- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 23, 2002

I don't understand football. I don't understand the difference between a tackle, a sack and a hit. I don't get why a player who misses a catch can't just scamper over to the ball and pick it up. I don't feel the mystique of the fourth down.
I don't understand why a little kicking man came prancing out and won this year's Super Bowl for the New England Patriots.
And since I don't get it, I'm not going to tell the NFL that the St. Louis Rams deserve duplicate Super Bowl rings.
Now if only the rest of the world would adopt the same attitude toward figure skating.
The same people who can't tell the difference between a double jump and a triple jump are suddenly experts on why the scoring system needs to be changed in light of the Olympic pairs competition.
One person I talked to this week couldn't pronounce Salchow, let alone give me a definition. He did, however, provide a 20-minute dissertation on why my sport should be outlawed.
Did the French judge cheat in the pairs competition?
Does Irina Slutskaya deserve a gold medal in the women's competition? The answers can't be provided by the average American who knows nothing about figure skating.
Which would you consider a stronger attribute, Michelle Kwan's extension or Slutskaya's back Bielmann spin? If you can't intelligently discuss that for 90 seconds, you're not allowed to say who should have won the women's event.
Don't point fingers at judges if you believe falling down or staying up is the only issue at hand. There's a lot more to skating than gravity.
The other day, I heard a smug, self-proclaimed figure skating aficionado say, "Nobody ever messes up the spins."
Right. Just like the little kicking man is pointless. Unless I can tell him to stand behind you.
Plenty of skaters mess up the spins; you just aren't advanced enough to know when. If a skater travels on a spin, she messes it up. If she doesn't generate enough speed, she messes it up. If she doesn't do enough rotations or hit different positions or change feet, she messes it up.
All of this and more affects the skater's technical mark, and don't even try to say you already knew that. You didn't, and I'm pretty sure that means the International Skating Union isn't interested in hearing your explanation of who should have won the pairs competition.
Not that it's your fault, since "figure skating reporters" don't always get it right either. In defense of my professional colleagues, here are some explanations why the following errors appeared in recent news stories.
Journalists aren't good at math. Tara Lipinski was 15, not 16, when she won Olympic gold. Sort of a critical point, since it made her the youngest champion in history.
Journalists aren't good at spelling. Lipinski, not Lapinski. Todd Eldredge, not Eldridge. And these are just the American names.
Journalists aren't good with names. Alexei Yagudin won gold. Evengy Plushenko won silver. Alexei Plushenko doesn't exist.
Journalists sometimes miss a story. Todd Eldredge landed one quad in competition before the Olympics, a little tidbit that would not have been hard to come by considering the commentators mention it at every men's event.
Journalists sometimes miss the details. If a skater lands one jump on two feet but otherwise skates cleanly, it is not a "disastrous short program."
During these Games, most people have been far too critical of a sport they don't understand. Stick to something simpler. If you want to discuss costumes, delve into Ray Lewis and his fur coat. If you want to frown upon subjectivity, explore the mighty BCS. If you think choreography has no place in sports, tell that end zone guy to stop arrhythmically jerking his body around.
Is the judging in figure skating a problem? Maybe. But you need to learn a little more about it before you skip around demanding blueprints for its reform.
I'll help you out with your first lesson: The "h" in Salchow is silent.

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