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Monday, February 24, 2014

Art for Points

I wrote this column after the 2002 Winter Games. Since that time, Dancing with the Stars and other worthless programming has proven me to be a prophet.
I wasn't hoping to make prophesy so much as profitcy. Oh well…
Hey, I managed to get through another even numbered year without viewing the spectacular tedium that is, opening and closing ceremonies.
Don’t get me wrong, I like the Olympics. Where else am I going to get my fix of water polo? The spectacle of finely tuned athletes playing beach ball keep away without a parent shouting, “Don’t play like that, you’re making waves!” satisfies something basic and juvenile in my soul.
I also enjoy the guys zipping around as fast as they can on cross-country skis with automatic weapons strapped to their backs. This may be an everyday event in Bosnia but it’s a novelty for me.

Oh, and the skeletons, named after the remains of the first dozen idiots who tried it. With these sleds getting constantly smaller will we eventually have people sliding faster than my Yugo ever dreamed of going on two sharpened credit cards held in Vaseline coated isotoners?
Of course the star attraction of the winter games is the ice-skating and this is where I get confused. Like most guys, I watch and enjoy the women’s program (no straight men watch the guys). We find the lady’s costumes, er, culturally stimulating and when we turn the down the commentary and crank up the Led Zeppelin, it’s pretty cool.

Then comes the judging. For me, the judging is an opportunity to check the refrigerator and see if it truly is as devoid of beer and cheese whiz as it appeared to be half an hour ago. There’s no point in actually watching it. You’re just going to hear Scott Hamilton or Peggy Fleming complain about how low the scores were and that the judge from Crackinthewallia has been paid off and should be shot. Instead of listening to them agonize, I walk over to the CD player and program it to skip Stairway to Heaven.
Somebody should tell these people that figure skating is not a sport. The artists who figure skate are very athletic but they aren't doing a sport.

What amazes me is how angry some people get when I say that. Mikhail Baryshnikov was one of the most athletic people of the 70s but he wasn't a sportsman. Should dance be entered as an event on the 2004 summer games? Will the true fans of the art form appreciate it more because this year the Alvin Alley School hopes to knock off the Bolshoi in the medal round?
I understand the desire to be considered the best in your field but should every aspiring artist now become a competitor?
Mr. Pollock, we’re giving you high points for originality but you really crapped out on technical merit. Perhaps you should re-read the IOC booklet on brushstroke compulsories.”
Thank you parents for attending our third grade production of “The Pink Siamese.” Please refrain from videotaping as it may interfere with the judging.”

It’s a good story Mr. Steinbeck, but I think it’ll impress the judges more if you make the ending a little more - upbeat.”
Man, I was hoping to get into Julliard, but I got low marks in the trials because my French horn clashed with my sequins.”
I can’t hear you, I have souffle in my ear. I made the mistake of giving Julia Childs a 4.3.”
And as the Temple of Faith choir gently sings, “Just as I am,” give Jesus a 6.0 by asking him to take the gold medal podium in your heart.”
There’s great excitement here in London as George Harrison will be challenging Jimi Hendricks’ 30 year stranglehold in the guitar riffs by dead peoples competition.”
Art is by its very nature, innovative. Each generation must build upon and revolutionize the best of what came before. Are we willing to sacrifice a Degas, a Dali or even a Mapplethorpe just because some international board decides to make Michelangelo the standard?
There’s beauty in the unpopular. Rarely does truth lie in the will of the masses.
I look at figure skating now and I see a lovely diversion, sweet, sometimes over-sweet. Could it be that the muckety mucks of international competitions have strangled a true art form? Might there have been a Balanchine on blades - past by - for the hope of gold and national glory?

Maybe someday, a brave soul will pause in the midst of her triple lutzes and double toe loops, take a breath, see beyond the rink, feel the ice beneath her feet and bring us something truly wonderful.
Maybe even take a page from the guys playing water polo, ignoring those well meaning parents, making those waves.


My nephew - Horrid Hauser, assures me that the actors in this vid are training for the 2016 Summer Games.