[Long-time followers of professional wrestling will probably remember the reference to Razor Ramon, one of several personas used by Scott Hall during his long and troubled career. As Ramon, he was said to "ooze machismo". Personally, I think he just needed a shampoo with a better pH balance.] But what brings up the allusion to RR is not an examination of such traditionally "manly" pursuits as wrestling [and, please, let's not open up that closet!], but the athletic event known as...
Monday, May 4, 2009
...men's figure skating. Yeah, figure skating. It all started with some discussions by Skate Canada, which, as the principal figure skating organization north of the 49th Parallel, will have some influence over such matters at next year's Winter Olympics, to be held in Vancouver, BC. Apparently, Canada, unlike most other countries in the world, has seen lower TV ratings for its coverage of men's figure skating. SkateCanada postulates that the lower ratings are due to the image that male skaters bring to the rink; namely, and both they and I are trying to dance around the shorthand phrases that could cut this paragraph in half, the impression that male skaters may come off as effeminate because of their flashy costumes [after all, no one calls what hockey players wear a "costume", do they?]. If I understand their thinking rightly, the less-than-macho look is a real turn-off to manly men who might otherwise watch the athletic moves of the skaters [and if I've offended anyone by this explanation, I am truly sorry. I did the best I could].
Intrigued by this [it was a slow weekend, people], I did a little research on the matter. For instance, here we have a photo of American figure skating champion Dick Buttons, probably taken some time in the late 1940's - early 1950's. As you can see, he's wearing an outfit something like a "dress" naval uniform. Going on my admittedly weak memory, I seem to remember that most male skaters through the late 1960's wore either this look, or something like a regular business suit [with the jacket shortened, of course, to allow for more ease of movement]. The only "flash" in the costumes were the gold buttons that usually decorated them.
Then, during the 1970's, new fabrics [Spandex, for instance] allowed for more form-fitting designs. In the 80's and 90's, as Andrew Harmon points out in this overview article from the LA Times, things got so out of hand that judges were instructed to deduct points for overly "theatrical" garb. With the new Millennium, however, and the scoring scandal that came out of the 2002 Winter Games, "Anything goes" seems to be the only rule [although the scandal had nothing to do with costumes]. Ironically, the garb worn by Will Ferrell and Jon Heder in Blades Of Glory [at right] comes off as almost "old school" by today's standards.
Maybe it's just me, but what I really think would boost men's skating is an infusion of personality, or at least a bit of longevity, among its stars. Michelle Kwan, Oksana Baiul, even little charmer Tonya Harding have more reality to them than any men's champion of recent years. Maybe a scandal could boost TV numbers. How about Canadian Elvis Stojko [who spent the weekend manfully trying to prop up the SkateCanada position and, it should be added, usually performs in outfits that aren't embarrassing to the male gender as a whole] taking a hockey stick to the kneecap of the American or Russian champ during the run-up to the Vancouver Games? Now that would boost the ratings!