...nothing here is promised, not one day... Lin-Manuel Miranda

It's Shut Up, Dick Season Again
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As you may know, especially if you live close by Hedgehog Haven (or Hamster Hill, or Chez Roscoe, or StuNAndi's), "Shut Up, Dick" season runs for about six months, from October through March. These are, not coincidentally, the exact same dates as the figure skating season.

As several of you know, because you have been subjected to impassioned rants on the topic, I'm an avid fan of figure skating. I've been a fan of skating since oh, I dunno, the '60s, I guess. I've got vague memories of seeing some Ice Capades shows as a child and I remember watching Peggy Fleming's Olympic performance, then Dorothy Hamill's wonderful skate six years alter. I don't know a time when I wasn't aware of skating although for years, it was mostly a girly thing for me; I don't remember many of the men who skated that early; the brilliance of John Curry and the astonishing Toller Cranston came into my consciousness a bit later. Names like "Protopopov" and Rodnina are there somewhere, but only as vague blurs. I didn't know that ice dance wasn't an Olympic event until 1976. It was just there and it was something to watch at first. Maybe it was my interest in dance - I studied ballet for years as a kid.

Some time in the '80s, I went from a vaguely interested fan to a Fan. Some time later, I became a Serious Fan. Now, it's a passion. I read the sports pages, primarily during skating (ok, and WNBA) season. I subscribe to a magazine about figure skating. I watch almost every televised skating event; it's a major reason I'm glad we have cable tv. I talk skating the way some people talk, oh, I dunno, rock music? Lionel trains, Faberge eggs, first editions? First names, in jokes, opinions about performances, costumes, moves, judging. I spent one glorious week in San Jose in 1996, attending the US Nationals and watched skating 8, 10, 12 hours a day. And never got bored. Ever. That was "the Rudy Nationals". It was one of the highlights of my life and I can say "I was there when Rudy won". To skating fans, that means something; even to non-fans, it might ring a distant bell. That was the week that "he's all washed up" Rudy Galindo, an aging (for skating) San Jose native, a Hispanic gay man whose partner Kristi Yamaguchi had surpassed him, skating singles and winning championships and medals, who'd thought of quitting and fill in the sob story here - I was there when Rudy skated the most amazing program of his life, error-free, full of grace and flash and fire, athleticism and art, and won gold. I had truly never thought of Galindo as past it, so it was especially gratifying. And I sure was one of the many people on their feet screaming so loudly at the last 30 seconds of the long program that Galindo couldn't even hear his music It was one of the most FUCKING COOL times of my life.

In 1997, I chaired Left Coast Crime. I was at our Friday night reception, having a lovely time, when Michael Seidman (an editor some of you know, or might have heard of) came up and said "hey, I'm going upstairs to watch the women's long. You wanna come?" He got my attention immediately and we sped off to watch skating - the women's long program, US Nationals. During the convention I was nominally in charge of. What the heck. I had a beeper, right? God, I am hooked.

It's especially scary, or odd, I think, because I live with a body that doesn't work well at all. I stopped ballet at 13 and it's a damn good thing that I wasn't that good, because I would have had to quit, in all likelihood, due to scoliosis. Now, I'm one of those critics; I can scoff at someone's fumbled jump, hoot when someone doesn't seem to hear the obvious beats in their music, criticize their lousy extension, choice of music, cheated jumps, and I couldn't even skate backwards. But so what? No one ever asked those bozos with the painted faces at the stadium if they could carry a football, or the folks in the arena to make a no-look pass, or bunt, or or or…. Still I'm aware of the irony.

So the thing is, I know this sport, probably pretty well for an amateur observer. I study up, I read, I pay attention; I'm a random expert on a lot of it. And I detest, despise, hate, loathe, and abhor skating commentary. It drives me into screaming frenzies. And I'm stuck with it, because so far, no one has created for me the "listen to the music/cut out the talk" sound system for watching figure skating.

