If you read my previous diary, you are aware that the United States Figure Skating Association (USFSA) got itself into gallons of hot water over its recent decision to leave the Ladies' bronze medalist (with two good skates) off the Olympic team in favor of the fourth-place skater, who had a lackluster short program and a dismal freeskate that included two falls and a really glaring stumble.
Even at the time, there were strong suspicions that this decision was not strictly according to Hoyle, because of all the endorsements and publicity that had been built around Ashley Wagner prior to Nationals.
The figure-skating commentary team (Tom Hammond, Terry Gannon, Scott Hamilton, Sandra Bezic, and Andrea Joyce) did nothing to make the decision any more understandable - not before the competition, not during it, and not afterward. Scott and Sandra actually seemed to be expecting Nagasu to blow it and disappointed when she didn't. There was some waffling about "Nationals aren't the only thing the selection committee looks at", but nobody explained - or, perhaps, could explain - just exactly what that meant.
In practice it meant, "Screw the results, Ashley Wagner is going to Sochi if we have to carry her there ourselves!"
“The national championships aren’t the Olympic Trials,’’ Hamilton said on TODAY on Monday. “The selection process for the Olympic Games goes on for a couple of years before the Olympic Games, so the nationals are a part of that process, but it’s not the process. So when you look at Ashley Wagner and what she’s done over the last two years, winning nationals twice, placing high enough in the World Championships to allow three participants to go, she’s already earned her spot on the Olympic Team.”"Already earned"? Then why didn't the USFSA announce before the competition that Wagner had a lock on one of those three prized Olympic slots, and everyone else was skating for one of the other two? Were they afraid some of the other ladies would say "Screw this, I'm outahere" and just not show up? Were they afraid of being an international laughingstock because of blatant unfairness?
They are anyway.
It gets worse. The selection committee not only denied Nagasu an Olympic berth, they also left her off the World team, fobbing her off with an assignment to Four Continents, which in an Olympic year (even more than usually) is populated with newbies and has-beens - and it's pretty clear which category they put Nagasu in, since she's been Senior-level since 2008.
And as the news sunk in, loud yells of favoritism and corruption began to include whispers of racism. It started with a few irate blog comments, was raised (and sometimes dismissed, but sometimes not) as a possible reason on opinion blogs, and finally was analyzed seriously in the Wall Street Journal, of all places.
If the USFSA wants to play politics at such a public level, it needs to learn the meaning of a couple of terms. Like "optics": it matters less what a situation is, than what it looks like - and if it "looks bad", people will assume that it is bad. Like "Unfortunate Implications" (the TV Tropes page even includes a link to advice on how to avoid them - mainly for fiction writers, but others should take note as well).
Right now the USFSA couldn't politic its way out of a den of Brownie Scouts. (I think this point needs more emphasis.)
And the bottom line is mocking commentary like this: "Controversy At National Championships Proves Once Again That Figure Skating Is Not A Sport". It's an old song, but it's getting louder - and harder to ignore.
(Update below the compulsory figure!)
But that's like telling people not to think of an elephant. (As I said, they can't politic their way out of a den of Brownie Scouts. Or maybe kindergarten. The optics still suck, and the Unfortunate Implications are still just as Unfortunate.)