Skating needs some sprucing up
Before we begin today’s column, I would like to make an announcement. In the event of my demise, please do not freeze my body. I want to be very clear about this: No freezing.
It doesn’t matter how many nutty relatives show up with tattered notes that appear to include my signature, please disregard them. I’m going on record here to avoid future confusion. It’s quite well known as to what I want done with my remains — I am to be cremated, and the ashes sprinkled on the island where they shoot the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition covers. Please do not deviate from this plan of action even in the slightest.
Thank you for your attention.
And speaking of fraudulent shenanigans involving ice, we have this news from Washington: The Department of Justice has announced that a Russian mobster was arrested in Italy for allegedly fixing the ice-dancing competition at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
Alimzan Tokhtakhounov has been charged with conspiring to assure that the French team of Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat would win the gold medal, which, in fact, they did. Finishing second in the Winter Games were the Russian team of Irina Lobacheva and Ilya Averbukh, followed by world champions Barbara Fusar Poli and Maurizio Margaglio of Italy.
Again with the French? They had to give out duplicate gold medals to the Russian and Canadian teams after French judge Marie-Reine Le Gougne revealed that she had been pressured to place the Russians first in figure skating.
Evidently the Feds wiretapped Tokhtakhounov’s phone and heard comments such as “even if she falls, she will win,” and “where is my pizza, I ordered it over an hour ago?” He will likely be extradited to the U.S. to face wire and mail fraud and sports bribery charges, and could receive five years in prison. But on the bright side, in the U.S. if your pizza isn’t there in a half an hour, it’s free.
Is there any truth to these charges? We have these facts: Peizerat and Anissina retired from amateur competition on Friday, just as the Feds were closing in. “They fulfilled their objective by winning the most prestigious award in skating,” said Jean-Roland Racle, the sports director for the governing body of French skating. He then turned from the podium and ran quickly into the woods, never to be heard from again.
Also, the French have not won a gold medal in skating since 1932, when competitions were still being held on frozen lakes. Now, all of a sudden, they’re good?
So what have we learned from all this? If it’s not bribery or coercion involving the French, then it’s someone sneaking up behind you with a lead pipe, whacking you on the kneecap. And aside from all the cheating, there’re just too many sequins and tight-fitting male outfits — and then there’s the horror of Snoopy On Ice.
It’s obvious the skating is a breeding ground for criminal behavior, so it’s up to us to rework the whole sport. First order of business: No skating in France. It’s unnatural to play on ice in that warm climate — you don’t see Norwegians wearing berets and tending grapes, do you?
Next, all events should be judged by celebrities. None of this Marie-Reine Le Gougne stuff, where she casts a few questionable votes and then fades conveniently back into obscurity, no questions asked. Bring in Luke Perry, Louie Anderson and one of the Statler Brothers. Celebrities are under a microscope every second of their lives, and they know that their votes will have consequences. Denzel Washington would think twice about voting for the Russian team if he knew it could hurt his career. And Billy Crystal could do some hilarious impressions while totaling points for the triple Lutz. Skating is all objective anyway, so why not add a few laughs?
It may be time to eliminate ice dancing from the Olympics once and for all. Ice dancing is art, after all, and how do you rank a work of art? It’s as if you added oil painting to the Summer Olympics, and put Picasso, Monet and Van Gough in an arena and judged the results. Would we want Bob Costas’ frenzied commentary as the paintings progressed?
“Picasso is in rare form today, is that a bull? No, it’s a woman! That should impress the judges!”
We have plenty of ice-related sports that could rise up and fill the void in the Winter Games. Yes, in 2106, when Ted Williams awakes from his cryogenic slumber, he will discover that curling is the world’s biggest sport.
Thank God I won’t be around to see that.
— Rick Chandler’s interactive sports column, Capacity Crowd, can be found at NBCSports.com.
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