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Thread: Judging the Judges

  1. #1
    Joesitz
    Guest

    Judging the Judges

    How do you feel about the Panel of Judges in a figure skating event?

    Whatever you select, please explain it.

  2. #2
    mathman444
    Guest

    Re: Judging the Judges


    Can I vote for "all of the above?" Almost everybody is affected to some degree or another by patriotism and by cultural bias, and almost everyone has his or her personal favorites. It would be unreasonable to imagine that ice skating judges are different from everybody else. I do think that many conscientious and honorable judges try to set these prejudices aside as much as possible when performing their duties as judges.

    The interesting question to me is whether #1 (judges have integrity and judge without prejudice) and #5 (some judges are open to making a deal) are compatible. In some sort of twisted way, I think that in the minds of some judges and international skating officials the answer is yes. For some reason, be it the Cold War or whatever, the ISU has allowed -- even encouraged -- a climate in which playing politics skillfully on behalf of your national federation is regarded as right and good.

    I am pretty sure that the schemers and deal brokers do not consider themselves to be wicked people, the only sins being to get outsmarted by your political opponents or to get caught.

    "With these evil folk one never knows when they are in league and when they are cheating one another." -- Aragorn, speaking of the Orcs.

  3. #3
    Show 42
    Guest

    Re: Judging the Judges


    I felt the same way, Mathman. I wanted to vote for "all of the above"..............42

  4. #4
    Jimmy Hoffa 2
    Guest

    Re: Judging the Judges


    How is it "cultural" for a judge to change the standards he or she judges by based on his or her culture's "chosen" skater's strengths?

    Take 1994 when the Ebloc's top skater could barely scrape out a 2/2 combination jump, but it didn't matter because she had such great artistry/presentation. Fast forward seven or eight years later to where the Ebloc's top skater is good technically but questionable in the a/p area. Now it's supposed to be all about the jumps (that her main competitor ALLEGEDLY doesn't have).

    Did the culture change between 1994 and now?

  5. #5
    mathman444
    Guest

    Re: Judging the Judges


    Jimmy Hoffa, good point. I'd like to add this comment.

    I don't know whether it's "cultural" or not, but there is a certain mindset, more ubiquitous in some parts of the world than others, that goes like this:

    "I lie and cheat. Therefore everybody lies and cheats. In fact, if I don't lie and cheat harder than the other guy then I'm going to be left behind.

    "Hey, wait a minute. I HAVE been left behind. Those lyin', cheatin' scoundrels cheated me out getting all the good stuff that I deserve! I'd better up the ante."

    When I was in Iran, just before the hostage crises of 1979 (this was back in the days when Iraqi Saddam Hussein was the good guy) I had an awful time adjusting to the common expectation of bribery whenever I did business with any agency of government, for instance the post office. "The stamp costs 10 cents, but if you want me actually to deliver the letter, slip me 5 bucks under the table."

    I spent a lot of time grumbing about endemic corruption. But within that culture, that was just the way payment for services was structured. Like a waiter -- he is paid starvation wages but he can earn a decent living off "tips."

    I think that it's the same for these skating judges. To us, they're a bunch of crooks. To them, it's just business as usual.

    Mathman


  6. #6
    Joesitz
    Guest

    Re: Judging the Judges


    Jimmy - The point I was trying to make is that the whole sport is just one big case of subjectivity. I don't mean that it is plotted in advance. Most of it is totally subliminal. When two skaters both skating well; one Asian; one Slavic are the tops in their class, the judging results are obvious depending on the number of ethnic judges. The rationale from one group is that the Artistry of one was so much greater than the other, or the Technical of one was so much greater than the other. We've heard all this ad nauseum in interviews and on the pages of forums. The two skaters in question could also be from Japan and the other from the Ukraine. You have a classic case of both ethnic and political subliminal thinking. That is, it is not conscious thinking. In some ways it's like going into a voting booth on election day without doing your homework. two names come up totally unknown to you so you vote for the name which could be of the same ethnic origin of yours.

