Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Is this figure skating?

I recently outlined the Scott/Tessa/Skate Canada situation to an attorney friend in order to give it a real world taste test. So Atty Doe's eyes wouldn't glaze over when I brought up figure skating, I hit the Skate Canada piece of it hardest. She's media savvy - everybody in a major city or media market brands these days, everybody uses web tools and social media to focus their message, everybody has an internet presence and decides what it is they're selling and what to leave out that's not in their best interests. Everybody pays attention to ethics, particularly where the public sector is concerned, and knows where the line is even if they have no ethical compass because nobody wants their organizational ass in a sling.

All of this isn't just a game for public figures.

It's just coincidental AD was an attorney - she's a sophisticated person and well-connected. Also civic minded so I was anticipating a "that's fucked up" about Skate Canada's getting its hands dirty in the Scott and Jessica hoax. I said doesn't all this raise questions.

AD said: "Yes it raises a question - what the fuck is wrong with you Scott and Tessa!!"

I was actually floored. I was like - what about the SC stuff? She was shrugging that off - I guess that kind of dirty isn't news to an attorney in her sector.  She was all "What the fuck is wrong with them!"

This is a woman who spent another portion of our conversation telling me about a sports star with a major market professional sports franchise whose personal life is kept on the dl so the (beer-swilling, face-painting, tailgating) demographic never finds out about it. But the athlete in question plays a real sport. He's not called upon to talk about breakfast tacos, relationship quizzes or whether his teammates are a part of him but he only thinks of them as friends.

Scott and Tessa's deal she thought was a freak show. Which it is. But I'd thought the basic algorithm made sense - public figures, private lives, fake private life to protect real one. Just the execution is all kinds of fucked up.

Nope. She thought the whole thing was fucked up - facebook, Jessica, the whole deal, in view of Scott and Tessa's current personal situation, over and out. They're sick.

She even said sorry, they made the choice. The second you lace up the skates, that's part of the deal. You don't shove it off on everyone else because you don't want to cope with it.

There was not even an "I get it, but" going on with her when it comes to this.

So I reached for the only analogy I could think of. Pageants. I said - you know the whole pageant circuit, you know that world. The intensity and obsession inside a narrowly focused environment to where common sense turns upside down and all perspective goes down the toilet. There's no reality check because real world air doesn't get in.  It's an environment that breeds crazy.

THEN the lightbulb went on.

So Skate Canada figure skating at its heart is like this world:

I think the analogy actually is valid. Figure skating in Canada is a national sport populated by a teensy, insular, parochial community with a blinkered worldview and neurotic priorities, self-referential and self-obsessed.  It's a Christopher Guest movie. And unfortunately, that applies to the officials in charge of it. The premise of how they do everything is warped, and proceeds "rationally" from there because they completely lack any ability to determine the essential sanity of their assumptions.

I believe even the most entitled, overfamiliar, intrusive fan occupies more of the real world than some of these figure skaters and Skate Canada's personnel. Their skater obsessions are entertainment or fixations. If they got checked, they'd redirect. The crazy is Skate Canada, not Skate Canada managing the crazy of the fans. Skate Canada is plain crazier.

Unlike the pageant circuit, Skate Canada has access to sophisticated, knowledgeable media advice and so do the figure skaters. They go the do-it-yourself route because they have massive egos inverse to their capabilities, and they don't want to relinquish control, personal visibility and perks.

There's also a clear obsession with micromanaging the personal while being unprofessional slobs on the business side.

There are regional high schools with better managed pr than Skate Canada, but that requires that the school principal and school board and the rest of the personnel aren't bent on promoting themselves at the expense of the school, aren't power-tripping, honestly want effective pr and also are accountable.

And really, the pageant world is healthier. It's doing its best with what it has. Skate Canada turns its back on obvious resources. Its ineptitude is a choice. I think it's funny if totally insane that these huge egos went and did it themselves and did a worse job than your average middle schooler going on the internet to promote a fund raising drive. But then it's likely the middle-schoolers had a clearer agenda. Skate Canada is a little hamstrung by its directors' personal agendas.

It's not going to be a real sport - not to hockey loving men, not to the mainstream - til they get the weird out. Mainstream your weird, Skate Canada. You're an outlier.

