I saw a news headline this morning which read, "Judges Slammed For Ranking Adam Rippon Third Place Despite Flawless Performance." I had to check it out because I was pretty sure what was coming -- because it happens every Winter Olympics. It wasn't that I thought professional analysts were being critical, but something else...and I was right. As the article notes, "Folks on Twitter were quick to express their outrage at the judges..." after Rippon's freeskate in the team competition.
It happens every time. Outrage at the skating judges, they got it wrong, another skater else did so much better. Agggghhh. It drives me nuts. Here's the deal -- I would bet large amounts of cash money that not only that most people watching Olympics figure skating, but almost everyone watching (myself included) have absolutely zero idea how skating judging works and what makes a good routine or even a good single element. To start with, I suspect most people don't even watch what's most important in a skating routine -- which is the skates! Instead, my guess is people tend to watch a skater's face and upper body and artistically waving arms. All of which count for nothing. But more than that, just ask 1,000 random viewers what a lutz is, and how a flying camel differs from a double salchow, and I think you'd be hard-pressed to five five who know the answer. Or ask what the difference between is a triple lutz, triple loop, and trip axel, and you will get blank stares. Or ask a person who is "outraged" at the judging what edge of the skate an athlete must take off from when doing a double lutz and which edge of the skate they are required to land on -- and which foot. And I'll take every random bet that they won't even know what you're talking about. And if one don't have a clue what the answer to ALL of these questions are then you have no reason on earth to be "outraged" by the judging. Because whether or not the system should be fixed -- all of those things are precisely what skaters are actually JUDGED ON. And we haven't even gotten into what it means to perform those elements well, beyond what they are, or how the scoring system works and gives points. But "It looked so pretty" and "She didn't fall, so that should count more" seem to be the annual starting point for "outrage." And sorry, they don't count. The starting point is that you have to know what you're talking about.
By the way, I had to check because I don't know either (though knew enough that edges matter, to ask...), and for the record a lutz is a jump assisted by the toe that starts with from the back-outside edge of a skate and lands on the back-outside edge of the opposite foot. Which I'm sure is what most people are always looking for that when watching figure skating... Next up, we'll be covering the double salchow and how the Hamel camel is different from a flying camel.
One of the Olympic sports I enjoy watching is women's hockey. I like the men's competition, as well, but women's hockey is played at a slightly slower speed and with more finesse, rather than a power game, and I find it very enjoyable to watch, in large part because it translates well to TV, since the camera seems to handle the action better. (Yes, I do often appreciate the crushing verve of men's hockey.) I missed Team USA's first game, but saw that NBCsports had a match In the wee hours of the morning today, so thank you DVR. (Yes, I like women's hockey, but I wasn't getting up at 4 AM for it.) The game was between Sweden and the united Korea team -- which is further evidence why I like the NBCsports channel, for showing more international competition than during the primetime broadcast. Alas, it wasn't a close game, with Sweden beating the Korean team by the same 8-0 score that Korea had lost its opening match against Switzerland. I really was hoping for Korea to at least score, since the crowd there was poised all game to explode on their first goal -- they were cheering wildly when Korea simply had a good shot, but alas. They had several good rushes, but were overmatched. The turning point seemed to come with the score 1-0, when the Swedish forward hit a long slapshot that was stopped by the Korean goalie. Or so she thought. As the goaltender crouched confidently in front of the net, a moment later you saw the puck slip behind her and sloooooowly trickle towards the goal surreptitiously and then across. It was downhill after that.
The freestyle mogul race is one of the few "freestyle" races (once upon a time called "hot dog skiing") I can watch somewhat. That's the one where skiers race downhill across a pandemic of mounds of snow, bump-bumping along -- but then, for no sane reason, leap in the air, twist and turn, before continuing on with the race. Watching some of the event brought up part of the reason I'm not a fan of "freestyle". The first is that during one of the runs, after the skier had double-flipped in the air, the analyst judged how well the "trick" had just been done. No, not a maneuver, element, or move , but a "trick," harkening back to the event's early days, when it was all just thought of as hot dogging and tricks. It's very skilled, but then so is the circus. The other reason came after a skier crossed the finish line, and the analyst commented how one's race time counts for 20% of their final total. Say what? Up to then, even with my reservations, I had no idea. Seriously now, what kind of Olympic race is it when your time in the race only counts for just 20%???! Apparently, the bulk of points comes from judging the "tricks.".
The early round of the women's ski jumping was earlier in the day, with the final rounds tonight. I think this is only the second time the event has been held. For many years it was felt that women couldn't handle the sport -- in fact one official thought the landing was a problematic issue for a woman's reproductive system. And to be clear, this wasn't said in the 1920s, but around four years ago. He was overruled. Ski jumping a fun event to watch, it seems like a reasonable thing to do, but when they have a camera shot from the top of the incline, it's horrifying and nuts. Why they including style points in the judging though is something I haven't heard explained, since that's not something they do in the summer for the long jump. Just how far did you go? That you have to land properly strikes me as ludicrous -- the fact that you simply landed at all should be good enough. They were talking about American ski jumper Sarah Hendrickson who discussed how stress and nerves were a real thing in the sport. No freaking kidding!
There was a very good, long discussion and analysis of the team figure skating event. The host was Liam McHugh who handles a lot of hockey for the NBCsports channel and always does a very good, if dry job when serving as anchor. One of the commentators was Scott Hamilton -- he's so smart and effective in this role, and unfortunately was out of his depth as an in-event analyst, never adding much. But this is where he shines. The other was Tanith White who does a thoughtful job. Far better than Sandra Bezic who she replaced last Olympics and who was very personable but a waste of air space. Among other things, they talked about the scoring system for skating, its strengths and flaws. Hamilton noted that he spent two hours the night before trying to go through the controversial men's scoring to figure it out. White said that she liked how the system rewards jumps that are so challenging, but felt there had to be more balanced scoring for the "component" aspect and reward it more than they do, not just that someone did a required element, but how well they did it. (She also humorously acknowledged that sometimes when on the air before an even she can be more of a cheerleader in talking about how the upcoming competition was "anyone's to win," but the truth is that, right now, she was being totally honest and thought the Canadian ice dancing team should be a lock. Host McHugh gave her good-natured grief about that. Several times. Including when signing off, "And that it's for now, where you get the truth...")
Watching the women's speedskating, I learned a bizarre factoid that has nothing to do with sports, but was still intriguing to learn. It was a race between an American and Italian skater whose name was Francesca Lollobrigida, who won the heat. And if that name sounds familiar to you, it's because the answer is yes. She is the grand niece of the Italian movie star who had a big career in Hollywood in the 1950s and 1960s, Gina Lollbrigida. Her films included The Hunchback of Notre Dame -- the remake, with Anthony Quinn -- Buena Sera, Mrs. Campbell (whose plot was basically taken for Mamma Mia); Beat the Devil and Come September, among a great many.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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