Visualizing the Games
Within a matter of seconds a stadium filled with uproarious enthusiasts ranging from parents to Putin seemingly vacates itself of any sound whatsoever. For a brief moment the planet is on pause. A gleaming sheet of ice intensifies and reflects the light of the arena in all directions.
Much like a movie screen, the ice acts as both a mirror and a spectacle for the spectators on hand.
The collection of their breaths is the only movement within the theater, for even the performer in the center of it all has become frozen.
And then the music starts. Once the skater elects to move with the melody the melting of the masses begins – first their minds, then their vocal chords, and finally their hearts.
As the blood gets pumping the pressure mounts as the performer glides along the ice on the first pass.
The first jump is a critical – it can make or break an entire performance.
A crisp and well-executed jump might propel the skater to a glorious run; a fall or even a step-out could lead to a clunky disappointment.
Imagine the skater nailing that first jump.
After a dizzying whirl in the air, the skater opens up like a parachute, like a bird. One skate glides along the ice as the majestic athlete takes a moment to relish in the intensified roar of the crowd, which has just been mesmerized by the sheer audacity and wonderment and elegance of the performer.
Any given routine that goes well for a competitive ice skater unfolds like this, except it incorporates another five to seven more astonishing jumps or spins or dance progressions.
In the end, world class ice skating is, just like any other high-quality athletic competition, a dance.
It is easy to get lost in the details of sports.
Sportswriters and analysts have increasingly turned towards statistics and breakdowns when discussing sports. What’s that pitcher’s WHIP?
Never-mind points-per-game – show me that shooter’s offensive efficiency rating.
Did you see that Tampa-2 Zone work like a charm for that football team’s defense?!
Being a math major, I’m certainly not opposed to this upward trend in sports trends.
I welcome it. I think advanced statistics bring another layer to sports – one that was basically untapped before the new millennium.
I love how they cater to the geeks and nerds out there who have perhaps loved sports for a long time but could never find their niche in them until recently. We now have a highly analytic aspect in sports to back up people’s previously unfounded opinions (though, don’t worry, many of them are still woefully unfounded for entertainment purposes).
Being a film major as well, I wish to point to the inherent aesthetic beauty that has existed in sports since the first Olympic Games in the Eighth Century BC.
When viewed from a distance and with an open heart, sports really end up looking like a choreographed dance, solo or otherwise. There is an objective, of course, but usually that objective spurs players to move in unison towards the common goal.
Imagine a baseball game, for example. When the ball is hit into play, the players on the field and the hitter move at the same time according to where the ball is heading.
Every player moves based on a learned notion of where to be at what time in what situation.
Imagine a basketball game, in which teams of players move to position themselves in relation to each other constantly in order to score or prevent a score.
Imagine a tennis match, in which players are always moving based on the actions of those across the court.
We tend to view dance romantically whereas we view sports in terms of blood, sweat and toil. We view dance in terms of how beautiful it looks or how it makes us feel, whereas we view sports in terms of points and scores. Why can’t we simply apply our view of dance to sports? We certainly do so in the other direction with dance competitions.
Do me a favor: Next time you watch a sporting event, try re-packaging it in your mind as a dance.
See the beauty of the choreography, the wondrous results of hard work and practice at being where you’re supposed to be when you’re supposed to be there.
The aesthetics of sports that the Greeks saw in athletic competition centuries ago will become apparent.
Every time I watch figure skating in the Winter Olympics, this idea of sports as art is reignited in my mind.
I hope this time that not only will I remember to hold onto this vision, but that I have inspired you to do the same. We’ll all be better off because of it.
Here’s to a prolonged future of appreciating the sheer beauty of the dance we call athletic competition.