    In a few cases there does exist some hanky panky but I don't think that is rampant. I just can't imagine Tenley Albright as being unfair or engaged in hanky panky.

    Mathman - Yup, cultural conditions don't change much over the world. If barter is the mode of economics then making deals is quite the norm for some cultures.

    Joe

  7. #7
    mathman444
    Guest

    Re: Judging the Judges


    Interesting take on cultural and ethnic bias, Joe. I wonder how that plays out in figure skating in the United States.

    U.S. society generally is certainly quite confused and conflicted about race and ethnicity (we even fought a civil war about it). On the one hand we take great pride in being the melting pot, send us your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, with freedom and justice for all, one nation of, by and for the people. On the other, we cannot rid ourselves of the ugly stain and crippling blight of prejudice and hatred.

    Well, figure skating fans are nicer than average, as you can tell by reading this forum. American audiences can't get enough of Afro-French pro skater Surya Bonaly, while the two best loved American skaters of the past decade are named Yamaguchi and Kwan. But I don't see anything wrong if folks who identify themselves as Polish American want to get together and start up a Tara fan club, or if Americans with Latin roots like to cheer for Rudi Galindo.

    There was a newspaper article a month or so ago by nationally syndicated columnist Thomas Sowell, who usually writes about conservative economic issues. This column was about how cool it is, if you really think about it, that no one bats an eye at the notion of a famous American who has a French first name and a Chinese surname: Michelle Kwan. The melting pot again. Hooray for Michelle Kwan, the name and the person. (Bring up the music .... "from sea to shi-ning sea!)

    Mathman

  8. #8
    Joesitz
    Guest

    Re: Judging the Judges


    Mathman - I don't believe fans are outright prejudiced. There are good skaters and poor skaters even at the Senior level.
    The subjective bias creeps in when one is about to decide between 2 or 3 entities that are arguably the best at this point in time. By subjective, I mean, the judge is not totally aware who is the best among the 2 or 3 top skaters because they are the best that night, but he must make a decision. What criteria does he/she use? Without realizing it he will resort to some sort of decision making which has little or nothing to do with skating itself.

    For one type of example, I happen to be fond of Angela Nikidinov. I am also aware of her faults. I don't have to watch her practice session (that's another topic). She skates her best (no errors) in a competition. Without realizing it, I give her a first place over two fantastic jumpers (also no errors) by upping the presentation mark much more than the two jumpers.

    Why did I do this? Because subliminally I wanted to reward Angela (the perennially underdog) with a gold medal. This is a form of subjective judging. But is it proper?

    (As for Michelle, she is American Apple Pie.)

    Joe



  9. #9
    mathman444
    Guest

    Re: Judging the Judges


    That's a good example about Angela. I know just what you mean. I root so hard for her during the first half of her programs, if she ever got all the way through I'd give her the gold medal no matter what anybody else did.

    I read once in a skating book a very candid quote from a well respected American judge who said that he just can't help favoring skaters who are extra nice people off the ice. He singled out Michelle, Lu Chen, and Tonia Kwiatkowski. Just human nature, I guess.

  10. #10
    Joesitz
    Guest

    Re: Judging the Judges


    I've heard many nice things about some skaters off the ice. One can usually tell with interviews how down to earth some are. I do like Michelle's interviews - never puts anyone down or alludes to that. Sasha tends to be brazen, but that is her personality. I don't dislike it. Sarah is getting better. A gold medal has way of humbling the beholder. Of course, some can not express themselves as well in English as they would like.

    Joe

  11. #11
    mathman444
    Guest

    Re: Judging the Judges


    Joe, I think that I am starting to come around to your way of thinking about subjectivity, be it "cultural" or otherwise. It's a lot better than thinking that ice skating judges are bad people.

    A good example is Irina Slutskaya's 2002 world championship. The way Dick Button and others presented it, there were 6 "Slavic" judges on the panel, so Slutskaya was going to win 6 to 3. Why go through the farce of having the ladies skate at all?

