Wednesday, March 21, 2012

What did Meryl mean?

“But I think people respect and appreciate Charlie and my relationship, and we would never want to pretend it was something else.”
Meryl Davis.

I was going to belatedly join the comments in two posts below about this quote, but as I originally was going to do a post, I've gone back to that idea even though this quote has already been discussed quite a lot.

Meryl can't be taken at face value. I read that pretty much everywhere.

Some fans see Meryl's comment as a dig at Scott and Tessa, although there's debate at the type of dig.

One side believes the pretense to which Meryl is implicitly alluding is Scott and Tessa encouraging people to think they're a couple. That take on it beats me. I don't think they can be said to be "pretending" they're a couple. They are a couple. Off-ice. Couple. Meryl knows that.

Then there's fans who believe it's a dig at the sham. A subversive dig, to be sure. Meryl asserting that she and Charlie would never want to pretend it's something else (romantic) can be taken as a sly dig at Tessa and Scott who are pretending their relationship is something it's not (platonic). Fair enough, but even without knowing her personally I don't think Meryl would purposefully take public digs at her friends about something like this. While I know skaters are only human - to say the least - and while I can't imagine that Scott and Tessa aren't privately a punch line in many quarters of the skating world however well liked they may be personally and however respected as skaters (they'd have to be saints not to mock the sham at times)  - and as dry as Meryl can be, I don't know about this.

I get a different implication from this quote that I haven't read elsewhere.

It's a statement of respect for their audience and fans. Meryl is asserting confidence in people who are fans of her and Charlie. There's no need to manipulate, Meryl is saying. The respect and appreciation on an appropriate level is already there among fans, for Meryl and Charlie's skating, for their relationship as it is, for Meryl and Charlie as people.*

That's the message I get. If I'm anywhere near close, what a concept. And even though I don't believe Meryl is making a dig, as a contrast to Scott and Tessa's mindset - where the "manipulate" switch is never turned off -  and as an inadvertant comment on Scott and Tessa's manipulations, this quote from Meryl is - again, inadvertantly - scathing.

From Meryl where is the mindset that fans are lesser, stupider - pains in the ass who need to be constantly manipulated, hoaxed, patronized, insulted, set up, scammed, flipped off, lied to, smarmed at, sold a bill of goods and told what to think because if they weren't managed that way Meryl and Charlie's life would be unmanageable. Where's the "tone" about "very dedicated" fans? Where's the cheesey pandering tossed backwards over her shoulder as she runs to hide and lie and set up another scam scenario?

(ETA: and where's the complacent conviction that all of the above is necessary for "business". Shoveling what Tessa and Scott have done under "business" doesn't make one dubious only about Skate Canada, but also Siskinds law firm and Kate Virtue's background in the business world.)

Meryl calmly says that she believes people - fans - respect and appreciate her and Charlie's relationship. Imagine that. All on their own, "people" did that.

Meryl and Charlie are, as public figures and in their public attitudes, one must believe, at least in part a product of their skating federation and their skating fed's attitude towards the public.

The US and Canada are in similar straits, skating wise. The interest isn't there that once was there. The arenas aren't filled for preliminary phases as they may have been in better times. Everything's expensive and the economy in both countries isn't wonderful. And yet the USFSA manages to have a positive relationship with the public, communicating a positive message at events and in their advertising and promotional ventures - a message of appreciation and lack of pretension, a message of accessibility and outreach, and of course, the USFSA has plenty of high end sponsors.

I wonder what makes US fans different from Canadian fans. Canadian fans are the best in the world say Scott and Tessa. Then why must they be lied to constantly, bullshitted, gamed, manipulated and mocked because "that's the nature of our sport" in Canada, but the US fans are spared by their own world champion ice dance team? What do US fans have that Canadian fans don't? Is respect and appreciation not among the necessary qualities for the best fans in the world? You'd think the best fans would possess those attributes.
*A shame that Canadian fans are incapable of showing respect (and all that implies) and appreciation for Scott and Tessa's relationship, and that it was pre-emptively decided Scott and Tessa needed to pretend their relationship was something it's not. When Bill Thompson hired Debbi Wilkes he touted Debbi Wilkes' incredible experience in the skating world - she's a master of all aspects and universally beloved. Debbi has been in Canadian figure skating since Trudeau was prime minister and before. Thompson and Slipchuk also clock decades. That's a lot of exposure to the wonders of Canadian figure skating fans and look at the humility with which these three emerged from their experiences, look at the esteem in which they hold figure skating audiences. It interests me. It interests me too that Barb MacDonald is such a zealous purveyor of the sham, abandoning her (official) position at One Way Ministries for Skate Canada at Sham Central, yet one would think Barb's prior work among the charitable, among the religious, among the ministerial, would have left her with little tolerance for selling lies and hoaxes as a profession. Instead she's eager beaver in all aspects of her duties, especially the association of her name and likeness.

