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Thread: Skating Commentating: What "should" or "should not" be said?

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    Skating Commentating: What "should" or "should not" be said?

    For a few years now, I've been feeling that USA's skating commentators have been playing a significant and active role on this country's gradually shrinking popularity of figure skating. They seems always acted like they know better than the judges, and often pronounced their opinions on the results before the results come out. If the results are not the same as what they thought, they'd question the results and gave the viewers impression that the judges are very bad. How can a sport attract people if its commentators always tell the people who watch and listen that the judges are bad, and the results are wrong.

    I think the American commentators should give their expertized views but no need to be too technical or too into details on numbers. Leave the judgement to the judges and explain the results to the viewers in a way that casual fans could understand. I agree with gkelly's views which she has stated in GOE thread.

    What do you all think?

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    and... World Peace! Tonichelle's Avatar
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    I guess my issue is - the skating commentators don't sound any different than those in football or gymnastics (I just watch every four years mind you)... with the (finally ended) ref lock out you had commentators raking the replacement refs over the coals right along with the fans - especially if the refs call didn't jive with the commentators (they do this with the regular refs as well).

    during the olympics you had the commentators questioning the judging and the system.

    however both of those sports and others that is not their main focus... their main focus is to explain what you saw or what you're about to see and what makes an athlete/team better than another and what their weaknesses are... and they summerize the sport. The commentators don't do enough of that... and their "head guy" (aka the non-skater-turned-commenter) does not lead them down that path. In NBC's case they are stuck in the 1950s and the cold war is still all the rage over there so that also does not help.

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    You're right, the Scott Hamilton and co are horrible but they've been doing it for almost two decades, and they think they're doing a great job. This sort of job is lifelong and without performance review.

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    For years I have turned the sound down (and missed the music) rather than listen to Dick Button. His expertise is lodged in very old memories and opinionated comments such as "a spiral is better than a triple any day!" Good Lord! In what competition I ask you! He has always been extremely negative and judgemental and I have never thought that was his place on a broadcast. I think the best commentators are the ones who explain what you're seeing in terms that the layman or non-skater can understand but still detailed that the skating affcionado can find merit! I hate it when someone makes a mistake and the commentator says something to the effect that they don't have a chance anymore. Fortunately with this scoring system someone can fall and still win! Believe it or not, Johnny Weir's commentating at the US Nats last year was usually spot-on. He added a bit of humor but he related to the skater and made it enjoyable.

    As for other sports, the two hot messes that come to mind immediately in the 2012 Summer Olympics were the screaming and screeching of Rowdy Gaines in the swimming competitions (totally distracting) and the high-pitched voice of Tim Daggett in the gymnastics. While both probably know the fine details of the sport, IMO they should never be allowed near a microphone.

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    Hm. My ideal for the play-by-play of each skater in competition would be:

    As the skater is announced at takes the ice, say a few words about where they're from, past accomplishments, what music they're skating to, anything interesting or memorable about their career, training situation, personal life, what they're planning in this program

    During the performance comment only on what this skater is doing in this program -- NOT any of the above unless it directly relates to how they're performing now, and definitely don't talk about some other skater because you think viewers would find this one boring. It's great if the expert commentator gets excited about something that's exceptionally difficult or well done or unusual/creative. Don't focus only on the jumps -- also comment on things like speed and edge quality and complexity of skating, and spins. When possible, point out quickly if there are any non-obvious problems with elements (and make a note to check them out in replay). Even with obvious errors such as falls, mentioning technical reasons why they happened is useful. Know the rules well enough to mention if there was something about the element that would cause it to lose points -- or gain extra points. But don't feel the need to talk just for the sake of talking. If the skater is just skating nicely, executing elements unremarkably -- or if they're really connecting intensely to the music -- it's fine just to let us sit back and enjoy the performance even for a whole minute or more without commentary.

    Be matter of fact about the rules and what the technical panel and the judging panel will probably do with this element or the whole performance. They're not the enemy, they're part of the process. In figure skating the conflict isn't so much skater vs. skater or skater vs. authority figures -- is skater vs. physics. Find a way to dramatize that.

    After the performance, use replay to analyze elements that likely lost points for the skater or gained a lot of points for the skater.

    In the K&C, remark on personality, personal details, interaction with coach, etc., as applicable. When the scores are announced, if the broadcast team has access to the protocol, remark on anything interesting -- confirm that the skater did score as expected on a notable element analyzed above, or not the general range of the program components, or the fact that the skater scored significantly higher (>1.0) in one component than another, etc.

    It would also be good for the network to provide a one- or two-minute educational segment in every broadcast. Maybe one about skating technique (recognizing jumps, recognizing turns and edges, recognizing common errors or general quality) and one about rules, requirements, and scoring.

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    I like commentators from Brit. ESP because most of the time they provide positive opinions. You can feel that they are excited to watch these performances. This kind of comments make you appreciating the efforts the skaters put in their performance.
    As a commentator, one should not force his/her own opinions (specially those negative ones, and very subjective ones) into viewer's head, even if they were experts.

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    I loved Dick Button very much! I still do. From him, I've learned a lot about how to watch figure skating. But, no doubt, he hated new IJS so much. And he used every opportunity to denounce it. That was understandable because of his background, as of many old 6.0 commentators. That didn't help, but in fact actively contributed to the detachment of sentiment of the general public from figure skating in US.

