Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Support Our Annual Fund Drive! We only ask one time of year, but when we do, we mean it. Without your support we can’t continue to bring you the very best material, day-in and day-out. CounterPunch is one of the last common spaces on the Internet. Help make sure it stays that way.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Skate Date

by David Vest

You knew the evening would turn weird when NBC’s cameras momentarily lost track of Hungarian figure skater Julia Sebestyen. With the eyes of everyone on the planet, with the apparent exception of the network’s director, trained on the “long program,” NBC appeared for agonizing seconds not to realize that Sebestyen had skated out of the picture, then searched frantically for the lone athlete, whose bright red costume somehow eluded a succession of shots.

Too bad. While not a favorite for a medal, Sebestyen is plenty good enough to be worth watching even if she wasn’t mighty easy on the eyes.

It’s one thing to show a head shot when the skater is doing intricate footwork, or to focus on feet just when pairs skaters are doing a dramatic overhead lift. “Even Homer nods,” as Alexander Pope reminds us. And no one really frets when NBC zooms in on the faces of skaters when they’ve just finish their programs and are trying to catch their breath, with snot dripping from their noses. That goes with the territory.

But video-taped shots of empty ice as backdrop for voice-over narration while the action continues off camera, italicized by the word “Live” displayed onscreen, hours after the fact, are a bit over the top.

One could imagine the screams coming through the snakes of wire running from the truck parked outside the venue. “She was alone in the goddamn arena, for God’s sake. Dressed in sparkles and glitter. Where the hell did she GO? Did she fall through the fucking ICE?”

All was forgiven, of course, as soon as Sarah Hughes came out for her program. The instant she finished her routine, it was clear to everyone that unless Michelle Kwan or Irina Slutskaya skated blindfolded and with their hair on fire, the gold was going to Hughes, even if she had sucked eggs on her short routine a couple of nights earlier. No way could the judges permit blatant perfection to finish second (or third) behind people who turned in visibly inferior performances, especially not after what had happened earlier in the pairs competition — although, granted, awarding a second Gold Medal to Canada’s Sales and Pelletier merely for not stumbling was a little like giving half the Nobel Prize for Literature to the survivor of a spelling bee.

It took the judges a while to work out the math so that Slutskaya would beat Kwan, but not by enough to put her ahead of Hughes. (If that’s not what they did, it was a reasonable facsimile thereof.) Had Slutskaya won the short program, as many people indeed thought she had, the math challenge for the judges would have been more complex but not impossible.

Never mind the rules and the Byzantine scoring procedures. The fact is, whoever won the long program was going to win the gold.

Until about 10 or 12 years ago, I am reliably informed, the skaters were required to perform something called “school figures” that counted heavily in the overall score. The skaters had to skate around slowly, make something like a “figure 8” on the ice, then skate over it again. A judge on skates would determine whether they “stayed inside the lines” and give them a mark. Since this was only a little less boring than watching paint dry, it was seldom shown on TV.

The end result was that a skater might stumble into a 4th or 5th place finish in the long program — and skate away with the gold medal because of her performance in the “school figures.” Something like having the national championship in football decided by a written test taken by the athletes before the game.

Imagine, if you can, the scandal of waiting (and remember, this tape-delayed thing ended at 11:30 p.m. on the West Coast) breathlessly for Slutskaya’s scores, then watching Hughes squeal in amazement, only to be dryly informed that scores in the “school figures” had vaulted someone who had just landed on her butt three times into first place.

At least we were spared THAT.

One can only hope the powers-that-be succeed in putting some transparency into this process of selecting winners. These 5-4 votes are too hard on our nerves. Think of the chaos if we conducted presidential elections this way!

David Vest is a regular writer for CounterPunch, a poet and piano-player for the Pacific Northwest’s hottest blues band, The Cannonballs.

