Figure Skating Dead

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This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and this is The Score.

First, it's sad to see really, but the once glamorous and hugely popular sport of figure skating is just about dead. The U. S. Figure Skating Championships are going on right now in Spokane, Washington. And that says it all right there. Trust me, I mean no disrespect toward Spokane here. But until quite recently the sport's annual championships would have been held in Madison Square Garden or the Staples Center or others of our country's major arenas. Granted, the folks in Spokane are loving hosting what has traditionally been one of the world's most popular sporting events. As a matter of fact, the Spokane Arena is heading toward record attendance for the eight-day event; but the television ratings are abysmal.

The jewel of the Winter Olympics has lost considerable luster. A year ago at the Torino Games, the event that broadcasters could count on to bring in Madison Avenue's heavy hitters, the ladies long program, lost handily not only to American Idol, but also to Dancing with the Stars. And today, in a non-Olympic venue, figure skating has declined even further in relevance to television viewers. The handsome long-term ABC deal, which paid U.S. Figure Skating some $12 million a year over the last decade, and netted mega-star Michelle Kwan alone over $6 million, will expire this spring. And insiders circling desperate figure 8's to revive the sport fear more than a steep downsizing of a new deal. They foresee the end of figure skating on television. The day may have arrived when we will have to log onto the Internet to see a triple lutz.

Just as we are opening our arms to the Snowboard Superpipe of the X Games, showcased this weekend in Aspen, Colorado, we seem to be saying good-bye to the sow-cows and double axles of figure skating in Spokane, Washington.

If figure skating is waning, Serena Williams is waxing. How magnificent it's been these last two weeks to witness the resurgence of Serena, who has scrapped and hustled and gritted her way all the way to the final of the Australian Open this weekend. I've been one of the Serena critics over these past two years. Beyond her knee injury, she has seemed to take both her talents and her sport for granted. Her show business career has taken precedence. I have predicted that she will wake up at age 35 and deeply regret not having achieved what she has within and that is to be the greatest woman tennis player of all time. So she arrives in Melbourne overweight and out of shape but match by match has exhibited her old drive. Match by match she has literally been playing herself into shape. The powerful serve, the sprint speed, the hard-hitting ground strokes are once again on delicious display. It's so good to have Serena back. It may be a shame that she gave a couple of her crucial years away but, at age 25, it's nowhere near too late for her to still play her way into the history books over the next few years.

It's also grand to watch Allen Iverson with his new team, the Denver Nuggets, this week. The team's franchise kingpin, Carmelo Anthony, has welcomed Iverson with open arms and the two are not only now the most powerful one-two punch in the NBA but they look like they're having a ball. It was so disheartening, almost tragic, to watch Iverson during his decade with Philadelphia. He was true blue to the 76ers. He gave and gave. The fans adored him for his efforts as well as his otherworldly talents. But his supporting cast was never what it needed to be to allow him what a player of his unique abilities should experience. And that's winning. He's smiling in Denver. He's always been criticized as a ball hog, a player who just can't pass the ball. But he's dishing the ball off to Anthony left and right and celebrating his assists as much as his own dazzling shots. How great it is for both A.I. -- and us -- that he wound up with the right team before it was too late.

This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and that's The Score.



Diana Nyad