    The younger generation of commentators, like Taneth Belbin, I don't know why, but probably has adopted the usual style from their mentors, are taking on the same tone in the job.

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    Custom Title heyang's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bluebonnet View Post
    I loved Dick Button very much! I still do. From him, I've learned a lot about how to watch figure skating. But, no doubt, he hated new IJS so much. And he used every opportunity to denounce it. That was understandable because of his background, as of many old 6.0 commentators. That didn't help, but in fact actively contributed to the detachment of sentiment of the general public from figure skating in US.

    The younger generation of commentators, like Taneth Belbin, I don't know why, but probably has adopted the usual style from their mentors, are taking on the same tone in the job.
    I agree with regards to Dick Button. I learned a lot about the finer details of skating. Anyone can see if a jump didn't go well, but he talked about edges and line, etc.

    Under COP, skating has lost some of it's elegance IMHO. There's a lot more contorting and arm flayling - both make skating harder and thus earn points, but they lessen the visual aesthetic of skating.

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    and... World Peace! Tonichelle's Avatar
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    I'm like noskates, all I hear in Dick Button's voice is disdain/negativity...

    I don't think Scott was as bad as a commentator as he is now... it's only been since he joined NBC and their negative style that he gained that tone.

    I think the commentators should be required to go through the lectures the judges get on the judging system and learn it. You can still disagree with it/the scores, but at least you'd know why.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tonichelle View Post
    I think the commentators should be required to go through the lectures the judges get on the judging system and learn it.
    I think so too.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tonichelle View Post
    You can still disagree with it/the scores, but at least you'd know why.
    Or just don't pronounce their judgement, and wait until going off the air and discuss it among their friends.

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    Here is a clip from the Caesar's tribute to Dick Button.

    I agree that Dick is the "Godfather" of skating.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QJFQz...eature=related

    and here is a short clip from 2006 where he makes his feelings about skating greatness and the CoP very clear.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sB_Bv...eature=related

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    When I first started watching skating, I thought Dick Button was a terrible, opinionated old coot. As time went on, I realized he was, in fact, right about most things. I learned so much listening to Dick, especially about performance quality and spins. I still miss his commentary. What was great about Dick is he always focused on the performance/theater aspect of skating, and the audience connection, yet at the same time he still paid close attention to proper technique and correct positions. Now I'll admit he wasn't particularly sensitive or diplomatic or at times even coherent in his remarks. But I still liked him.

    Scott Hamilton used to be a better commentator than he is now. I think Scott's problem is he's never really learned the IJS. Oh, I'm sure he knows the basics. But I'll bet there are lots of people on this board who are far better versed than him. The IJS is about careful evaluation of each and every element. Therefore, in my opinion, intelligent commentary these days must include some real analysis of individual elements. Scott fails completely on this count. When he's commentating, element after element will go by without him even noting it, much less evaluating it. Sandra, of course, is even worse.

    I think gkelly's discussion on what commentators should offer is excellent and I agree on all points. The only thing I might add is I'd like to see, as I said, even more analysis of individual elements.

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    I always learn a lot from the two ice dance ladies, Tracy Wilson and Susie Wynne. They're very analytical and detailed. I loved Paul Wylie when ESPN aired the Grand Prix competitions. He seemed comprehensive and objective. The few times I've heard Brian Boitano, I've enjoyed him. I haven't heard Johnny Weir, but I can believe he's good. The one time I watched that "Skating with the Stars" program, I was impressed with his restrained, enlightening commentary on one of the contestants--I think it was Bethenny Frankel. (She chose to make a fuss about it, but Weir was right.) I've heard Tara Lipinski just a few times but would be interested in hearing more.

    In the recent Summer Olympics, Cynthia Potter, the main diving commentator, was the gold standard in my book. She's knowledgeable, clear, educational, and excited when something really good happens but not overwhelmingly, off-puttingly so. Can someone train her in skating and put her on American TV for that?

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    A good comentator should, in my opinion, be almost silent during the skater's performance and let the spectator enjoy (or dislike) it, just noting the jumps or the spins, and THEN comment, analyse the technical issues, explaining the mistakes or the good things to the spectator, and (yes) give his/her opinion. A commentator should say if he/she disagrees with the judges, but he souldn't pretend to say that the judges made the wrong choice, it can affect the opinion of the thousands of "casual" fans about the fairness of the sport, and make their interest go down. I have to say that, in Italy, we often have good commentators, especially Mrs. Bianconi (former Olympian, now Berton-Hotarek's coach), she sometimes is too passionate about figure skating, but I she knows very well the IJS and she is very good at explaining it!

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    and... World Peace! Tonichelle's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bluebonnet View Post
    I think so too.



    Or just don't pronounce their judgement, and wait until going off the air and discuss it among their friends.
    no sports commentary team does that. nor should they not be able to.

    I miss Kurt's commentary. I know Canadians get that benefit, but when he was with ABC and got to actually be in the booth, that was the best. Especially when Dick started his classic bullying in the booth and Kurt had none of it. Giving the "old coot" his due respect, but calmly "demanding" he get respect as well... I hated listening to Dick be so rude to Peggy and her just taking it. Dick's not the only one who knows how to work a blade on the ice.
    Last edited by Tonichelle; 09-28-2012 at 02:25 PM.

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