Monday, January 31, 2011

Book 7: On Edge

On Edge by Jon Jackson is my least favorite book of this year by far. This book went from a good insightful read about life as a figure skater to an incoherent rantings about the evils of the ISU (International Skating Union) and the US Figure Skating Federation.

I’m one of the first people to say that figure skating in the early 2000s was a very corrupt organization and it’s no wonder that there was a co-gold medals handed out at the Salt Lake Olympics. I was a figure skater (albeit a purely recreational skater who never did a competition), so I was naturally interested in a book that would detailed the backroom dealings, cocktail scheming, and other vices of judges as told by a former judge. I was sorely disappointed I this book that turned into little hard evidence and a pile of hatred towards the ruling federations of figure skating.

My biggest issue with this book is the fact there are few facts here. The backroom deals and the schemes that were rampant, were not anything of great value for the better part of the book. From what I could tell, many of the so-called backroom deals were his encouragement to get to know other judges and learn from them. Plus quite frankly, I don’t think Jon Jackson really understands the presentation side to figure skating. He is a judge who understands the technical side only but the sport is more complex then just the jumps.

The only deal that was truly discussed was the confession he overheard from the French judge that made the deal with the Russian block. Mr. Jackson made a huge deal over how overhearing the confession was proof of corruption and the screwing of all skaters. He kept saying over and over again how it was a slam-dunk case. But let’s be frank, while overhearing the confession is nothing more than hearsay. It’s not proof.

The book then continues to go into a deluge of how he tried to create the WSF (World Skating Federation) as way to compete against the ISU. He goes on and on about how the ISU is corrupt and there is duplicity and conflicts of interest by the ISU and members of the US Figure Skating yet the whole meanwhile, he is recruiting people to join his WSF when he’s suppose to be judging or acting as Team Leader. He made sure that everyone associated with the WSF signed confidentiality agreements yet when it became convenient for him, he used those confidentiality agreements to push his argument (if that’s what you could call that last 70 pages that were littered with his hate).

Quite frankly, I think James Pereira (the co-writer for Jon Jackson) did a disservice to Jon Jackson. This biography could have been so much better if he was allowed to edit out Jon Jackson’s hatred and get in more fact. There were simply too many snide comments and not enough fact in the last 100 pages. I want fact, not condescending remarks and innuendos. The book was so much fun in the first bit since he was quite likeable for the first part of the book.

There was one thing I do agree with Jon Jackson: figure skating sport is not in a good spot right now and needs to reform to survive. But I totally disagree why. He wants to hold onto the old judging system and have marks with 6.0 and wants the good old boy network gone. I like the new numbers where individual elements are ranked and scores are randomly selected from a panel of judges. But the sport has gone backwards. This past year’s Olympics was pitiful to watch. The artistry was simply not there and in the men’s sport, it’s downright a reversal of technical elements. I never thought I would see a men’s event where quads and connecting with an audience wasn’t rewarded justly. But that outcome came from the rules and the lack of artistry in the sport in general since the elimination of figures. As for the good old boy network, if you average out the scores after discarding the high and low marks the good old boys are pretty much nullified. A lot harder to low ball or high ball a competitor.

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