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Figure skating fans deserve better

January 28, 2013

Wershler-LauraLOGOCALGARY, AB, Jan. 28, 2013/ Troy Media/ – Being a figure skating fan can be frustrating. The recent 2013 Canadian Tire National Figure Skating Championships featured fantastic skating that bodes well for the future, but media coverage and respect for the serious fan fell short.

I fussed all last weekend about tape delays and lack of in-depth analysis from print and online media. If figure skating were baseball, I’d be all over the box scores. The kicker was opening The Calgary Herald last Monday morning to find not one word about the event. Not even the sports Scoreboard section noted the outcome of the four Canadian championships determined over the weekend, which included Alberta-based Kaetlyn Osmond winning her first national title.

At 8 a.m. I left a polite voice mail for the sports editor; by 6 p.m. I’d not heard back. Perhaps Gord Smiley took the day off, exhausted from covering the exciting return of NHL hockey. San Jose beat the Flames 4 – 1.

Although CTV and TSN provided full coverage, bouncing between networks was confusing and the tape-delay of events west of Ontario was unacceptable. Hockey fans don’t have to watch tape-delayed games, ever. I could have watched the competition live online, but figure skating begs a large HD screen. So I also missed out on the live blog chat with the engaging PJ Kwong over at cbc.ca.

CTV’s broadcast crew was another problem. Not with Brian Williams who, as host, did a fine job. Not TSN’s Sara Orlesky, whose skater interviews in the kiss and cry were crisp, cogent and respectful. Not analyst Tracy Wilson who has refined figure skating commentary to an art, able to explain the nuances of the complex judging system to both casual and serious fans. The spoiler was announcer Rod Black, whose cliche-riddled hyperbole and silly histrionics diminish the sport. A friend wondered if Wilson had been elbowing Black in the ribs. His Stephen-Brunt-wannabe editorial to close out the championships was just silly. Silly rhymes, silly sentiment, silly summation: ‘Skating is . . . (wait for it) . . . us!’

Reporters Hayley Mick and Rachel Brady at the Toronto Globe and Mail did a serviceable job covering the nationals, but Mick loses points for a fluff piece on teddy bears and ‘sundry other projectiles’ thrown on the ice during competitions. Her January 19th article began: ‘It started with a lace thong.’ Where are the stories about NHL groupies?

In last Monday’s Globe, Mick noted that ‘grey heads in the arena out-numbered the ponytails approximately 10 to one,’ and that few tuning in to the ice dance event ‘would call the sport cool.’ This grey-headed fan knows it’s not cool to make factual errors in a story. Mick refers to Patrick Chan’s disappointment with his free program, ‘particularly a tumble on one of his quads.’ She watched the event; she should have known Chan didn’t tumble on one of his quads, he fell on his triple flip. It’s like saying Tom Brady fumbled when he actually threw an interception. Mick should have checked the judges detailed scoring cards on Skate Canada’s website, but maybe she doesn’t know how to read them.

The great figure skating reporters are either missing in action – like Beverley Smith at the Globe and Cam Cole of Postmedia News, or confined to one outlet – like Steve Milton at The Hamilton Spectator.

I’ve got a bone to pick with Milton, too. When referencing five-time ice dance champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir’s three-point deduction for extending their lifts past the allowable time limit he wrote, ‘Unless you’re a figure skating maniac, you don’t need the details.’ I am not a figure skating maniac. I’m a serious fan who wants more details and deeper analysis.

The way to grow the audience for figure skating is to respect the fans. CBC is doing it right. The more we know, the more engaged we become. The more details the better. Start talking and writing about the sport as if we all know what’s going on; sooner than you think possible we all will.

Troy Media Women’s Health columnist Laura Wershler is a figure skating fan who has attended numerous national and international figure skating competitions across Canada. In March, she will attend the ISU World Figure Skating Championships in London, Ontario.

This column is FREE to use on your websites or in your publications. However, Troy Media, with a link to its web site, MUST be credited.

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