Just a random two cents. I am a very frustrated fan of figure skating just because there is no one I can talk to in person about figure skating, and I live in NYC... These forums are great but when it comes to fangirling over the sport, it's quite lonely.
Not to mention if I do try to get people to at least watch some videos with me, I have to explain everything from how the points system works to why a fall on a hard program will score better than a clean program, etc.
Unfortunately, I think the only way to get Americans interested in figure skating is if there is someone American is at the top of the podium. You know, an athlete that everyone can get behind despite the sport. Sort of like Michael Phelps. The only time I talked about figure skating with people is with my Korean-American friends, but the only thing the know about figure skating is Yuna... (not to overgeneralize, that's just what I've experienced in college). I can't talk to them about other skaters that I like or admire.
Also, anyone can work on soccer skills if they have a ball and a few feet of open space. It doesn't take a whole lot more than that to hold a game. Most towns have multiple fields that are available for or in some cases dedicated to soccer.
Ice rinks are harder to come by, and ice time with limited numbers of skaters to dodge while practicing high-speed maneuvers is even rarer and therefore expensive. So the whole sport becomes expensive to pursue, which limits the number of practictioners, which means it's usually necessary to travel to enter even low-level competitions more than maybe once a year, which makes it even more expensive...
If more people participated in the sport, more people would be interested in watching on TV, buying tickets to nearby events, etc.
But without that critical mass, it remains a niche sport that few even know about except the very top elite performances that make it to TV. And participation at that level is obviously out of reach for almost everyone (for reasons of expense, time commitment, and physical ability). So skating as a participatory sport is not part of the cultural consciousness of most Americans. It's just something to watch on TV for national pride or enjoyment of top-level feats, artistry, and human interest drama to the extent that a few elite American skaters can provide enough of the above to remain entertaining TV viewing.
Is Canada the country with the widest base of lower-level participation and consequent cultural awareness?
Swimming did have some rough years (1980s) but I agree that it has picked up in popularity. Michael Phelps won 8 OGM in one year. I doubt an ice skater will never will that many in lifetime.
fyi - several colleges (Clemson is one) are now shutting down their swimming programs because they are expensive to maintain.
I think if you don't draw the younger kids into the sport, long term you will not have a TV audience.
Not necessarily for figure skating -- historically, at least in the TV era, for American audiences figure skating was something to watch more than something to do oneself.
I do think that if more people do it, or know people who do it, they will be more interested in watching.
But suppose all local rinks shut down or catered to hockey and public skating only, except for a few financially sponsored training centers that went out and recruited kids with the right kinds of talent to become elite competitors, which is probably similar to the situation in the Soviet Union and maybe China today. No low/mid-level figure skaters in the US, only non-figure skating and elite-track training. As long as those elite competitors won international medals once they reached senior level, and/or put out performances entertaining to untutored audiences, I think there would be an audience.
However, if there is no means to get kids interested in the sport and keep them training through their teens, there won't be world-class elite skaters available to watch. It would be great for viewership if more adults start figure skating, but starting at later ages will make it impossible to reach elite levels.
As long as local rinks offer public skating and learn-to-skate opportunities, kids as well as adults will learn to skate. But they have to be aware of the existence of figure skating and have the means to start trying it locally for some percentage of them to go on to become figure skaters.
Ideally participation and spectatorship would support each other in both directions.
US Figure Skating has some efforts to increase participation within the US. They could also do a lot more. But most outreach efforts take money.
The ISU has some programs to increase participation from more nations. That will help popularity worldwide, but not in the US. In fact, I think the fact that there are more federations fielding elite figure skaters makes it that much harder for US skaters to win medals.
That's why a GlEE/SNL figure skating special as suggestest by os168 will never be made. It just wouldn't look realistic and shows like these need real life reference to survice. However, one succeful TV show would definitely add more to the popularity of figure skating than any medals could.
This is probably a bad habit to quote other people’s posts on a different thread secretly but this created some thoughts about the popularity of figure skating and it would be plain offtop if I posted them on the original thread:
In fact, I don’t believe that these two really made figure skating popular. My guess is, the post-incident reaction was purely a collective wish to compensate the bad impression they had made about this sport.
Well, I’m not American and I may misinterpret something, so – correct me if I’m wrong!
I think there were several reasons why figure skating became most popular in the US in the mid-1990s.
The two-year gap between winter Olympics and the options for pros to reinstate meant there were more familiar faces than usual at the 1994 Olympics -- more reasons for casual fans to tune in.
In addition, people who might not have watched at all were intrigued to do so by the Harding/Kerrigan scandal.
Many liked what they saw and were interested to continue watching skating.
A hockey strike in 1994-95 left CBS in particular with broadcast hours to fill. They chose to develop pro competitions that showcased the familiar faces from the recent Olympics. Other networks also developed figure skating programming, but the prime players in the first few seasons after 1994 were CBS in the pro ranks and ABC/ESPN for eligible competition.
On the eligible side, the US media started hyping Michelle Kwan as the next big thing in US ladies' skating. She lived up to the hype. Others such as Bobek, Lipinski, Hughes, Cohen, Eldredge, Galindo, Meno & Sand, etc., also captured fans' interest.
The change in eligibility rules allowed for development of TV friendly pro-am competitions highlighting stars from both the professional and no-longer-strictly-amateur ranks.
The rise of the Internet allowed casual fans access to information and discussion about skating that had not been available when TV was their only source of information if no one in their immediate circle of acquaintances was interested in skating so they didn't know about the options of subscribing to skating magazines, traveling to competitions, or getting involved at the local rink. Many interested fans used online communities to join the ranks of serious fans who followed the sport in person and by reading and discussing at a distance with others who shared their interest -- and some became skaters, or parents of skaters, themselves.
The fact that school figures were no longer required even at the lower levels made participation more attractive for kids, and adult skating was also taking off.
Any other important factors I'm missing?
In any case, we can probably give Harding/Kerrigan credit for the fact that the Lillehammer Olympic ladies skating broke viewership records, but without most of the other factors I don't think the increased popularity would have lasted as long as it did.
I had the feeling that this Olympics were very hyped - thanks to facebook and tumblr???
Or am I getting the Yuzuru and Yulia's awe wrong?
I'm glad that football is having its popularity increased in US, very interesting to know about these colleges programs (I'm sorry guys but I feel a little stomach pain everytime someone calls it ~soccer~) (also, very off topic, it's funny how in most of the countries football is a "boy's sports", but not in the US)
However, obviously some of these factors backfired latter; like, they led to the overdose of Pro shows that resulted in quality loss and the eventual end of Pro sportsmanship; at least that’s what Mathman said somehow. Feel free to correct me, any of you!
I wouldn’t rate your remark about “girl” and “boy” sports as very off topic. The phenomenon when a sport becomes popular in one-sex version only has affected figured skating and it still does. It really is different in different countries. So, figure skating is a “girl” thing in the US, it’s “pair” in Russia and I guess it must be “boy” in Czech Republic!
i would love to see figure skating more coverage here in the Philippines.. michael is doing great in such a young career.. but the mainstream media barely covered anything about this sport..
In order for figure skating to become popular in the US again, we will need to put ladies on World and Olympic podiums consistently. Not to diminish the contributions of Evan and D/W, but for a lot of casual fans, figure skating = the ladies individual event.