Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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February 10, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

ROCKET SCIENCE NOW AN OFFICIAL OLYMPIC SPORT....Prepare to be even more flummoxed than usual by scoring in the Olympic figure skating competition this year:

The familiar 6.0 standard has been replaced by cumulative scores derived from prescribed values for each jump and spin. Judges' names are no longer linked to their marks at international competitions, and a computer randomly chooses nine scores from every 12-judge panel in calculating scores.

....For fans, calculators are a must. So are translators: The detailed result sheet from the long program Sasha Cohen performed to win her first U.S. championship last month shows that she did a CCoSp4, an LSp4 and a CCoSp3. Runner-up Kimmie Meissner's routine included an SpSt3 and a 1A. (See accompanying story and chart.)

Here's the accompanying story:

The CCoSp4 performed by Sasha Cohen in her long program at the U.S. championships was a spin combination with change of position and a change of foot. It was graded a level 4, with a base value of 3.5. She got an additional 0.64 grade of execution for 4.14 total points.

Her LSp4 was a layback spin rated a level 4 with a base value of 2.4. With a 0.86 grade of execution, she got 3.26 points for it. Her final move, a CCoSp3, was another spin combination with change of position and change of foot but it was rated only a level 3, with a base value of 3.0. Adding the grade of execution, she got 3.79 points for it.

....The technical specialist, or caller, calls the execution of each element. Non-jump elements such as spins or step sequences are assigned a level based on difficulty, determined by the number of rotations or use of different edges.

Did you get all that?

Kevin Drum 4:58 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (51)

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Comments

"Rocket science"? Does this mean George Deutsch will be insisting that we append "theoretical" at the front of every score that doesn't reflect well on Bushie?

Posted by: The Confidence Man on February 10, 2006 at 5:03 PM | PERMALINK

Hmm. Does this mean tbrosz is going to be judging at the Olympics rather than posting here?

Posted by: cmdicely on February 10, 2006 at 5:05 PM | PERMALINK

No competition that is decided by judges should properly be called a sport.

Posted by: Alek Hidell on February 10, 2006 at 5:06 PM | PERMALINK

Let this be the last post on figure skating for the duration of the blog.

Posted by: Ugh on February 10, 2006 at 5:06 PM | PERMALINK

So does this mean that Scott Mc Clellan uses these folks to write his press conference scripts ?

"There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept." - Ansel Adams

Posted by: daCascadian on February 10, 2006 at 5:07 PM | PERMALINK

I'll be watching the swan song of Arrested Development.

Yawn.

Just show me one Grecian urn depicting figure skating, snow boarding or curling.

IOW: Like I give a rat's ass.

Posted by: CFShep on February 10, 2006 at 5:07 PM | PERMALINK

No competition that is decided by judges should properly be called a sport.

Perhaps this is one reason why it is now called the Olympic Games.

Posted by: Edo on February 10, 2006 at 5:07 PM | PERMALINK

I just like their outfits!

But ski jumping, now that's fun to watch.

And Brody sliing drunk should be fun.

Posted by: the fake Fake Al on February 10, 2006 at 5:09 PM | PERMALINK

Who cares? Downhill skiing is the only sport that matters at the Winter Games.

Posted by: Jeff II on February 10, 2006 at 5:12 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely,

Do you mean the Rocket Man, who did not know that Jack Kilby had perfected the microchip in 1958, working under a government contract at TI, and thus made the weight feasible for rockets to be fired into space for the moon shot? That one?
Perhaps he burned out his fuse out there alone.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on February 10, 2006 at 5:12 PM | PERMALINK

Oh Boy - can't wait for the NVC announcers to explain the new rules upmteenth times. Thanks for the heads up - gotta reach for the mute button.

Posted by: peBird on February 10, 2006 at 5:13 PM | PERMALINK

If, like myself, you've been following the new scoring system for a couple years, it gets easier to follow. The Code of Points itself is on the Internet, but if you don't know much about figure skating it won't help you much. Very few folks can tell the difference between a flip, lutz, loop, or salchow (the axel's easier to identify), and may only know the names of a couple spins. Edge changes in spins and spirals are noticeable, but generally only if you're looking for them.