For the last, however-many-years I can recall, ABC Sports as "owned" the skating season. There have been years when there was a lot of skating dreck; dumb competitions (mostly on a "US v. the rest of the world" basis), dumb exhibitions (skating at a rink on the beach!), and lots of changes. It's a sport which can attract overnight-success fans, who watch the Olympics once ever four years and think suddenly that "fill in name here" is the best skater in the universe. The pukey-barfy fact is that the Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan crap brought the sport more attention than it ever had in history. Thank you, tabloid/celebrity/gossip journalism. But there's a national championship every year and there's a world championship every year. Here in Seattle, we can get Canadian television so I even get to watch some Canadian skating events (hurray). And ABC is, without question, firmly convinced of their genius and rightness in the world. And their genius dictates that one must have babbling, pointless, useless, unhelpful commentary throughout every skating event, every skating program. They provide tedious, pointless "profiles", especially of skaters who've been around for so long that there can't be anything we don't know about them. They even talk during the exhibition stuff which isn't judged and is for fun/entertainment alone. You gotta have Dick.

Dick is two-time US Champion Dick Button. I detest the man. He might have the heart of an angel and the brains of an Einstein. I don't care. I so fucking hate him that were I ever to meet the shmuck, I'd be like that character in "Dr. Strangelove" who couldn't get his arm to stay down; I'd be grabbing on to my arm to keep myself from whacking the man across the mouth. I am rabid about this. I hate him. To bits. His bias is notorious; he rambles, he talks, he babbles. He endlessly shows off his long-ago Harvard degree by making references intended to show how damn erudite he is. He mentions stuff that is totally irrelevant to the performance; he plays up the pathos (around here it's known as "her poor blind mother' which began over 10 years ago with the bathetic/pathetic "Nancy Kerrigan's mother is legally blind and has never seen her daughter skate, whaa, whaa, whaa" stories.) He cannot go ten minutes without using one of his buzzwords; recently it's been "first rate". Makes me twitch. Button thinks he's subtle; he says "that was pleasant" and thinks he's managed to fool the viewer into thinking he liked it.

There is, in fact a "Dick Button Drinking Game" out there, based on the "bob New hart Drinking game" all based on Dick's tics.

I'm a smart person. I don't need to hear about the trivia that is burped out by Dick and his cohort, the "lovely Peggy Fleming" who might be another great human being, but who sounds like she has all the brains of a wax bean when she comments on skating. This IS a sport the requires music; part of a skater's talent and ability rests with his or her sense of music, timing, rhythm, getting what the beat is and what the music is saying. And THESE FUGGHEADS TALK. ALL THE TIME. RIGHT THROUGH IT. They talk about whether last month, his mother was recovering from illness. Whether last week, she had a tear in her costume. What time his plane landed. That she switched coaches last May (which is of interest but does not have anything to do with the actual skating being skated at the moment.) I don't really know what they talk about anymore. Because frankly? I watch skating with the mute button on, in order to keep myself from screaming SHUT UP DICK, every 30 seconds. I don't know the last time I watched an entire 4 minute women's long program on US television with the sound on. I have watched Canadian tv with the sound on; they don't seem to suffer from the logorrhea of the ABC wankers. And Barbara Underhill is at least bare minimum intelligent; she often actually tells the viewer something that enhances the experience. Then she shuts up.

I know there are fans who feel differently, who feel that the event is enhanced by Button's expert commentary. I wish to GOD there were a way to offer them the Button Channel and to offer fans like me the "music only" channel. I know I might miss something, but you know? For the most part, I am capable of understanding that someone fell on that jump. I am observant enough to know that someone spun well. I know the sport. I don't need the Button Primer, the Button definition of what makes a good layback, what makes a good spiral, what makes a good skater. I want to judge. ME MYSELF. PERSONALLY. I want to decide what I'm watching. It was heaven in San Jose - a whole week of skating and NO ONE telling me what to think about what I was seeing in front of me.

At one time, a bunch of us on-line skate fans talked about getting a button made that read "Button" with the international red slash through it. Still might. If anyone wants my undying gratitude, a way to split the channels of music/commentary would, I think, be worthy of a MacArthur Foundation "Genius" grant. Or a Nobel. It would promote world peace (at least in the skating community) and win my undying gratitude. And it would mean that Dick Button's jaw would be a little safer from the possibility of my fist meeting up with it. And for me committing an act of violence. ME? Little Miss Lifetime Pacifist.

Scuze me, gotta go yell at the television.

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