Location: Vienna, Virginia, United States

A graduate of Dartmouth College (2005) and Washington and Lee University School of Law (2010). These are my personal blogs, and the musings expressed on them do not reflect the positions of my employer. They do reflect my readings, thoughts, and aspirations, which I figure is good enough.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Guest Commentators

There's some article floating around Yahoo! Sports about what might happen if the American Idol judges were in charge of figure skating.

Please. There's nothing revolutionary or even remotely entertaining in that concept.

I'll tell you how to get people to watch figure skating.

It is very true that the commentators for figure skating are sorely lacking; they don't have anything resembling good pace, opinions and information. They regularly spout inanities about some foreign skater's program and tell the entire life history of each American skater, neither of which is at all what the viewer at home wants to see.

What does the viewer want then? Well, in all seriousness, I like knowing what music they skate to. And whether the judges are allowed to dock a skater for choreographing her program around Madonna. No really. Someone skated to Madonna in her short program.

And after they announce the music selection, it needs at least some explanation. Even though I know why Torvill and Dean made Ravel's Bolero famous, the average viewer of the Olympics probably has no clue. It also has to be noted every hour that no Olympics is complete without at least five couples or individuals skating to Bizet's Carmen.

So a little context would be nice. Context beyond what the skater's parents did and where they are in the stands. Context beyond what jump they hit in the World Championship that they won't do at the Olympics. I haven't once heard a commentator explain the difference between a salchow, a flip, a toe loop and an axel. So what is the viewer going to know when the skater lands a triple-toe loop/double flip combination? Not a heck of a lot.

Last, none of the commentators are at all interesting. They like the American skaters for their moxie and their passion, and they still decry the Russian skaters for being to mechanical and non-artistic. Their opinions seldom have anything to do with the performance in front of the viewer.

My answer to these problems:

1) Don't use 4 commentators. It's too much noise and no one can speak for long enough to say anything significant. All you need are 2 commentators, one to supply background and technical information, and one to provide direct commentary. No major sport uses 4 commentators and there are several good reasons for that, primarily the fact that you have to pay all 4 of them.

2) The person who supplies technical information and background could theoretically be anyone who once skated, so obviously a big name is needed here. And for the regular layperson, the best skater to go with there is Brian Boitano. Kerrigan and Harding jokes aside, no other skater has been as immortalized in South Park as Boitano. I guarantee that ratings would skyrocket if Boitano was a commentator instead of Dick Button, even though Dick Button is an amusing name.

3) The person who supplies direct commentary of the program could also be anyone, but a celebrity would do best here. Someone who is used to giving short sound bytes, has a good, recognizable voice, and can express emotion from "that looked painful" to "is that move legal?" is all that is called for.

And the best person to hire for that job is evident to me.

Snoop Dogg.

He has a very recognizable voice, and he's been doing advertisements and promotions for a while. He knows about music, and he can tell the viewer whether the skater is staying with the music or not, which is not at all evident sometimes in these routines.

For the ice dancing competitions, he can talk about the skaters twizzles, which are required elements to the ice dancing program. As in "That frizzle twizzle fizzled, so their scizzles are going to drizzle."

And like the people who made "Dancing With the Stars" will tell you, the resident rapper will bring in a different demographic of viewers. Master P managed to stay on that show for something like 5 weeks, so it was evident that people were voting for him.

This is a serious post by the way. The figure skating commentary I've seen has almost been as bad as Joe Morgan talking baseball, and that's saying something. Heck, I think Joe Morgan could do better than the current cadre of commentators.

"I love how this pair plays small-ball, Snoop. They may not be as strong as other couples, but they do all the little things right."

So in conclusion, NBC should think seriously about looking into the whereabouts of Brian Boitano, and getting Snoop Dogg to drop whatever advertisements / Girls Gone Wild shoots he is working on, and get them into the figure skating soundbooth. It's what's best for the future of the sport.


Blogger Niklas Blog said...

LOL Good post! Even though I have no idea, other from reading your post, how they commentate figure skating in the US, I recognize the concept from here in Sweden. We have, however, only two commentators. One proffesional sports commentator and one expert, ex figure skater. It doesn't matter though. The viewer is just as passive in sweden as they are in the US. The viewer doesn't get to understand the differant routines, nor how they should do all the jumps and pirouettes, or what they are called.

And they just name the music whithout any other commentary to it as how the judges would react to that sort of music.

Figure skating is from what I've understand very conservative so perhaps the commentators would have said all that could be said about the whole event when the day has ended.

12:29 PM  
Blogger Bill said...

Nice one. I'm not sure the average viewer wants to understand all of the nuances of figure skating though. I'm sure there are a higher percentage of people irritated with bad baseball broadcasting than bad figure skating broadcasting.

However I love the idea of pairing down the number of commentators. And bringing in Snoop to do it -- excellent! The event definitely needs to engage a larger demographic. I'm not sure they'll ever win over the 30-something male group, but maybe the figure-skating-loving population can be expanded a bit....

5:43 PM  

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