Monday, July 8, 2013

The More You Know

This is an article by David Foster Wallace, published in the New York Times, called Roger Federer as a Religious Experience.*

It's a paen to Federer's extraordinary tennis talent, not just his winning, but how he wins. It contains this observation:

The Moments are more intense if you’ve played enough tennis to understand the impossibility of what you just saw him do.

Well, yeah. If you understand the sport, understand the mechanics, understand what the body needs to be able to do in order to execute certain tasks, then you're going to appreciate when somebody is absolutely extraordinary.

This is a stunning article that rises about as close to the level of poetry as sportswriting gets but despite the title it's not about the author's feelings, it's about Federer's tennis. It's specific. Wallace understands tennis, and his appreciation of Federer's game correlates to Wallace's informed understanding - not just of tennis, but of physics. That's how it works in a rational world. He has such passion and reverence for Federer's playing because he understands tennis. His appreciation is worth something.

In Mary Hadda's short-lived (but wordy!) contretemps with Peter Murray's facebook, Murray took great offense at the idea that actually learning something about ice dance and ice dance scoring might enhance his appreciation for Virtue and Moir. Nope, his emotions translate to his brain and spout out conclusions and that's good enough! However, he has a facebook friend whom he says is very knowledgeable about skating and scoring. I suspect this is because the facebook friend frequently says "I looked at the protocols." which is a very expert-type thing to say.

This facebook friend, Patrick Ryan, asserts that Virtue and Moir, who finished second at the 4CCs in 2013, received no penalty at all for interrupting and restarting their program. They started the segment in first, and finished the competition in second. How does that translate to no penalties at all?

Only if this expert believes that their starting point is second place in any free dance mano a mano with DW. So he's "looking at the protocols" to drop them further from their assumed second spot. First is out of the question.

VM lost five points. That's not enough. That's how much of an expert this doofus is.

What really strikes me about people like Peter Murray and Patrick Ryan is they have no respect for the sport as a sport whatsoever. If they did, they'd respect it enough to learn about it.

They also have no respect for the public, seeing as we're so fragile our "perception" must constantly be monitored. That idea of "perception of our sport" is the most self-aggrandizing, agenda-laden bag of bullshit anywhere.

People aren't that stupid, in the aggregate. I'm pretty sure that in 2002, just as many people knew Scott Hamilton, Sandra Bezic, Skate Canada and the U.S. media were railroading that second gold into Sale & Pelletier's hands as thought Sale & Pelletier got robbed.

I guess that's how it works. The people who write constantly about the sport don't bother to learn an inside from an outside edge, or to identify the mechanics and best technique in any of the elements. That's how much they respect it. The people in the sport treat the public like a bunch of trolls sharing maybe half a brain cell. And that's the way they like it.

I'm still waiting for someone to explain to me what was an "embarrassment" about VM stopping and restarting at the 4CCs under the ISU's OWN RULES. Did they break a rule?

Maybe they broke some unwritten rules.

Skating while Virtue and Moir
Not bleeding enough
Not grimacing enough
Not limping and holding sides

What was the embarrassment - MEAGAN (she "liked" Patrick Ryan saying it was an embarrassment)? Did you feel you were an embarrassment when you and Craig stopped your lp at TEB? Why no, because there was blood all over the place, thanks to your skate blade slicing into his palm.

I might be embarrassed if I left my partners looking like battlefield casualties in the middle of a performance, but I don't think that's the sort of thing you find embarrassing.

I'm just wondering why it's so "urgent" to rectify a situation when the situation is that this year several figure skating teams in both the senior and junior divisions stopped and restarted their programs under the ISU's own longstanding rule, just as in previous years.

It seems to me - and maybe I'm making a leap here - that the ISU is suggesting that this year skaters abused the rule.

How did they reach this conclusion? Is there a blood splatter ratio they scrutinize? Is there a minimum grimace/wince threshold that must be met? How do they know it's abused? And who abused it?

It seems to me that Meagan Duhamel is saying that Virtue Moir faked it. There's no other reason it would be an embarrassment. And as I very much doubt they faked it in 2013, this is her way of sticking it to them for shits and grins over 2011 - which - how that's any of her business, beats me.

And since she's all chest-puffy about how important it is to represent the sport well in Sochi, I'm glad to see her wonderful loyalty towards her prospective teammates, Patrick (whom she dissed on twitter) and Tessa and Scott. It's funny, she aims her barbs at the most talented and successful skaters on the team. She's such a great sportswoman she retweeted someone's tweet questioning the validity of Patrick Chan's win at the World Championships.

Not that she's bitter.

Meagan, I'm looking forward to watching you in Sochi, I really am.

There are idiots writing about figure skating all the time. In that way, it's not like tennis. We can see for ourselves how tennis is scored. Ooops, out of bounds. Uh oh, into the net. Set's done - she's won six games by a margin of two games.

Like that. There's a little weird number stuff going on what with 15, 30, deuce, love, etc., and there are line call disputes, but once the camera zooms close-up on the line, there's not usually much debate left among the viewers. Overall, people seem to get it.

I've not seen another sport besides figure skating - not even gymnastics - where people willfully choose not to learn anything about it because they PREFER not to have informed opinions. They prefer to just take it into their uninformed brains, have their brain processor chew on it awhile, and then spit out some art. And then they pretend that taking their visceral impressions for a swim in their brain soup is the only authentic measure of a skater or skaters' merits. And they don't even think they sound like morons when they describe this to other people.

But they also want to complain about the scoring! What a bunch of narcissistic, righteously entitled** bitches some of these writers can be. Figure skating is just a jerk-off to them. Did it get me off? Well it got ME off - they must be the best!

Figure skating doesn't (or is not supposed to) score ANY of that bullshit. But how would these people know that? They haven't bothered to learn step one about it. That's fine - I guess.

But I do find it a little eye-opening when actual skaters in the sport who know something about it jump on board and encourage these people. Why don't some skaters want an informed public and an informed media? What's their objection?

This is the post where later I'll reassemble the facebook exchange underneath the ISU inquiry letter re program interruption and restarts.


*Can you imagine any skating "journalist" writing about figure skaters this way? How much prose has been pumped out about floating across the ice, sailing into the air, landing as if wearing slippers, etc. without ever addressing it as a real sport? All of it! All of it is written like that! (your and a few other place excepted).

**although I think "righteously entitled" is already implied once you say "narcissistic".


  1. Ahhhh. I would encourage anyone to read that essay on Federer, even if they aren't a tennis fan. It's gone down in history as one of the greatest sports essays ever written.

    1. Notice that the author has his quasi religious experience watching Federer actually execute, and his reverence towards Federer's abilities are directly tied to his understanding of the otherwordly skill it takes to do what he's doing.

  2. I may be ignorant of CoP and figure skating but I used to dance and whatever D/W are doing is not dance. Their lines, posture etc. are soo shoddy and forced.

  3. Also no wonder Tessa and Scott are better friends with Tatianna and Maxim. Meagan is so spiteful.

  4. More concerning is how little skating they're doing. That is the scandal. First and foremost on transitions, but not only on transitions.