ABC and ESPN did a decent job of educating the public over the past couple of years, but because most fans only tune into to Figure Skating once every four years, they'll be starting their explanations all over again on NBC.

but, of course, what really matters are the total numbers. Nobody's gonna match Plushenko's 250+ point totals on the men's side, and any lady in the 200 range is doing REMARKABLY well.

Regardless, this will be a fun year for Olympic figure skating. If (when) Plushenko gets the gold medal, it'll be time to start discussing whether or not he's the best male figure skater ever (I think he definitely is), though the battle for second should be fun. The women's side is wide-open, and though it would be nice to see Sasha Cohen actually win an international competition--she's easily the most talented skater in two or three generations--Slutskaya is still my pick for gold.

Posted by: Furious|T| on February 10, 2006 at 5:13 PM | PERMALINK

Thousands of little girls are crying.

Posted by: jerry on February 10, 2006 at 5:18 PM | PERMALINK

That'll take care of the last 6 audience members!

Posted by: Name on February 10, 2006 at 5:20 PM | PERMALINK

And Brody sliing drunk should be fun. Posted by: the fake Fake Al

Is that anything like posting drunk?

That would be "Bode skiing drunk . . . "

Posted by: Jeff II on February 10, 2006 at 5:23 PM | PERMALINK

I warned them years ago about inventing the computer spreadsheet but would they listen?

No.

Picking Medicare plans, judging figureskating, what's next?

Posted by: Tripp on February 10, 2006 at 5:29 PM | PERMALINK

The new scoring system is vastly better than the old. Now, the skaters actually get credit for what they do and if they do it better they get more credit. That wasn't really true before.

Also, the points actually matter! The previous system it only mattered how each judge ranked a skater compared to the other skaters.

Posted by: Mark on February 10, 2006 at 5:33 PM | PERMALINK

Huh? I didn't quite get that. Would you 'splain that again, please? I was looking forward to watching the figure skating. Maybe not so much now. Thanks, Kev.

Posted by: Babba on February 10, 2006 at 5:33 PM | PERMALINK

I'd vote for the old scoring system and the old ghetto booty leading the way around the rink. Modern figure skating just doesn't have the same appeal.

Posted by: Tripp on February 10, 2006 at 5:45 PM | PERMALINK

This is precisely why figure skating is not a sport.

Posted by: craigie on February 10, 2006 at 5:51 PM | PERMALINK

It's all about watching young, in-shape girls slide around in short short skirts that keep (whoops!) flipping up. Even straight women fans are only there to look at the costumes and the girls bodies.

Face it, girls' bodies (the perfect ones) are high-value items.

Posted by: luci on February 10, 2006 at 5:51 PM | PERMALINK

No judged event should be an olympic sport.

Period.

Posted by: Osama_Been_Forgotten on February 10, 2006 at 5:54 PM | PERMALINK

I dunno. I just watch on the off-chance someone will do an illegal backflip.

Posted by: cmdicely on February 10, 2006 at 5:58 PM | PERMALINK

This is precisely why figure skating is not a sport. Posted by: craigie

Golf and bowling aren't sports either, but figure skating in athletic.

A sign that the IOC may be coming to its senses - they have decided against baseball and softball for the London games. Were almost there. Now it's only synchronized "swimming," basketball, and I'd say what's in my heart about rhythmic "gymnastics" as well, but my niece may very well be on the Japanese national team that year.

Posted by: Jeff II on February 10, 2006 at 6:11 PM | PERMALINK

Ok, this is the part that gets me:

"a computer randomly chooses nine scores from every 12-judge panel in calculating scores."

This allows the possibility that, purely by the random action of a computer, one skater loses the three highest scores of the twelve and another loses the three lowest scores of the twelve, therefore, the winning could be determined not on merit, but simply because of the result of a random operation of the computer. Note that one losing the top scores and another losing the bottom scores is the extreme case. Standings could also change depending on which of the scores in the middle of the 12 get selected by the computer.

I don't know how probable this, but it is certainly allowed according to the way Kevin has described the new scoring system.

So what does this say about the results? Suppose after the competition is over, all 12 scores for all competitors are analyzed and it turns out that if each skater were given their top 9 scores instead of those randomly selected, then the winners would have been completely different?

What does that say to the competitors? How does that improve the integrity of the sport?

