that's what Scott always says.

It's a bit rich to expect these two - on mostly talent  + two months training (not to mention everything else that went down this year) should beat an extremely competitive, driven, athletic team trained by Scott and Tessa's own brilliant coaches. If they'd done so, hurrah, but as they didn't, copping an attitude is poor sportsmanship. As is being sour grapes about a couple of skaters who by all reports - including Scott and Tessa's - are good friends of your kids.

I would like to address a comment by Alma Moir:

Alma's graciousness aside, I agree - Davis White couldn't skate Scott and Tessa's programs - any of them of the past three years. Virtue Moir could skate Davis White's and then some. My opinion; I'm sticking with it. 

Know what let's do as well? Rewind to 2002. Have Sale & Pelletier skate Bereshnaya & Sikharulidze's Olympic short and long. S&P can attempt Lady Caliph and Meditation from Thais. B&S will do S&P's short and that stop-and-pose-between-elements lp, Love Story. Alma (and Carol, and Sheri - and a young Scott - and others) kicked up a righteous fuss back then:

Per Moirville, Anton's slight stumble in the 2 axel meant S&P should have gotten gold outright. Level of difficulty, speed, power, unison, close together skating, complex holds and transitions, quality of execution, intricacy of choreography done brilliantly - screw it. S&P didn't stumble while miming throwing snowballs at each other in between setting up for elements. Where's the justice.

Didn't S&P ditch a much more complex program from that season's Canadians because they couldn't skate it clean, and default back to their old warhorse Love Story? S&P would have mopped the ice with their backsides attempting Meditation or Lady Caliph. As it was they fell at the end of their short.

And what OF Lady Caliph - probably the most perfect pairs short in Olympic history? Is there a reason the two North American judges placed S&P's short first against that? Nah - it's only the French judge who was "corrupt". I personally believe she was pressured to confess to something that did not happen. When Scott Hamilton screams that much on NBC to an audience of billions, and the figure-skating ignorant American media starts howling, officials will do anything to shut him up. Hamilton was in rare form in Salt Lake City - he thought Yagudin could end up third in the free skate after Yagudin skated Man In The Iron Mask. That's some solid skating commentary right there.

(A favorite observation on this pairs uproar, made back then by an American, went that contestant "A" sings "Happy Birthday" flawlessly and contestant "B" achieves a brilliant aria with one cracked note. Indubitably, our "Happy Birthday" warbler sang the best.)

Considering all the American media did to pressure Olympic officials into tossing a spare gold at S&P, you'd expect the Moir crowd to be less churlish about Davis White. If their last names were Davidovitch & Pasternak, then I concede - they couldn't possibly have won with legitimacy. We all know Russians can't figure skate.

So, I was surprised to see the "skate each other's programs" out of Alma, because I've gotten chuckles imagining S&P having a go at B&S's Salt Lake City programs.

Stay gracious, Ildertonians. Keep representing for the thousands of international fans you know can see Carol's wall. Set that example for kids, show respect for others to whom you are not related or who are not Canadian. Even if the "others" have parents who have always been loving towards your loved ones when their kids were the ones standing on the second tier of the podium.