And conversely, I wonder how the US figure skating audience came to be free of yahoos and idiots so that the likes of Meryl Davis, Charlie White, Tanith Belbin and many others could afford the luxury of treating their fans like human beings instead of aiming for the imagined lowest common denominator and then shooting several fathoms lower just for insurance. The US must be free of idiot fans because otherwise we can be sure the USFSA and its star figure skaters would handle things just like Canadians.


  1. I love love love your take on Meryl and Charlie's comments. It's true that there's no history with them mocking or manipulating fans.

    Respect. What a novel concept. So completely opposite to this latest and very obvious sham set-up that's mentioned in the blog entry just below this one.

    1. Everything about how VM are managed and how SC does what I'll loosely call business shows that SC believes words are more important than actions and their word is worth shit. So that's just a wonderful legacy.

      Every time Scott and Tessa blab on about skating fans I think even some Canadian figure skating fans flinch now because it's so push-button. Yet their practice is to treat these fans - as a body - like dirt, pure and simple. Sure they treat individuals well, but how is that compensation for what they do on a large scale. Even individuals have been co-opted to do Scott and Tessa's dirty work for them, without knowing it. That's just unspeakable. What right do they have to exploit what they think is someone's stupidity for their own ends?

      Widening the lens to view more than Scott and Tessa, fans at SC's apparently notoriously poorly managed events are also treated like crap, or so it's reported. Poor planning, a kind of droit de soigneur by SC when it comes to the public's time and money is widespread. Basic amenities like programs hard to come by. Yet we see that SC's officials put a lot of energy into the aspects of the job that matter to them - personal self-promotion and hoaxing, and their idea of promoting Skate Canada is to invite the public to be impressed. They have the public/federation and sponsor/federation relationship backwards.

  2. Oh thank you, definitely wanted to know your opinion about that statement.

    Yes, I agree, it wasn't a dig to T/S's relationship but I believe it was a way to encourage their fans toward their (M/C's) honesty.

    1. And Meryl did it wonderfully - she turned it around. Instead of talking about herself, she paid a genuine compliment to the public.

    2. And no rambling on about "nature of the sport" or "the need for barriers."

    3. As if the "need for barriers" is unique to figure skating!

      Everybody has a need for barriers. Get over yourselves, VM. Even dumb ass fans get that, and most people in public life know there's a dynamic fans understand no matter how invested they get. And it's absurd to pitch your public relations towards the insane segment of fandom.

      Every sensible public relations strategy involves a framework and inside that framework the public figure has a certain amount of autonomy. We can see that with most of the USFSA figure skaters. The Canadian skaters are the opposite. They're micromanaged with no coherent, consistent framework and turned into rigid robots rattling rote, inane sound bites.

  3. I definitely agree with your assessment, that Meryl's statement showed respect for fans, but I also think the reason that she felt compelled to even express respect for fans was based (at least subconsciously) on a reaction against the sham shenanigans she has personally witnessed.

    It's funny how you said VM aim for the lowest common denominator fan-type and then go even lower just for good measure. lol! A few might be stalkers, therefore all of our fans are, and we can only "interact" with them in a highly controlled/manipulated facebook world.

  4. I am a Canadian fan. Please do not attempt to speak on my behalf on what I, as a Canadian fan, would find accetable or offensive. I find your "insight" to be laughable at minimum. I do not share your unresearched and speculative opinions. Your comments on Canadian fans were offensive enough that I felt the need to clarify that you do not speak for me, at least.