Possibly even worse, it could also be that if you ran the data set of all the scores for all the performances of all the skaters for the whole games through the computer again, letting it apply the same radomizer function as before, it would pick sets of 9 scores that again changed who the winners were, even without selecting each skater's top 9 scores.

Am I the only one who thinks this is rediculous? Is there something in the new scoring rules to prevent either of these scenarios? I am unfamiliar with any of these rules except for what Kevin has posted, but this just seems to be a basic logical flaw unless there is something else going on here to prevent it.

-Liano

Posted by: Liano on February 10, 2006 at 6:12 PM | PERMALINK

I have to agree that the use of random selection of which scores matter is mind-bogglingly bizarre.

The whole thing seems designed to avoid controversy over particular judges scores through obfuscation.

Posted by: cmdicely on February 10, 2006 at 6:24 PM | PERMALINK

My theory of Olympic sports is that there are three kinds:

1) Races: IE. anything with a clear, easily enunciated standard for winning. Start here, finish there, first one across the line wins. Lift more weight than everybody else, you win. Jump farther, jump higher, you win. In the Winter Games, this is Alpine skiing, Nordic skiing, Bobsled, Luge. Totally watchable. What the Olympics is, or should be, all about.

2) Games: Basketball, soccer, team handball, hockey. Yeah, there are refs who occasionally mess things up, but mostly games are AOK with me as Olympic sports.

3) Judged Sports: Gymnastics, Rhythmic gymnastics, synchonized swimming, diving, figure skating, freestyle half-pipe mogul snowboarding. AVOID THEM LIKE THE PLAGUE!!! "Oooh, you don't think figure skating or gymnastics takes athletic ability??" Obviously they do, but so does ballet, and we're not giving out gold medals for that. These are the garbage that clutters up the Olympics, overwhelms the TV coverage, and makes me start to hate what should be an otherwise interesting two weeks of TV viewing of sports.

Posted by: Robert Earle on February 10, 2006 at 6:30 PM | PERMALINK

[I]t would be nice to see Sasha Cohen actually win an international competition

Cohen has loads of talent, but she has a long history of not stepping up in big competitions. If I were a less charitable sort, I would use a five-letter word that starts with "C" and rhymes with "broke".

How does [randomly eliminating three scores] improve the integrity of the sport?

By making it harder to fix. If you don't know if a particular judge's score is going to be used, there's not much incentive to induce or suborn said judge. You'd pretty much have to buy all of them, which could get expensive.

Posted by: Thlayli on February 10, 2006 at 6:33 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely:

Hmm. Does this mean tbrosz is going to be judging at the Olympics rather than posting here?

Way over MY head.

Posted by: tbrosz on February 10, 2006 at 6:36 PM | PERMALINK

wonder if diebold makes the voting machines...

Posted by: mudwall jackson on February 10, 2006 at 6:42 PM | PERMALINK
If you don't know if a particular judge's score is going to be used, there's not much incentive to induce or suborn said judge. You'd pretty much have to buy all of them, which could get expensive.

So, anyone considered expanding this system to the Congress?

Posted by: cmdicely on February 10, 2006 at 6:46 PM | PERMALINK

"No judged event should be an olympic sport."

Boxing? I have never trusted it, 15 rounds, all scored 11-10, final score 115-113 we have a winner.

Posted by: bob mcmanus on February 10, 2006 at 7:21 PM | PERMALINK

One thing about figure skating, is that it's a "mature" sport. Meaning that pretty much everything in it to be done has been done. There's the occasional new thing..the Quad is a good example..but for the most part it runs more on tradition and technical perfection than innovation. Remember that a lot of pureists thought that Stjoiko was a show-off. (Who competes more in high-level Karate competitions these days..)

Compare that to your typical "X-Game" competition, where the winner is usually in very little doubt because it runs more on innovation than technical perfection. When you're redefining the cutting edge, who's to deduct a tenth of a point because you landed with not-so perfect balance.


Posted by: Karmakin on February 10, 2006 at 7:44 PM | PERMALINK

I thought Sasha Cohen was the guy who played Ali G.