He can be reached at: davidvest@springmail.com

Visit his website at http://www.mindspring.com/~dcqv

DAVID VEST writes the Rebel Angel column for CounterPunch. He and his band, The Willing Victims, have just released a scorching new CD, Serve Me Right to Shuffle. His essay on Tammy Wynette is featured in CounterPunch’s new collection on art, music and sex, Serpents in the Garden.

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

September 28, 2016
Eric Draitser
Stop Trump! Stop Clinton!! Stop the Madness (and Let Me Get Off)!
Ted Rall
The Thrilla at Hofstra: How Trump Won the Debate
Robert Fisk
Cliché and Banality at the Debates: Trump and Clinton on the Middle East
Patrick Cockburn
Cracks in the Kingdom: Saudi Arabia Rocked by Financial Strains
Lowell Flanders
Donald Trump, Islamophobia and Immigrants
Shane Burley
Defining the Alt Right and the New American Fascism
Jan Oberg
Ukraine as the Border of NATO Expansion
Ramzy Baroud
Ban Ki-Moon’s Legacy in Palestine: Failure in Words and Deeds
David Swanson
How We Could End the Permanent War State
Sam Husseini
Debate Night’s Biggest Lie Was Told by Lester Holt
Laura Carlsen
Ayotzinapa’s Message to the World: Organize!
Binoy Kampmark
The Triumph of Momentum: Re-Electing Jeremy Corbyn
David Macaray
When the Saints Go Marching In
Seth Oelbaum
All Black Lives Will Never Matter for Clinton and Trump
Adam Parsons
Standing in Solidarity for a Humanity Without Borders
Cesar Chelala
The Trump Bubble
September 27, 2016
Louisa Willcox
The Tribal Fight for Nature: From the Grizzly to the Black Snake of the Dakota Pipeline
Paul Street
The Roots are in the System: Charlotte and Beyond
Jeffrey St. Clair
Idiot Winds at Hofstra: Notes on the Not-So-Great Debate
Mark Harris
Clinton, Trump, and the Death of Idealism
Mike Whitney
Putin Ups the Ante: Ceasefire Sabotage Triggers Major Offensive in Aleppo
Anthony DiMaggio
The Debates as Democratic Façade: Voter “Rationality” in American Elections
Binoy Kampmark
Punishing the Punished: the Torments of Chelsea Manning
Paul Buhle
Why “Snowden” is Important (or How Kafka Foresaw the Juggernaut State)
Jack Rasmus
Hillary’s Ghosts
Brian Cloughley
Billions Down the Afghan Drain
Lawrence Davidson
True Believers and the U.S. Election
Matt Peppe
Taking a Knee: Resisting Enforced Patriotism
James McEnteer
Eugene, Oregon and the Rising Cost of Cool
Norman Pollack
The Great Debate: Proto-Fascism vs. the Real Thing
Michael Winship
The Tracks of John Boehner’s Tears
John Steppling
Fear Level Trump
Lawrence Wittner
Where Is That Wasteful Government Spending?
James Russell
Beyond Debate: Interview Styles of the Rich and Famous
September 26, 2016
Diana Johnstone
The Hillary Clinton Presidency has Already Begun as Lame Ducks Promote Her War
Gary Leupp
Hillary Clinton’s Campaign Against Russia
Dave Lindorff
Parking While Black: When Police Shoot as First Resort
Robert Crawford
The Political Rhetoric of Perpetual War
Howard Lisnoff
The Case of One Homeless Person
Michael Howard
The New York Times Endorses Hillary, Scorns the World
Russell Mokhiber
Wells Fargo and the Library of Congress’ National Book Festival
Chad Nelson
The Crime of Going Vegan: the Latest Attack on Angela Davis
Colin Todhunter
A System of Food Production for Human Need, Not Corporate Greed
Brian Cloughley
The United States Wants to Put Russia in a Corner
Guillermo R. Gil
The Clevenger Effect: Exposing Racism in Pro Sports
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail