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What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stranger

Artist Versus Athlete January 11, 2014

As the world prepares for the 2014 Winter Olympics, I find myself revisiting the same question I have every time I witness a sporting event: Why do athletes fall?

If a football player kicks a ball, why is it acceptable for him to miss? If a skier is supposed to be the best, why is she allowed to fall on the slalom? But most of all, why is it okay for a figure skater to fall when he is supposed to be executing a triple socked cow? (Please enjoy the mental image.)

If a dancer cannot perform her choreography, she will be replaced or fined. A skater has a costume, music, and choreography, but tons of them fall every Olympics. We all hang our heads like it’s tragic, but really we expect it.

Now let’s say, for instance, you personally aren’t impressed by thirty two fouette turns en pointe or perfect tap dancing. Then what about the Cirque du Soleil performers? They do some of the most amazing physical feats, and they don’t fall. They perform perfectly every show. They are athletes and artists.

Is it the fact that it’s a competition that gives skaters the forgivable margin of error? Where does it stop being a sport that is exciting to the spectators because someone falls and start being a form of art where perfection is expected with the ticket price?

While I am not a figure skater and can barely make it around the ice rink, I do hope that in your time off from watching the Olympic games, you choose a live performance to see. Pick a Beyonce concert, or New York City Ballet, whatever makes you feel happy, but if fifty percent of the performers fall on their butts, ask for your money back.

Olympic athletes may train for years, but we do eight shows a week with the expectation of perfection. If you can’t go to Russia to see the games, go see a show wherever you are. Appreciate the athletes in the sequins and dance shoes. And go Team USA. May you win all the gold medals with grace and dignity!

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5 Responses to “Artist Versus Athlete”

  1. It’s the luck element: if an athlete CAN do something part of the time, he or she will try it in competition, hoping to be in the zone.

    Professional performers can’t afford to go for luck – as you say, they have to be on 100% of the time.

    Different stakes, different methods.

    Now tell me why weatherpeople can be wrong about the weather FAR more than 50% of the time, and still keep their jobs? They should be fined when you rearrange your life because 1 foot of snow is ‘expected’ and only 3″ show up. If they weren’t so sure of themselves, I’d forgive them more often.

    And what’s with a 5 or 10 day forecast? NJ’s weather comes from California and the Midwest in a day or two – the rest is pure myth.

    And yet the silly weatherperson job is coveted. Of course it is! No credentials, no guarantee, just repeat what fed. My dad had training as a meteorologist for the Army Air Force in WWII – he should be doing the weather.

    • The weather man margin of error does bother me. Where I am right now the only forecast is warm and dry and they’ve been right with that so far.
      I think the thing that really bothers me with athletes is that a Cirque performer in “O” will do the most amazing dives with no margin of error. If they are even a few inches off, they will die. But we all watch the summer Olympics and the divers get it wrong. I just don’t get it.

  2. umm… it might be because they are pushing the limits of what people can actually do… or it might be because it is just plain funny when people fall, and the universe has a sense of humor…


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