The very fact that the Scott/Tessa/Jessica thing was planned and dear God, executed as it has been up to and including the family viewing parties showcasing Jessica at competitions, baby holding, Xmas faking and make-out feigning - shows a not-ready-for-prime time mentality. No wonder important sponsors can't cope with it.


  1. This is all incredibly fascinating...and so sad...like dementia. lol that probably sounds weird, dealing with a family member and it's on my mind. thanks again for this blog, I learn so much!

  2. "This is all incredibly fascinating...and so sad...like dementia."

    I have wondered a lot what in the world is wrong with the Virtue-Moir families that they went along with this crazy, moronic scheme. I can almost excuse Skate Canada with the reasoning that they're just a bunch of incompetent fools who want to think they know about image-management when in fact they know zilch. But what about the people surrounding V/M who are supposed to be looking out for their best interests? Are they all suffering from some form of dementia?

    1. I agree, where are their parents? Getting yourself in too deep and living a duel life on the internet as a teenager/early twenty-something is one thing, allowing and even assisting your child/nephew/cousin in doing so is something entirely different. And I absolutely still blame skate canada, who I am sure is convincing the families that this is normal and "the nature of the sport"

  3. I'm stunned that SC (or whoever) convinced them to go so far as having Scott and Jessica "make out" for facebook. All those incredibly inappropriate beach pictures, sleeping together on the sofa at Scott's parents' house (!!), lip-kissing (and I don't care how chastely they think they're kissing. Just... NO!!).

    How do you convince (supposedly) mature adults that this is "the nature of the sport"? Something about this whole scenario is so disturbing, so senseless. I have a hard time accepting that these people have done this.

  4. Well, you're not the only one. I guess one of the things that keeps sticking in my mind is parading Jessica in the buggy at the Ilderton Gold Medal Celebration, the Virtues smiling away in the seat behind her. Where the hell is their sense of the absurd, if nothing else? What was accomplished that day? Alma became aware at some point that a bunch of skating fans were attending - so what? The wheels would have come off if Jessica weren't present? What real girlfriend even wants to ride in the freaking buggy like a prize pig? Tessa's brother didn't even do it.

    Here's the thing - is this their thinking, or is this how they think fans think? Either way, it's ridiculous. If this is how they think fans think, well half the fandom thinks Tessa is dating Ryan Semple based on a couple of tweets and a stilted showing in the stands at Skate Canada. Mission accomplished. There's no bombardment needed. Hell, Meryl Davis posed crouched/supported in front of Fedor Andreev in a row of other skaters at a baseball game, taking a photo, and half the fans were - oh, now we can tell you guys she's been dating him.

    So fans don't need this type of overkill. They don't need some blitz prior to a competition, then a blitz AT the competition, then again on tour when the tour comes to the hometowns. They don't.

    So this goes back to the sham really being for who? For the fans? It's not necessary for them - they need the minimum. Even with Scott and Tessa all over each other on the ice and sometimes off, an official gf has fans saying well Scott and Tessa's relationship is "special" and they just don't realize what their attachment to each other means.

    It's not necessary for the fans. So someone wants to do this and everybody involved is/was like - yeah, let's do it again.

    As executed, it's systematic, there's a formula, a process. Skate Canada is okay at executing their stuff. But the ideas themselves are fucking insane. The premises - the premise here being - this is necessary - is batshit and against all common sense and ordinary observation.

    So, Tessa looks neurotic and completely paranoid to where she's nuts. Scott looks like an idiot, or someone who was outvoted or outgunned or is going along to get along. His parents look nuts. The Virtues look nuts. Skate Canada looks deranged and perverted.

    What we don't have here are mature adults of any stripe. The Moirs, certainly not. Tessa - possibly too stubbornly focused on her own paraoia and too self-isolated to register how bad this looks and is. The parents - for the Moirs who have been in skating their entire lives, their kid won the Olympics - there is no higher goal. It makes everything extraordinaray and calls for extraordinary handling. For the Virtues, this is their youngest (as Scott is the Moir youngest of the six - Carol's kids and Alma's kids). And since they obviously think in some bizarre combination of both overstatement and carelessness, they doubtless believe they have dug themselves into a hole so deep they have no choice but to hold their position or there's gonna be mud on everybody (Bad analogy, but point clear enough). That's another assumption. They could talk to someeone who know what they're doing and cold advise them on how to get out of this neatly, but they won't. They'll make their own stupid assumptions and proceed.