    But actually watching the performances, Kwaniac that I am, I still found myself saying, good for you Irina, you finally put together an outstanding program at a world championship. I wasn't disappointed for Michelle at all. (She has her 4 gold and 3 silver World Championship medals to console her.) If I had been a judge, Slavic or not, I might well have voted for Irina for that performance, even though I thought that Michelle's was just as good.

    But then again, I don't know. In 2001 Kwan mopped up the ice with Irina, yet the judging panel gave it to Michelle only by a 5-4 split, if I remember correctly. So I still think that while everybody judges with a certain amount of subjectivity, some judges are more "subjective" than others.

    Mathman

    PS. I see in this month's Blades on Ice that Brian Boitano, too,
    feels that the biggest problem is the fact that judges are chosen by and beholden to the national federations. He who pays the piper calls the tune!

  12. #12
    Bleuchick
    Guest

    Re: Judging the Judges


    Joesitz wrote:

    Jimmy - The point I was trying to make is that the whole sport is just one big case of subjectivity. I don't mean that it is plotted in advance. Most of it is totally subliminal. When two skaters both skating well; one Asian; one Slavic are the tops in their class, the judging results are obvious depending on the number of ethnic judges. The rationale from one group is that the Artistry of one was so much greater than the other, or the Technical of one was so much greater than the other. We've heard all this ad nauseum in interviews and on the pages of forums. The two skaters in question could also be from Japan and the other from the Ukraine. You have a classic case of both ethnic and political subliminal thinking. That is, it is not conscious thinking. In some ways it's like going into a voting booth on election day without doing your homework. two names come up totally unknown to you so you vote for the name which could be of the same ethnic origin of yours.

    Here is something that I have been wanting to say but was afraid to post it and anger people. This why I like this forum.



  13. #13
    Joesitz
    Guest

    Re: Judging the Judges


    Bluechick - Don't be afraid to post your opinions, and keep yourself open to discuss any topic. I believe this forum is open to every idea without resorting to personal attacks.

    When I talk about subjectivity, I am not being original. It's in lots of text books.

    Golden Skates is comprised of a cross section of multicultural fans of skating. There are those who like and dislike American skaters for the reason of their being American. Similarly, there exist likes and dislikes among the Russian Skaters, European and Asian Skaters. The field of competitions are so close that decision making really is subjectively prone.

    Joe

  14. #14
    LADSKATER
    Guest

    Re: Judging the Judges


    I chose "some are open to making a deal" but could have easily voted for the other points. I always fall back on Toller Cranston's words from a few years ago "backroom deals are made before an event and the winner is chosen before the skater even steps on the ice." I gues Mr. Cranston should know.

    Of course, some judges are biased and want their country to succeed (especially at the Olympics - impartiallity becomes a joke).

    You also forgot to mention another category to pick from:

    "The old boys club of judges" - These are the "stodgy" judges that are never open to anything new. The ones that prefer the Urmanov's to the Stojkos. The judges that judge a skater by his choice of costume rather than his skating abilities. We can't leave this group out.

    Let's hope some changes are made in the judging end of things.

    Ladskater



  15. #15
    sk8cynic
    Guest

    It's everywhere


    I wish there had been an "all of the above" because they all exist in one form of another.

    At US Nats, there's usually some sort of bias going on, due to the fact that a lot of judges are affiliated with a particular skating club (Southern California comes to mind, for example)......

    We all know the whole "East vs. West", the Cold War that's still going on. I had high hopes, possibly naive hopes, that the now permanent interim judging would lessen this aspect, but after watching CoR, I think it's as present as ever.

    Given the state of affairs after SLC, I can only pray that payoffs will be the exception and not the rule, but my cynicism tells me otherwise........

    ...which brings up another issue. Given the whole Maria Annissina involvement w/ the pairs judging scandal, how many other skaters might have their own hands in the judging pie?

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