Posted by: davids on February 10, 2006 at 7:56 PM | PERMALINK

I find this post funny considering your follow-up post about daughters and feminism. You sound like the "typical" American woman saying "What is a tackle-eligible, again?", and "How come that (fumbled lateral) isn't an incomplete pass?" Lots of sports have "complicated" rules. It's just that figure skating decided to try to do a better job of making their rules clear. Good for them. I think you could learn the new figure-skating rules, write up a course, and teach it successfully to a bunch of fifth-graders in about one-tenth of the time it would take a panel of health-policy Ph.D.s to write a 5-page summary of the Bush prescription drug plan.

Posted by: David on February 10, 2006 at 9:48 PM | PERMALINK

I wonder if the French and Russian judges will treat their vote with the same sence of integrity that they do on the Security Counsel.

Posted by: wks on February 10, 2006 at 10:42 PM | PERMALINK

The funny catch phrase would be meaningful, 'cept that rocket science isn't exactly, well, rocket science...

Posted by: cdj on February 10, 2006 at 10:49 PM | PERMALINK

Golf and bowling aren't sports either,

Finally! A kindred spirit...

Posted by: craigie on February 10, 2006 at 11:04 PM | PERMALINK

I love to watch Olympic figure skating -- especially the couples.

So graceful ... *sigh*

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on February 11, 2006 at 12:36 AM | PERMALINK

No competition that is decided by judges should properly be called a sport.

Yes and yes! It ain't a sport if you have to smile to win.
.
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.
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But I will be watching...
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Go Arakawa!

Posted by: snicker-snack on February 11, 2006 at 2:56 AM | PERMALINK

Boxing? I have never trusted it, 15 rounds, all scored 11-10, final score 115-113 we have a winner.

Now Ultimate Fighting - that would make a good olympic sport.

No points scored - knockout or tap-out for the win.

Posted by: Shinobi on February 11, 2006 at 3:01 AM | PERMALINK

Now Ultimate Fighting - that would make a good olympic sport. No points scored - knockout or tap-out for the win.

I guess the silver and bronze medals would be awarded posthumously.

Posted by: snicker-snack on February 11, 2006 at 3:43 AM | PERMALINK

That nice, clear, simple explanation reminds me of Tom Lehrer's nice, clear, simple explanation of "New Math".

(For the youngsters in the crowd, he was an early 60's -- ie, prehistoric -- Weird Al)

Posted by: Andrew on February 11, 2006 at 9:25 AM | PERMALINK

You're all right! There are no judgement calls in real "sports." For example, it wasn't a judgement call to ban the U.S. cross-country skier for using hair cream. It's not a judgement call to determine a false start in track and field, or whether a swimmer is performing a true butterfly stroke. A downhill ski competition where the wind and snow conditions change between each run is completely "fair." No, only figure skating involves "judgement." Everything else is 100 percent objective!

Posted by: Dave Munger on February 11, 2006 at 11:47 AM | PERMALINK

I just wish they'd figure skate in tighter revealing costumes or topless and have athletes with bigger racks.

I know its wrong but I always wanted to know what the cold and centripetal acceleration would do to a rack.

And I'm not gay or anything but I am curious what happens to a naked male skaters penis in a spin.

Posted by: McA on February 11, 2006 at 12:34 PM | PERMALINK

Let's bring back the applause-o-meter!

Posted by: beb on February 11, 2006 at 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

I guess the silver and bronze medals would be awarded posthumously.

Unlike, say, boxing, IIRC organized "ultimate fighting" has never had a fatality.

Posted by: cmdicely on February 11, 2006 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

It used to be so much fun.

Posted by: Neil' on February 11, 2006 at 5:35 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe they can use a color-coded system to make it comprehensible for even the dumbest 'murican:

Yellow -- teh ok
Orange -- teh good
Red -- TEH HOTTT

Posted by: ogmb on February 11, 2006 at 9:30 PM | PERMALINK

Unlike, say, boxing, IIRC organized "ultimate fighting" has never had a fatality.

Thanks for correcting my fantasy. But then it's not really ultimate then, is it? :)

Posted by: snicker-snack on February 11, 2006 at 11:05 PM | PERMALINK

Ooooops !

he he he

"John W. Emerson, assistant professor of Statistics at Yale, using information found on the web for an exercise in his classroom, examined the results of the recent European Women's Figure Skating Competition and identified a potentially serious flaw in the system for selecting the judging panel..."

more here

"There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept." - Ansel Adams

Posted by: daCascadian on February 13, 2006 at 6:05 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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