Tuesday, December 28, 2010

oh the code o' points

I took a bit of a break from blogging for Christmas...not really intentionally, but it was tough to stay focused on anything when I was distracted by my family and my favourite time of the year! I hope everyone had as nice of a Christmas as I did! My family is Christian, so celebrating Jesus' birth is a big part of who we are, and I am so grateful for the years when we get to celebrate Christmas together. I spent my first 16 Christmases in Oklahoma every year, with my grandparents, and I miss them all the time, but most of all at Christmas. Now, every other year, we get to spend the holiday with my aunt & uncle & cousins, and even though I was still missing my grandparents, it's hard not to be full of joy when it's Christmas and I'm surrounded by the world's three greatest kids! Anyway, back to my skating blog challenge.

30 Days of Skating

Day 9: What do you think about the Code of Points?

Well, regardless of what I think about it, I think it's obvious that it's here to stay. So like with any system, of course it has good and bad points. Its worst offense, on the bad side, is what it has done to pairs skating. Code of Points took my favourite discipline, ripped apart the beauty of it, and turned long programs into really, really cringetastic long programs. I would give just about anything to see well-executed side-by-side spins, in unison, or a smooth death spiral with a pure position, entry, and exit, but all the features that the athletes have to add to make them "difficult" make them just about impossible. And then, even though the elements are poorly done and totally ugly, teams get positive GOE for them if they have a good reputation and land their jumps. I don't even enjoy watching most pairs anymore. I'm not good at photographing pairs either, which is my own problem of course, but the combination of the two factors have made me dread attending what used to be my favourite discipline. So sad.

In the other disciplines, of course the "difficult" positions get repetitive, but I think that the changes made this year have helped, at least a bit, and I think it's something that I'm getting used to, whether that's a good thing or not.

From the beginning, I was attracted to the idea of Code of Points because I'm a nerd and I like numbers. I think this is its biggest strength. It's easy to see quantified, immediate results, which is useful to both the athletes and the audience. The general audience is slow to get used to it, of course, but they're finally learning. I blame a lot of the delay in the general audience adapting to Code of Points on the commentators, at least in the States. I'm not sure Scott Hamilton is ever going to understand how it works, but at least the public gets a good primer on points when we get to borrow Tracy Wilson. Anyway, I think that the protocol sheets are excellent feedback, and it really helps the athletes focus on what they need to improve. At the lower levels, especially, I think that there's such a great opportunity for a trajectory of improvement over the season, if the skaters and coaches take a practical approach to the system. For the teams that do, this is awesome to see!

Of course, there's still objectivity and there's still corruption and back-room deals and manipulation. The new system only disguises that and makes the manipulation a bit more indirect. But you can't fix a system without getting rid of the corrupt people and overhauling everything, and it's obvious that the ISU wasn't willing to do that in 2002. And even if you get rid of the corrupt people in play, who's to say that the replacements won't be just as corrupt?

But I didn't mean to go all Debbie Downer. I've met some wonderful judges in skating who really care about the athletes and want them to do their best. I hope that, in the future, they'll be the officials running the sport. In the end, I think this judging system was the right direction for skating and it's going to keep improving as it gets tweaked from year to year.

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