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Post details: Go Figure Skate

Go Figure Skate

Judging is a preemptive strike of the leveraged insecurity and as such it is a very personal and subjective business. We use bewilderingly incoherent standards when we evaluate peer performance. When we look at our friends' work, virtually anything they knock together will fly, or at least not plummet too precipitously, but our rivals and adversaries could conjure up a NASA worthy space vehicle and we would find the tiniest discoloration on its spare tire. Despite the utter lack of objectivity, or because of it, people have a compulsive fascination with passing public verdict on their fellow earthlings. For proof go no further than figure skating.

How do we rank achievement in a sport that blends athletic and artistic ingredients? Do we carry out rigorous measurements of the height of triple Rittbergers? Do we calculate statistical deviations from constant curvature on all skated arcs? Do we analyze the video records to extract the precise RPM readings of the spun pirouettes? Nah, we have judges who judge away based on the Guidelines of International Skating Union, their gut feelings, some chicken entrails lying around in their minds and, last but not least, on political pressures back home. Pairs of trained eyes monitor skaters' programs and when the music stops, the whole gig enters into a big crunching machine known as human brain which in a matter of mere seconds spits out numerical scores that single-handedly coronate the Kings of the Rinks. You think that could potentially cause some problems? Imagine the track and field competition where a solemn body of international jurors surrounds the long jump sand box and after each leap passes the marks for artistic merit and technical difficulty, the latter not based on measurement but rather on eyeballing the landing skid marks in the sand. That is a breeding ground for grievances right there.

Mens figure skating competition during the Winter Olympics in Vancouver featured a highly charged duel between American Evan Lysacek and Russian Yevgeny Plushenko. Although Plushenko sported a quadruple jump and was generally deemed more technically skilled, at the end of the day the gold went to Lysacek allegedly on higher artistic integrity, setting off a tempest in the glass of frozen water. Celebrities from former champions to Russian Premier Vladimir Putin proffered their viewpoints, hand wringing and eyebrow lifting became the favorite postolympic discipline, and the end of figure skating as we know it temporarily supplanted the financial crisis as the most likely trigger for the pending Armageddon. All the turbocharged hysteria was of course fueled by Plushenko himself. In dealing with his defeat, he displayed truculence of a sixth grader and on his webpage even awarded himself the platinum medal. That is what you get when you mix sports with arts.

But since we are such judgment junkies anyway, I would like to propose another Winter Olympic game that will combine the artistic expression with athletic execution. Its layout should satisfy the arbitration needs of the most ambitious of all the Supreme Court emulators. I'll call it a paintbrush biathlon. You know that sport where cross-country skiers lie down and shoot at the target for extra points? Well, you have the right idea, except this time instead of a loaded rifle they would whip up a paintbrush and a palette and paint an impromptu still life of a snowy scenery. A panel of judges would then award extra credits for artistic merit of the paintings, which together with time would determine the final winner.

Any Cezanne wannabes wanna start cross-country ski practice?



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