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WiLd ThinG
E.M. Swift
December 16, 1996
It's showtime every night for figure skating, which has become untamed in its appetite for big TV ratings and big money
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December 16, 1996

Wild Thing

It's showtime every night for figure skating, which has become untamed in its appetite for big TV ratings and big money

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"Oh, dear," Madge says. "He fell. Well, one small mistake shouldn't cost Viktor much. Could this be the Legends Championships? There's Paul. There's Kristi. Where's Brian?"

"Change the channel. He's probably hanging out on TBS with Scott."

"Shh. They're putting up the marks. Four 10s and a 9.9. Good for Viktor."

"10 is perfect, right? Give me the clicker, Madge."

"Oh, look at this," Madge gushes. "Here comes Dorothy Hamill. All these years, and she still hasn't changed her hair...."

"GIVE ME BACK MY CLICKER!"

"Harry, I think we've stumbled onto Skates of Gold."

The wide world of figure skating has certainly stumbled onto something. Or stepped into something, depending on your point of view. A few years ago figure skating was seen as a prim, somewhat stuffy sport that only ventured into the limelight every four years, during the Winter Olympics. Now faster than you can say, "Shane Stant did all this with a tire iron?" it's a $100-million-plus industry with all the decorum and self-restraint of a kid in a tomato war. Got an idea? Let 'er fly. It's sure to stick somewhere. As long as the viewing public is buying, don't worry about the mess.

Between October 1996 and March '97 figure skating is scheduled to provide 162½ hours of programming to ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, ESPN, TBS and USA, half of it in prime time. In one dizzying two-week period between Dec. 14 and Dec. 28, 12 figure skating shows will be aired on seven networks—none live—a schedule that includes such grandly titled competitions as the Continents Cup, The Professional Skating Championships, the Legends Skating Championships and The United States Postal Service Challenge.

What are they? Who cares? The skaters themselves can't keep track of what these titles mean—nothing—and which promoter will be writing the checks. It's all they can do to remember the rules. Individual competition or team format? Celebrity judges or former skaters and coaches? Spotlights or house lights? Triple jumps or artistic programs? All anyone knows for certain is that Dick Button will wear his tuxedo, and the winner will be given long rows of 10s.

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