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Thread: Figure Skating's Popularity Decline

  1. #16
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    I tend to find these arguments somewhat amusing. Take away 1 point? 3 points? How many points do they ACTUALLY take away for falls?
    Yu-Na kim scored 228.56 at the 2010 Olympics. Let's say she fell 3 times. Her score would have been 228.56 - 3 = 225.56. Is that correct? If she fell 4 times, her score would have been 224.56, correct? Of course not. They actually take away much, MUCH more than one point for a fall. These arguments over how much they should deduct are meaningless.

  2. #17
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    ...but I don't think lack of understanding of the scoring system is as influential as many people seem to believe. I think back to the time before I became a Figure Skating fan. I didn't understand how they would calculate a score of 5.7, nor did I care. All I needed to know was that 5.8 was better than 5.7. Today they can get scores like 165.45, but the casual fan only needs to know 165.46 is better.
    I think it is very different in terms of psychology. It was easy for a casual fan to think he knew what 5.7 meant. It meant pretty good. If the skater is your fave, you can say with great conviction, hey! that deserved a 5.8.

    A number like 165.45 means that someone has stretched a tape measure across the performance and that's how it measured out to be. Like, a long-jumper's jump was 6.248 meters. But in skating the fan has no clue as to what is being measured and how. I think that's a turn off.

    Under 6.0 a casual fan could deceive himself into thinking he knew something about the sport. CoP rubs his ignorance in his face. Nobody likes that.

    Quote Originally Posted by Robeye
    You acknowledge that skating's popularity in Asia is on the ascendant (and still has upside potential), despite the stuffy artistry and technical complexity. The only thing that separates the situation in Asia with that of North America, it seems to me, is that the established ice queens happen to be Asian at this juncture.
    We'll see, but i think the Japanese skating frenzy is about over. Also Korea. China never got started.

    Or are you arguing that Asians are just better at math than Americans...
    Everybody knows that!
    Last edited by Mathman; 02-01-2013 at 03:15 PM.

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    I'm going to add one more factor for the decline of the sport's popularity in the US: the Salt Lake City Olympics' judging scandal. Why watch a sport that appeared to be "fixed" from the git go? And in the US, at least, I think that perception still lingers to a greater extent. Combine that with the other factors mentioned: media over-saturation followed by a dearth in easily accessible free programming; a lack of any US female "star" after Kwan and Cohen (and figure skating popularity in the US has always been driven by the women); what appears to be an overly complicated scoring system (plus it eliminates the idea of a "perfect performance"); judging anonymity (how can you have a judging villain to hiss at if you don't know who they are?); an abundance of alternative winter sports to follow...It's like a perfect storm, no?

    What few people seem to consider is that the huge upsurge in skating popularity for roughly that decade and a half may itself be an aberration. I'd be curious to see just how popular FS was in the 70s and 80s. Perhaps the numbers wouldn't be that much different than they are today.

  4. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by WeakAnkles View Post
    What few people seem to consider is that the huge upsurge in skating popularity for roughly that decade and a half may itself be an aberration. I'd be curious to see just how popular FS was in the 70s and 80s. Perhaps the numbers wouldn't be that much different than they are today.
    I think the big difference is in the popularity of professional skating shows. Dorothy Hamill said about the importance of the Olympics that it was either win the gold medal and sign with Ice Capades or win the silver and go back to her job as a secretary. (In fact, she bought Ice Capades.)

    Ice Follies was big enough in the 1970s to offer Janet Lynn a 1.5 million dollar contract, making her the highest paid female athlete in the world.

    Shows like this were basically Las Vegas variety shows on ice, featuring high-kicking showgirls in feathered costumes. Times change, tastes in entertainment evolve. We don't care so much about that sort of thing any more. (For one thing, it doesn't translate to television very well.)

    http://figureskating.about.com/od/sk.../p/follies.htm
    Last edited by Mathman; 02-01-2013 at 12:32 PM.

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    Was it Donny & Marie or the Brady Bunch who had ice dancing showgirls as part of their variety show? "It doesn't translate to television very well" is a massive understatement!

  6. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mathman View Post
    I think the big difference is in the popularity of professional skating shows. Dorothy Hamill said about the importance of the Olympics that it was either win the gold medal and sign with Ice Capades or win the silver and go back to her job as a secretary. (In fact, she bought Ice Capades.)

    Ice Follies was big enough in the 1970s to offer Janet Lynn a 1.5 million dollar contract, making her the highest paid female athlete in the world.

