Friday, February 12, 2010

Rant: Figure Skating Is a Sport

On the way to 6 a.m. ice, the morning team radio guy said something like this:

Tonight’s the opening ceremony for the Winter Olympics. You know what that means, don’t you? Two weeks of figure skating. Figure skating isn’t even a sport.

Hoo boy. Figure skating isn’t a sport? I’m sure this d.j. isn’t the first person to say this, and I bet you all will be hearing similar words during the next few weeks.

Now that I’m calmer and have finished stomping around, I’m ready to tackle this misguided argument.

Myth: Figure skating isn’t a sport because it’s set to music. It’s an art, like ballet.

Reality: Well, it’s both. Yes, there’s an artistic component, but it’s strongly linked to the athletic component. In other words, it’s not enough to jump, swizzle, and spin. Skaters have to make it look easy and beautiful. That, readers, is athleticism. All kinds of people can score goals, run fast, or jump high in a sloppy way. Figure skaters can’t. Jumping takes amazing muscle control and power, especially the quad jumps we’ll be seeing in the men’s division. Height, speed, agility, form, power, and art and beauty. It’s a sport with a bonus: art.

More reality: You think other sports aren’t set to music? Think again. High school basketball teams have the pep band, major league baseball has an organ, and professional football teams have cheerleaders at halftime. Sure, they don’t pass, kick, or bat to a rhythm, but there’s a strong musical component all the same.

Myth: Figure skating isn’t a sport because the judging is subjective.

Reality: It’s pretty hard to name sports without some sort of judging official or referee. Racing sports are pretty cut-and-dried, but team sports all have refs. We’ve all seen a heartbreaking game where the outcome rested on a ref’s bad call. The International Judging System (IJS) isn’t perfect, but the system attempts to quantify a figure skater’s elements and assign them point values. It’s an effort to make subjective scoring more objective. (I’m not going to start an IJS debate here because I’m simply not smart enough. If you’d like to have a debate in the comments, feel free.)

Myth: Figure skating isn’t a sport because figure skaters wear embellished costumes.

Reality: Beach volleyball players wear as little as possible. Professional football has cheerleaders in spangles and tassels. That’s not to say those sports aren’t sports. It’s just that the dress conventions are different for each one. Figure skating is both an art and a sport, so it makes sense for the athletes’ clothing to have an artistic component.

Myth: Figure skating isn’t a sport. It’s just something that appeals to the female viewer and brings TV ratings. It’s entertainment.

Reality: Let’s face it: some sports play better on TV than others. It’s tough to watch hours of sailing. The Winter Games’ biathlon and the Summer Games’ modern pentathlon don’t get much airtime either. I’m not sure if it’s the number of events or the rifles, but I never see those athletes on TV. Figure skating is neat to watch on TV and even neater to watch rink side. Just because it appeals to women doesn’t mean it’s not a sport. Shame on you.

More reality: Ever been to a minor league baseball game? The entire game has a huge side show. Hand clapping, music, crazy mascots, bobble head promotions, spectator games, and sausage races keep the fans entertained while the real attraction – baseball – runs into extra innings. Don’t tell me that a huge part of the Super Bowl’s TV appeal isn’t the clever commercials and the halftime show (with or without wardrobe malfunctions).

Even more reality: Of course it’s entertaining! All sports are entertaining. This is recreation, people. Athletes love to compete in their sport and spectators love to watch. Making it entertaining and fun is recreation. Just because it’s entertaining does not cheapen it as a sport.

Updates: This d.j. riled you guys up, too! Here are some snippets from the comments.

Update: From reader and parent ebingley1973: Hooooo! I'd like to see him do what my daughter did this morning at 7am - and she is SIX!!!! Goof-ball.

Update: From reader Rosalie who has the bumps and bruises that prove figure skating's a sport: Bottom line: Figure skating is a sport, and no one who has actually done it, actually looked at the facts, really believes that. People try saying that it isn't in order to make themselves feel better, like it makes them cool or macho or something.


Update: From reader Andrea who argued with a Brownie Girl Scout (way to go, Andrea): Basically, a sport is anything that is physical activity with rules that can be done competitively. I'd say figure skating most definitely applies. :)

Update: From former show skater, reader, author, and blogger Ice Charades: I have two things to say to that: first, if you don't think skating is sport, then gymnastics, boxing, diving, freestyle skiing, even ski jumping which has a form component as well as distance should not be sports either.
Note from Ice Mom: Ice Charades has a funny book about show skating:
Ice Charades: Penguins Behaving Badly and Other Follies From the Road

Update: From reader, blogger, skating parent, advisory board member, and coach Xan of Xanboni!: If it's not a sport, I'm going to have to get all these kids to stop calling me "coach."

Update: From reader Sarah:  I bet that everyone's skating kids have better developed muscles, more endurance, and are 10 times tougher than the radio DJ.

Update: From reader Anonymous, who is insulted: I have known many a skater, including myself, who has broken bones, torn ligaments and ankles, got bladed in the leg and fell so hard they couldn't walk the next day. To the hours that coaches and parents spend freezing their butts off in a cold rink, this is demeaning. To the girls who have sacrificed it is cruel. Figure skating is among the toughest, hardest and most brutal sports in the world, but for me it is also the most lovable magical thing in the world.

Update: From multi-sport athlete dramaqueen: skating is the hardest thing I've done...and I've tried soccer, softball, t-ball, and ballet.

Update: From reader jumpingbeanmom: Are you kidding? My 9-year-old figure skater blew away her classmates on every aspect of the National Physical Fitness Test, all because she skates.

I’m sure I’ve missed other arguments. I’m also sure you’ve heard them all. Let’s dispel the myths in the comments, readers!

14 comments:

ebingley1973 said...

Hooooo! I'd like to see him do what my daughter did this morning at 7am - and she is SIX!!!!
Goof-ball.

Rosalie said...

I hear this quite a bit, but it doesn't make me angry anymore, because I tell them these two things:

1) Go try it. Let's see how long you last. Some people try to say that it's still not a sport, but they sure get off in a hurry. Then I describe my training to them in detail: all of the hours on the ice, training at the gym, all of that time spent streching. I'll add in falls, bruises, and scars obtained through figure skating for good measure. They usually shut up after that, whether they admit they're wrong or not.

2) Go look up "figure skating" or "ice skating" in sports charts: those that show calories burned, etc. Usually just a simple calorie count will do. To burn more calories than a figure skater, you have to run at least six miles an hour, and you would still barely beat the skater. And he or she would skate longer than you.

Bottom line: Figure skating is a sport, and no one who has actually done it, actually looked at the facts, really believes that. People try saying that it isn't in order to make themselves feel better, like it makes them cool or macho or something.

Andrea said...

I had a 3rd grade Brownie argue with me that things like figure skating and baton twirling aren't sports, so we looked up the dictionary definition. Basically, a sport is anything that is physical activity with rules that can be done competitively. I'd say figure skating most definitely applies. :)

chilanga said...

Not a real sport, huh?

Then how come those big bad hockey players are defeating by a little ole toe pick?

:)

Becky said...

I have heard a lot of people comment on what "is" a sport and what "isn't" a sport. But I have never heard anyone say figure skating is not a sport! lol That's crazy, I can't even believe that could come out of someone's mouth!!!!

Ice Charades said...

I hear this argument a lot as well. I have two things to say to that: first, if you don't think skating is sport, then gymnastics, boxing, diving, freestyle skiing, even ski jumping which has a form component as well as distance should not be sports either. Was the DJ willing to go that far?

Second, there is nothing "unathletic" about a triple axel.

Xan said...

If it's not a sport, I'm going to have to get all these kids to stop calling me "coach."

Sarah said...

I played field hockey in addition to skating in college, and both sports were equally demanding!

Figure skating, cheerleading, gymnastics - all sports. I bet that everyone's skating kids have better developed muscles, more endurance, and are 10 times tougher than the radio DJ.

Oh, and I also had a friend in high school who told me that there was no way my ballet class was physically demanding because, "Ballet is slow and you just kind of move around and look pretty." I challenged her to come try out my class - she came and took back her words.

Anonymous said...

oh really doing all your hardest moves perfectly with speed isn't a sport. an d the mussel strength to get absouloutly two feet in the air and execute incredible turns dose not make it a sport. the incredible hours of training and dedication and the lives put in dose not make it a sport. the fact that you have to be perfect and make it look easy totally disqualifies it as a sport. ever read little girls in pretty boxes i have. i have known many a skater including myself who has broken bones, torn ligaments and acls, got bladed in the leg and fell so hard they couldn't walk the next day. to the hours that coaches and parents spend freezing there butts off in a cold rink this is demeaning. to the girls who have sacrificed it is cruel. figure skating is among the toughest, hardest and most brutal sports in the world, but for me it is also the most lovable magical thing in the world.

dramaqueen said...

skating is the hardest thing I've done...and I've tried soccer, softball, t-ball, and ballet. I can't believe anyone would say that figure skating isn't a sport.

jumpingbeanmom said...

Are you kidding? My 9 year old figure skater blew away her classmates on every aspect of the National Physical Fitness Test, all because she skates.

Ice Mom said...

Hi, jumpingbeanmom.

Ice Girl is 14 and she's one of the most fit people I know because she skates. And does off-ice. And ballet.

Thanks for the comment!

Ice Mom

Anonymous said...

But lets face it our sport has been dumbed down since the banishing of figures. There was a reason why WOMEN were at the Olympics previous to the banishment of figures. THEY WERE HARD! Most good skaters could pass 1 figures test maybe 2 a year. Not like the sloppy moves tests that kids whip through passing 3 or 4 a year!!!
ADD to this the new "Skate By Numbers" (yes we are referring to PAINT BY NUMBERS you get the point!) and you have skating that is less mature, less artistic, and LESS than it used to be. Pull up youtube footage of the Olympics in its glory days and you see the fluidity of movement, the speed, the emotion, THE SKATING that was LOST!!!!!

Anonymous said...

how disgusting ! these people should come out on the ice and try themselves - its disgraceful to hear people say it isnt a sport after us figure skaters slogging our butts of for hours in the rink !

BTW TO PPL THAT DONT THINK ITS A SPORT : FIGURE SKATING IS HARDER THAN :SWIMMING, BASKETBALL , NETBALL , TENNIS,SOCCER AND RUNNING PUT TOGETHER !