Unfortunately, much of today’s “entertainment” is at worst degrading and at best irritating. And the once-exhilarating sports pages are becoming increasingly “controversial.”
But then there are experiences like last night’s Olympics ice dancing finals.
This was the kind of balm that revives our downtrodden spirits and makes us forget, however briefly, the disappointment and tribulation of the everyday world.
The event was especially uplifting. It celebrated the exquisite beauty of the human form and challenged the very limits of physical ability.
Who would have thought that human bodies could perform the maneuvers those young skaters showed us? And to do it on skates – with such fluid grace, such surefooted mastery! Not just the winning pair -Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada (photo above) – but all of the finalists appeared to my unschooled eyes to give flawless performances.
Behind the apparently effortless power and artistry you could tell that there were not merely hours, days, months or years of practice but lifetimes of trying and failing, injury and recovery, and the indomitable will to rise from the depths of despair and achieve the previously unachievable.
Here’s a slide show I found on the web to help keep alive my memories of the event:
But – disappointingly – in this world, especially today, it seems impossible to escape ugliness, even on the most uplifting occasions. The media are always there, prodding and “poking fire,” seeking some kind of controversy to attract readers and viewers. So I was not surprised to read an item this morning in Yahoo Sports about the “sour grapes” reaction to the Canadian pair’s victory.
You may recall that earlier in the winter Olympics, the runner-up in the men’s competition, a Russian named Evgeni Plushenko, had criticized the judges, implying he should have won the gold medal instead of American Evan Lysacek. Now, another losing Russian, Maxim Shabalin, was quick to question the Canadians’ ice skating victory.
And an Italian skater, Massimo Scali, joined the sour-grapes chorus.
“When you compete in your home country the crowd goes crazy and it can help the skaters,” said Scali, who placed fifth with his partner Federica Faiella. “I hope that it does not affect the judges. I don’t agree with the system. They (Virtue and Moir) are not real dancers. They are very technical and don’t really dance on the ice.”
Fortunately, this disheartening display of poor sportsmanship was offset by the reaction of the American ice dancing competitors.
“Tessa and Scott did an incredible job,” said Tanith Belbin, who finished fourth with partner Ben Agosto. “It is very exciting for them and for Canada to win a gold medal at home and there aren’t many people who deserve this more.”
And runners-up Meryl Davis and Charlie White were effusive in their praise for the winners.
“The Canadians are our friends and it is an incredible achievement for them to win a gold medal,” White said. “The atmosphere of the crowd was amazing and they reacted to them. They are worthy winners.”
At least sportsmanship is not quite dead. Except, perhaps, in Russia and Italy.