    Shows like this were basically Las Vegas variety shows on ice, featuring high-kicking showgirls in feathered costumes. Times change, tastes in entertainment evolve. We don't care so much about that sort of thing any more. (For one thing, it doesn't translate to television very well.)

    http://figureskating.about.com/od/sk.../p/follies.htm
    Around that time, I went to an ice show that had Peggy Fleming in it. It also had Big Bird. I was bored to distraction most of the time. Then a few years later, Toller Cranston mounted an ice show that was performed on the iced-over stage of a theater. It featured nothing but skating, just routines by Toller and a few other mostly American individual skaters, pairs, and ice dance couples. (The place where I fell in fangirl love with Canadian ice dancer David Porter.) I remember I wrote a fan letter (addressed to the theater--who knows if anyone received it) thanking Cranston for doing a show with "no lutzing Muppets."

    I guess skating is as esoteric as ballet in its way. But I am struck by the idea that the one thing we all would have sworn was too esoteric for the American public would have been ballroom dancing. And bingo, we have the hugely popular Dancing with the Stars. I understand (because we've seen it with our own eyes) that it's not as easy to teach a celebrity to ice skate. But a canny publicist could surely figure out (no pun intended) another way to present ice skaters so that everyone would want to see them.

  7. #22
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    The figure skating has lost popularity everywhere except in Japan. Even in Russia too. In my country the girls like to watch Formula -1, not FS. The Japanese love the ballet, classical music, and they have big stars now. I believe, the reason is the new system. The programs are too similar, too much of a required elements, and the results sometimes incomprehensible. I'm sure, should be strengthened the sporty side of Fs. Look at the gymnastics, incredible acrobatic elements AND artistic requirements. And the people adore it!!! In the FS the most exciting part are the jumps. And in that are the risk. If every skater places great emphasis on the footworks, transitions etc, the time will come when everyone will know nicely doing. Look at Chan! He isn't the only one! Who will win?? So I love the progress that we see in men discipline. . I look forward to the girls as well.
    Last edited by plushyfan; 02-01-2013 at 02:37 PM.

  8. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mathman View Post
    We'll see, but i think the Japanese skating frenzy is about over. Also Korea. China never got started.
    It all depends on whether Japanese and Korean skating can find champions to pass the batons to. If they can get a smooth hand-off in the next 1-2 years, the frenzy could continue. If the hand-off is fumbled and dropped, then they might face the years in the wilderness a la the US over the past couple of cycles. China needs a breakthrough from someone like a Zijun or Kexin.

    It seems that the US and Canada and the Russians/Europeans have their potential stars of the future identified and/or hyped at this point. Asia's pipeline is less clear.

    But that in itself is a cautionary tale. There was a time not too long ago when the skating world was waxing eloquent about Kanako's potential to eventually take over Mao's mantle (remember the stories of Kanako being bequeathed Mao's old high school blazer, with its Arthurian overtones of almost unbearable anime poignancy? ). Sadly, after an initial senior foray in which she did well but hasn't ascended to the apex of the ziggurat, Kanako is seemingly receiving the bum's rush by media and fans alike, forgotten amid the new drumbeats for Kaetlyn, Gracie, et al.

    Despite the outward forms of grace and graciousness, and no less than other sports, figure skating, in the manner of the mythical Cronos, tends to devour its young. Unless they survive long enough and grow strong enough to burst out as shining Olympians, able to outskate the impatient and inexorable tick-tock of expectations, thereby gaining, for the brief span of their fragile skills, whip-hand mastery over the sport itself.

  9. #24
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    Arthurian overtones of almost unbearable anime poignancy...what a lovely phrase.

    It is true that figure skating, like Cronos, tends to devour its young, especially the girls (because they're generally at a younger age than boys when a fuss is made about them). Thank goodness some manage to hang on and mature artistically and technically, or I'd probably feel as equivocal about skating as I do about gymnastics.

    I too worry about Korea, but Japan seems to be setting up a dynasty. I hope that continues.

  10. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by WeakAnkles View Post
    ...what appears to be an overly complicated scoring system (plus it eliminates the idea of a "perfect performance")... judging anonymity (how can you have a judging villain to hiss at if you don't know who they are?);
    Absolutely. The 6.0 system creates inherent drama and excitement because the 6.0 system is a finite, 'closed range' of numbers; everyone understands what, say, a 4.9, a 5.8 or a 6.0 means. And the 6.0, like the old 10.0 in Gymnastics, creates added suspense because it represents a perfect performance. Hard for the casual fan to get excited about a skater getting, say 112.39 in a free skate. Also like your point about the judging "villains" - remember all the rivalry between the Eastern bloc judges and the Western ones? Would a Soviet judge deliberately mark down an American skater and an American judge do the same to a Soviet one? Like it or not, the public wants entertainment.
    Last edited by Eislauf; 02-01-2013 at 05:57 PM.

