UPDATE: 1.17.18: More comments coming in. Let the debate resume!
First posted February 17, 2010
Update February 12, 2014: There are so many of you drawn to this post, I am inspired to try taking in some of the ice competitions in Russia, and turn out another rant or rave. So I might be back here on Sunday morning if not sooner.
What a tony pleasure to have Dick Button back at the games, sharing his feelings about figure skaters. He covered many Olympics for ABC, an arrangement I think that kept him from other networks. Button actually returned to the games for NBC four years ago. This man is so much fun listening to and believing in; he brings to mind late San Francisco evenings, years ago, sitting across a cafe table with friends following a night out at Skateland-at-the-Beach (a roller rink), just cutting up jokes and talking about a shared passion. Button has class. He has tact. He is not always right, and he will show his surprise when the scores surprise him.
In Dick Button's absence, I've had to stomach Scott Hamilton, whose excessive cheer leading and dubious critical faculties have driven me more than once to shout at my TV set, "Shut up!" The best thing I can say for Hamilton this year, at least during the pairs finals on Monday, was that he has kept his comments to an admirable minimum. Maybe he was working under a gag order by NBC so that they could squeeze in more commercials; Not another night will I sit up until midnight, no matter who is skating. That's it.
Hamilton's rink-side partner for pairs was Canadian Sandra Bezic, and what a welcome voice and intelligence she possesses. I hope she covers more ice events in the days ahead. She has a gift for honest feedback in a velvet smooth manner. And she never dominates the action. She, in fact, proves herself a much more engaging commentator than did the super-nice Peggy Fleming, who always struck me as afraid as a mouse to offend a single skater -- or the sport she represented.
But up there in the NBC "fireside" room talking to Bob Costa, Dick Button is the real article. Character. Class. Age. Best of all, a natural undying enthusiasm for the sport that he has given his whole life to, from champion Olympic competitor to class act commentator.
There is something else, if you will allow me: Such sweet music to my ears on Monday night: "She is a former champion roller skater." Yes, yes! Thank you, somebody, up there, for the nod. Is that the closet my sport (laugh if you must) will ever get to the Olympics?
By the way, I thought that the young roller- turned ice-skater, Katie somebody, and her partner surely deserved higher marks; same for a Canadian team. In fact, I found the judging overall for this event rather atrocious. A couple of sacred cow Russian teams, ragged and inept, hardly deserved such a pass from the judges.
As for the pairs medalists, I was in perfect agreement on the Chinese teams, although I could have seen it going the other way.
The Middle Kingdom is catching up. The balance of power, as in politics and elsewhere, is changing on the ice too. Roller skating in China, anybody?