VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Wasn't it romantic? Long ago, in a world before
At that instant, the smitten crowds didn't care if Kwan had skipped a transition move or produced the hang time of a beer truck on her double toe loop. They admired her beauty, grace and maturity. As was often the case, so did the judges. There was room for awe in the scoring back when figure skating drew Super Bowl-sized TV ratings. But after the judging scandal that ate the Salt Lake Winter Games in 2002, the International Skating Federation made a New Coke-style decision to devise a revamped scoring formula: They instituted a skate-by-numbers system designed to value technical skills instead of a showstopper's touch, abolished the perfect 6.0 in favor of a calculus that requires a code breaker and cloaked all judges in anonymity so they wouldn't be vulnerable to outside pressure. (Now they're just vulnerable to insider pressure)."I don't see much improvement," grumbled the loquacious
The scoring will remain fishy until, like other sports, the judges are selected from a pool of professionals and not appointed by the politicized members of the ISU. The phantom judging leaves room for greater suspicion -- and confusion -- than ever. In the men's short program on Tuesday night, Russia's
The scoring totals are a game of Boggle. Numbers like 89.81 and 124.60 and 213.33 flash on the board to the sound of a group "huh?" from the crowds. Nothing adds up to casual skating fans that have drifted away from the sport, all reflected in the declining viewership over the past few years. Some of the waning interest has to do with the obvious: There are no more glamour pusses like
Crowds are confused by what passes as great skating now. How could solid American
What's left of skating when the on-ice love affair fades? A focus on furry costumes, spray tans and bold statements. "Be Good Johnny Weir" isn't just the name of the Sundance Channel reality show about Weir, figure skating's answer to
Apparently, judges didn't notice this in Turin. A DVD to train judges on how to detect technical glitches last year highlighted the flaws in Plushenko's program for the Turin Games. As
This may be true, but the outing of the Plushenko files feel contrived, as if skaters, officials and observers are trying to whip up a scandal in an effort to revive a sport that is fading in popularity behind the extreme athletes. Snowboarders and freestyle skiers are the bold, creative types of the Games. They are the emotional performers who connect with their fans and possess the wow factor once projected by Kwan and Company. The awe is on the outs in the numbers game of figure skating. The romance is dead.