Friday, February 12, 2010
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!