  11. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by Robeye View Post
    It all depends on whether Japanese and Korean skating can find champions to pass the batons to. If they can get a smooth hand-off in the next 1-2 years, the frenzy could continue. If the hand-off is fumbled and dropped, then they might face the years in the wilderness a la the US over the past couple of cycles. China needs a breakthrough from someone like a Zijun or Kexin...
    I was thinking more in terms of cultural globalization and homogenization. If interest in figure skating drops off word-wide, I think that countries like Japan will have a hard time keeping the log rolling all by themselves.
    Last edited by Mathman; 02-01-2013 at 08:35 PM.

  12. #27
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    I think the major factor is that there is no superstar anymore in US. Usually US need a top ranking athlete to make the sports popular. Tennis used to be very popular in 90s because of so many great American players. Now it's not anymore. I can imagine once Serena retires, it will become even worse.

    Figure skating is very similar. Once you have a top female skater, the popularity will at least bounce back. Let's hope Gracie Gold can be the one.

  13. #28
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    I'm going to answer this question without reading what everybody else has said. I think first and foremost figure skating popularity has declined in the US because of the verrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrry limited hours it's shown on television. When the announcement came out last week or so that the USFSA had extended their contract with NBC I was very excited - until I read the fine print and realized alot of the additional hours would be on Universal Sports. I don't get Universal. Many cable carriers do not carry Universal. So my choice to see competitions is to pay $39.95 to watch herky jerky coverage on my computer screen or be satisfied with watching a few hours here or there. If the sport isn't accessible to people, obviously it doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure out the sport won't be popular. There are seats empty at competitions because the price of tickets has gone up significantly in the last few years. I'm going to Boston next year with the Dash Tour Group. Have toured with them before and the seats they have are generally pretty good. After the initial contact was told that the price quoted was going up because to go to the exhibition alone was going to cost $200!!!!!

    Thirdly (is that a word) MOST people don't know squat about the judging system, PCS, COP, you name it. Unless you've skated yourself or on one of these boards, that level of technicallity is lost on the average viewer. What they want to see is good skating, beautiful costumes, lush music, and people not splatting.

    Fourthly () it used to be that in the winter time in the US you could see skating almost every weekend in one form or another. There were pro championships, people could follow the likes of Scott Hamilton and Kurt Browning and Kristi Yamaguchi, etc. They were entertaining and fun. Now they have silly programs like skating and gymnastics together (what's that all about???) and the Pandora productions with the same old people and they have live bands and the tv producer shows the bands instead of the skaters.

    Finally, there are no big personalities to get attached to since Michelle Kwan retired. Seriously. The average person walking down the street has no clue who Ashley Wagner is and certainly doesn't know who won the Men's competition this year.

    I think the USFSA needs to create an all-out marketing plan to woo people back to the sport. Universal either needs to be more available or get skating on ESPN. I have friends in Canada who see more of our US championships than we do! And we might have seen 3-4 hours of theirs. Unless you're active in the sport in some capacity you have no idea who is up and coming, who won Juniors, who won the Novice comps, etc. I honestly and truly feel the interest would be back where it was if the sport was more accessible.

  14. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by PolymerBob View Post
    I tend to find these arguments somewhat amusing. Take away 1 point? 3 points? How many points do they ACTUALLY take away for falls?
    Yu-Na kim scored 228.56 at the 2010 Olympics. Let's say she fell 3 times. Her score would have been 228.56 - 3 = 225.56. Is that correct? If she fell 4 times, her score would have been 224.56, correct? Of course not. They actually take away much, MUCH more than one point for a fall. These arguments over how much they should deduct are meaningless.
    Yes, of course a fall results of a net loss of more than 1 point. However, skaters can get -2 or -3 GOE for a fall or a slight two-footed landing, so in that sense a fall is one point worse than a much more minor error (or at least less jarring to a performance). Furthermore, you get net fewer points for a UR than a fall with fully-credited rotation. So it is not "meaningless" to discuss how much of a penalty should be appropriated to different errors because some are clearly worse than others (point-wise) under COP. Do those penalties match what a casual viewer thinks they should be? How about a more knowledgable fan? For me, a fall is worse than an unnoticeable UR so it does effect my enjoyment when someone skates clean and places behind someone with multiple falls because underrotating is worse than falling. Just because the ISU says that it's so doesn't mean I agree.

  15. #30
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    I do think lack of broadcasting has something to do with it. Of course it may not be where it originated - but I do believe we are in an evil circle (and I'm not talking about the US specifically as I don't know much about that). The popularity declines - it's shown far less - the less it is shown, the less popular it becomes. I mean, let's face it, how likely is it for a non-figure skating fan viewer to accidentally stumble on it on the telly and get hooked? When really dedicated, die-hard fans have to search the internet for livestreams, sitting peering at their screens, never mind what language it is in, grateful to get to see anything? Or much of anything? Would even a casual figure skating fan bother? Then, how is it likely to spread to - well - the uninitiated?

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