Why Isn’t Figure Skating FUNNY???
By Jack Curtis
Doesn’t it seem odd that an activity that gets so much attention turns out so little humor? Especially considering that one of the primordial basics of humor, the pratfall, is (excuse me) fundament-al. (Sorry, couldn’t help it.)
Imagine yourself as an archaeologist of the far future, digging up a rink. What would you imagine it was? You’d recognize refrigeration, but no facilities for anything that might need it; no produce shelves or meat hooks. Seats for viewing would compound the question. The Romans used open spaces to watch people kill each other or feed lions but no refrigeration was required. Watching people freeze to death might come to mind but would be a pretty slow process for ticket sales. A testing place for cold weather gear, perhaps but the absence of measuring equipment casts doubt. Some sort of obscure religious practice? (Closer than we might like to admit!) I wonder how long it would take to consider the possibility that we invested several million dollars so that children could slide around…
Historically, figure skating competition was performed before several well-wrapped judges slithering slowly about a line drawing on the ice that was the purpose of the exercise. They would solemnly examine the tracings in great detail, only very occasionally falling down while doing so. Then they would assign a value to each figure; an art for which proper training might have been the reading of tea leaves. That was, when you think about it, extraordinarily funny. Consider that World medals were seriously presented for this and it becomes the very essence of comedy. "How many angels can dance on the point of a pin" has nothing on school figures as a symbol of arcane trivia! Indeed, one wonders how judges and skaters both could have avoided snickering while performing. But so it was. Then, if you consider the amounts of money expended to make this happen…but that way lies madness!
Today, World figure skating medals are given for in-air twirling primarily with some on-ice rotational Yoga and a bit of arm flapping foot shuffling thrown in to permit breathing. Music exists to drown out the scraping sounds; costumes suitable for Las Vegas revues distract from the utter lack of any other theatrical elements and though the pratfalls are plentiful, nobody seems to notice how funny the scene actually is. Anyone who spends over $50,000 a year to enter World events where the best in the world take turns drawing the short straw must have a sense of humor! We think it pretty funny when some primitive burns a sacrifice in the sincere belief that the gods will thereby provide him a good crop this year; how does he differ from the top ten ladies at Worlds’ with their seven percent probability of a clean long program? Now, that is funny! Even, if you are spending that $50,000 a year, hysterical! But the only smiles you see around figure skating are the pasted-on, beauty-pageant ones on the lady competitors when they think someone is looking or if you are lucky, the rare, real thing on a young face after a clean skate.
That anyone would spend $2,500 on a dress for the ongoing calamity that is so many of today’s performances is absolutely blackly comedic, akin to investing knowingly in the Titanic. You won’t see many smiles around the rinks but somewhere, the gods are laughing.
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