Having read many news and web articles on the Olympic figure skating competition these past two weeks, I've come to a conclusion, one that had never occurred to me. //smack on the head// I should have noticed it before--like years before--but maybe because I was so totally enamored with all things Michelle Kwan back then to really care what those writers say about figure skating in particular.
It just suddenly struck me, from the tone of many of the sports writers sent to cover figure skating, that they treat this sport the way many reporters sent to a romance writing conference treat romance writers and their work. Whenever I read a regular news article about a romance convention, or the romance genre, or a romance author, there is always that snide undertone that these aren't really books and that the writing isn't "real" writing. 'Purple prose' and 'bodice ripper' are two terms always brought up as something to giggle over. The fact that these books make money is more a condemnation of the readers' lack of ability to know "real" art/books.
Likewise with figure skating commentary in the written news world. There was an article that unapologetically announced that, since there is dancing involved, ice-dancing isn't a sport. Never mind that these athletes basically strapped blades onto their feet and go out on the ice and do immensely difficult athletic moves and yet stay in time to music, the fact that it's to music and that there are dance steps involved made this not a sport to that writer.
Then there are eleventy hundred articles on the make-up, costume, and the hairstyles. Yes, these elements are part of figure skating, as happy endings are part of a romance. The sports people hate it that there is a sport that is also judged for 'artistic' impression. Just as there are many people who sneer at romance writers and books, there are many who make fun of figure skaters.
This past weekend, the French commentators spent more time joking about Johnny Weir's costumes and sexuality than actually analyzing his programs during the competition. I cannot tell you the hundreds of similar echoes when I read an article about romance books; instead of looking at the genre in an informative way, I find jokes about an author's sex life, or how all the covers look the same, or how plagiarism is okay because it's just a romance book. Never mind that Johnny Weir the athlete or Mary Love the writer has spent years practicing and perfecting what they do.
Lastly, just as the romance genre, figure skating is actually the bestseller with the populace. People tune in to watch figure skating because they enjoy it, and yeah, like romance, it is condemned because of its entertainment value. No matter how many times the prowess of the skaters are brought up--three triple axels by a woman; the speed leading to the jumps; the hundreds of hours practiced side-by-side coordinated twizzles--there will always be those half-a-dozen inane reporters who feel the need to cheaply poke fun of the sparkly dresses and the diva melodrama.
Looking down at figure skating doesn't make it not a "real" sport. Just as dismissing the romance genre doesn't mean the writers aren't "real" writers. I think the sports people and "serious" academes feel threatened that their circle has been invaded by these upstart athletes and writers who can combine power and teh pretty to capture the masses, and actually become more popular than them.
All that glitter and prettiness don't hide the love of the sport and the art. The figure skater spend hours powering twists and turns through the air just as any gymnast does. The romance writer spend hours creating scenes to knit together their 100,000 word stories. We just have more personality, that's all.