Friday, February 13, 2009

Is the Sky Falling?

March-April 2007, PS Magazine

If you were to have read any of the US national articles by Chicago Tribune writer Philip Hersch or USA Today’s Christine Brennan, you might think that the sky is falling on US Figure Skating. Dwindling TV money and ratings, the lack of recognizable skating stars forecast a bleak future for our sport. The fact that we were in Spokane, a small market they wrote, predicted the fall of the empire. I might have actually believed it if I had not had the chance to be in Spokane and observe the record breaking attendance, and what was one of the best skated Nationals of all time.
First and foremost, Spokane is a wonderful city whose entire population embraced the event. Being a Chicago guy it took me a few days to get over the over the top friendliness. People were so nice that it was nearly uncomfortable. Not only did the people of Spokane, self-proclaimed “Skate City, USA,” display a “can do” attitude they came to the events in record numbers. Ticket sales topped 154,000 fans shattering the previous record of 125,000 set in LA in 2002. Ted Miller of the SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER quoted Scott Hamilton who said, “The sport right now is healthy. It’s the networks that are changing more than skating is changing. ESPN swallowed ABC whole.” I always knew that Scott was a smart guy!
The skating itself was unbelievable! Never have there been so many great performances. From Novice to Senior; singles, dance, or pairs, it was just incredible. Choosing the winners of the PSA’s “Edi” award for the best performances of each discipline proved easier said than done only by the volume of great programs. That being said the winners were; Evan Lysachek, Alissa Czisney, Brooke Castile & Ben Okolski for Pairs and Melissa Gregory & Denis Petukhov for Dance. Other notable favorites were junior ladies Mirai Nagasu and Caroline Zhang, U.S. junior men’s champion Eliot Halverson, Naomi Nari Nam & Themi Leftheris , U.S. junior pair champions Keauna McLaughlin & Rockne Brubaker, dancers Meryl Davis & Charlie White, and my personal favorite Ryan Bradley.
It’s hard for me to buy into the doom and gloom spin the national media writes. In contrast, Ted Miller also wrote, “The real problem with figure skating is the belief the sport has a problem...” I agree with this. Of skating’s lack of a super star, Amy Rosewater, a contributor to ESPN.com wrote, “Life went on in football after Johnny Unitas. Baseball moved ahead without the Babe. Basketball even survived without Michael Jordan. Skating moved ahead after Peggy Fleming. After Dorothy. After Kristi. After Scott. After Brian. Even after Tonya and Nancy.” Yes we have issues, but it’s no where as bad as the print and TV media have portrayed it. The bottom line is that learn to skate classes are growing across the country, the bridge program is making a difference, we’ve just broken the National attendance record, and we swept the junior grand prix finals, and a novice man landed a triple Axel. I’d say the future looks bright!

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