  5. Now that you mention parading Jessica in the buggy - I remember a fan report from the day. This fan reported watching the Virtue-Moir families coming off a bus, right before the start of the parade. Right before descending, that Scott leaned down and kissed Jessica. Does he actually plan that stuff ahead of time, or does he see the crowds and panic-mode sets in? Why is it necessary to "kiss" when the fake gf is already present and going to ride in the front with mom?

    Then during the speeches, there's video of Scott describing Tessa as the younger, more mature sister. This got a laugh from the audience. So there's Ms Dube in the audience, but even then they're not buying that "sister" absurdity.

    Just that one day - so much intentional calculation in the public messaging. It's sad that in the midst of a special celebration their town wants to give, they couldn't just embrace the fan-love and be genuine. They had to mix in this attitude toward the public. It's very condescending.

    And that Scott would go so far as to kiss the fake girlfriend for the benefit and enjoyment of fans... So much Ick.

  6. Why does Jessica go along with this? Does she know the truth, or is she completely clueless? It looks like she knows, but is clinging to Scott for attention. Does she really love Scott?

  7. I think Scott kissed Jessica on the cheek as Tessa applied lip gloss, and everybody was already off the bus and about to go to their separate buggies. Of course they were quite aware fans had their cameras aimed their way. There are other photos showing Jessica milling on her own in the vicinity of Nicole Moir (on the ground) while Tessa and Scott are yards away. The kiss was described as chaste so I don't think it's that's yucky - yes, it's for show, but also polite. Figure skaters kiss all kinds of people on the cheek or corner of the mouth at every competition - people handing them flowers, medals, people introducing them, fellow competitors, etc. It's form.

    As for does Jessica know about it - of course. How can she think he's really her bf? He's not. Initially Jessica/Scott were in similar positions with their partners and isn't the partner switch adorable? Later it appeared as if Jessica were incentived in other ways - her siblings went with her to the Dominican (free Carribean vacation in exchange for photos), her parents went with her to TEB 2009, Jessica went to Mexico twice, was cited as one of Canada's "Most Beautiful People" in a Hello Magazine issue just after the Olympics in exchange for a sham shout out in the same issue, Jessica got plenty of promotion for her singles career and her new pairs partnership while Skate Canada prematurely declared Bryce completely retired and now appears to be incentive-ing Bryce to stay that way (Bryce is the new head of athlete development at the Hamilton Skating Club where he'd been coaching).

    Jessica also got a Marina Zoueva short program for her and Sebastien - that's been a big asset to the new team this year. Zoueva is expensive and it was either paid for or free. Of course since the issue was raised SC is now saying the program was made by good old David Wilson. Back during sectional competition and summer comps we were explicitly told it was Marina's program.

  8. "Does she really love Scott?"

    Have you seen the video clip of Jessica in the stands with the Moirs during Tessa and Scott's Olympic-winning FD? (It's here on the blog).

    Oh yeah, that's love all right. Scott had just WON an Olympic gold medal. Jessica couldn't have looked more bored if she tried. Lol.

  9. Like others above, I've also wondered what the heck is wrong with the Virtue-Moir families as well to think this idea was the way to go. Are they all really that dumb? This scheme/sham is NOT a good example of looking out for the best, long-term interests of your children/nephew/cousin, etc. What really bugs me is that even though T/S are grown now (age-wise, anyway), they were still fairly young when this started and someone should have had the sense to be a good guide to them and tell them this was the ridiculous route to go.

    As a (probably highly inprobable) hypothetical, what if Tessa and Scott were to come to their senses, grow up, grow a pair, and decide they were done with all of this and were done with it. How do you see them getting out of it? I think dealing with what was in the book would be some of the worst of it, but I've felt that with some good PR people, it wouldn't be nearly as bad as what they've probably been told. You say that the figure skating world already knows, so that leave the fans. Honestly, with their infinite power to rationalize a number of things that haven't added up over the years, that they'd rationalize the sham as well. The haters would probably hate, but they're going to be doing that regardless. The people who are just here for the skating probably aren't going to care.

  10. I should proofread: Honestly, with their infinite power to rationalize a number of things that haven't added up over the years, that they'd rationalize the sham as well.

