Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Figure skating

Yes, figure skating. You and I know that figure skating is the stupidest kind of so-called sport in history, consisting just of people faffing around on ice skates and looking stupid, and that I'm not at all saying that because I'm jealous of people who can skate, look good in sparkly spandex and dance acrobatically on ice. Anyway, I think the rules of figure skating competitions provide an interesting analogy to memory competitions (a real sport, because I'm good at it).

Apparently, in the olden days, 60% of the scores in major figure skating championships came from what they called 'compulsory figures' - skating in such a way as to carve circles, figures of eight and so on into the ice. Judges would examine the figures in afterwards and mark them according to how perfectly circular and evenly-shaped they were. Which was all well and good, but then people outside the figure-skating bubble noticed that spectators weren't at all interested in that bit, which took hours and was mind-numbingly boring, but loved the free skating part. So when it became big and televised, the free skating gradually got a higher proportion of the marks, until the compulsory figures were dropped altogether.

So the world ended up with was a sport that looks pretty but has lost most of the claim it used to have to being based on any kind of technical skill, as opposed to looking pretty and waving your arms in time to the music.

And this is a pretty similar kind of situation to the world of 'memory sports' - there are those who want to introduce shorter events, and more telegenic championships like the US, and those who feel that the hour-long marathon number-memorising sessions are the real test of memory, as well as a big part of what makes memory competitions special. There are arguments for and against that I deeply sympathise with, but when it comes down to it, I really don't want to turn into Torvill and Dean. However handsome and athletic and well-dressed as Christopher Dean might be. Not the slightest bit of jealousy here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Do you know how can I take part in the coming Cambridge Memory Championship 2007? I'm eagerly looking for a way to register. Thanks.