    Should be: Honestly, with their infinite power to rationalize a number of things that haven't added up over the years, they'd probably rationalize the sham as well.

  11. "someone should have had the sense to be a good guide to them and tell them this was the ridiculous route to go."

    This has been one of my big questions. Instead of wise guidance, you've got Scott's family openly doing everything they can to promote this, and with someone they don't even like! It's very off putting the way Alma comes across in her sham activities - I can't think of any that didn't have a feeling of open mockery toward fans. What's with her? Does she think this is protecting her son?

    I'm sure they have it rationalized down to the last detail. It doesn't do any favors to their collective intelligence or grasp of right and wrong.

  12. [Of course since the issue was raised SC is now saying the program was made by good old David Wilson. Back during sectional competition and summer comps we were explicitly told it was Marina's program.]

    How can they switch choreographer-name like this mid-way through a season? This is proof that their dealings with Jessica Dube are not ethical. Not only that, Jessica knows what's up and she's a full participant in Skate Canada's "incentives."

    This is corruption, plain and simple.

  13. "You say that the figure skating world already knows, so that leave the fans. Honestly, with their infinite power to rationalize a number of things that haven't added up over the years, that they'd rationalize the sham as well. The haters would probably hate, but they're going to be doing that regardless. The people who are just here for the skating probably aren't going to care."

    Exactly but we're dealing with the Skate Canada legends in their own minds who are superior to fans and sponsors alike - they don't want fans to win. Explain themselves to fans? Please. We'd be choking on SC's bullshit. They'd make a virtue out of what they did - but they're not anxious to go down that road anytime soon - whatever would Debbi do for a job when she wasn't on camera? She and Barb enable this for VM and I believe not just haven't had second thoughts but are hedging their bets for themselves trying to get other skaters into similar set-ups.

    SC doesn't care about fans. They care about themselves on a personal level, saving face. Their egos have always been enormous. They knew it all about marketing, about psychology, athlete development, the public, judges. They were always telling us.

    But it turns out not so much.

    Scott and Tessa, along with Chan, are like Michelle Kwan - in many ways bigger than their Fed - the Fed needs them more than they need it. VM have the clout to call a halt. But their families participated, they might leave people without a role to play, how fair would that be, blah blah. It's pretty clear from the Olympic season that SC was PROUD of the Jessica project, thought it was the cleverest thing. It was so self-satisfied, smart-ass, immature, and contemptuous.

    They know nothing about the public. The public has gotten the best of them. They thought they knew what buttons to push - we're not gay buttons, have some personal life buttons, tease and bait and switch buttons, run an event like slobs buttons and expect fans to be grateful. Fans were turned off.

  14. I agree that VM are like Kwan in that they are bigger than their Fed. I can't imagine the USFS ever hitching their wagon to Michelle's star, making up fake opportunities for themselves, and treating fans like children. Michelle was so above pettiness even if she was in SC she would not have participated in this grandstanding. VM seem like they know a lot of people are depending on them- friends, family, fed, Jessica. They're so nice they just don't want to let anyone down, IMO. No telling how many people's actual livelihoods depend on VM.

  15. "It's pretty clear from the Olympic season that SC was PROUD of the Jessica project, thought it was the cleverest thing. It was so self-satisfied, smart-ass, immature, and contemptuous."


  16. Did you hear the "for the babies" comment from a stuffed animal wielding fan at the end of the nationals sd? Replay of Skate Canada

  17. ^even without them showing who, by the laugh I think it's likely the same fans. Now she says the babies, so maybe it was about the nieces all along? Something about the Skate Canada thing felt off, even if you knew TS had a baby it seemed so tone deaf to do that...maybe they never use the internet...not that TS don't deserve to be called out on some of this stuff

  18. Could there be two babies! I thought Tessa looked like she had gained some significant weight at the beginning of this season, but she had slimmed back down by 4CC.

  19. you people are seriously delusional.. I personally know Scott and Jessica and they are a ligitimate couple who are happy together... Skate Canada is a great organization with great business practices and support for their athletes in every way. They don't force them to play in their personal lives. That is the stupidest thing I've ever heard. You guys need to get a freaking grip.

    1. Keep up, 10:13. Cassandra Hilborn has declared herself to be Scott's girlfriend and she's backing it up with photos. Start saying you know THEM personally and they're the couple who are happy together.