Jeter at Fenway

Now that the Derek Jeter parade has reached its terminus—not a moment too soon for anyone, especially Jeter (who must have wanted nothing more than to begin that Tuscany vacation his team gave him), I wondered, would such adulation ever be heaped upon another player from another sport as he made a farewell tour?

We’ve had famous athletes announce their retirements in basketball, football, even hockey. Remember Ray Bourque, the superb Bruins defenseman who spent his final year with Colorado and whose planned retirement became a rallying cry for that team in their quest for, and achievement of, the Stanley Cup? But even Bourque, for all the encomium of those final months, never achieved the fame of Mariano Rivera or Jeter. Bourque was a good guy, John Elway was a good guy, Kareem was a good guy, but you know what? We like baseball players better, and I think it’s because they embody the American dream more than their counterparts in hockey, football, or basketball—the other  lucrative professional sports.

After all, baseball players seldom come out of college or high school having achieved great national fame. There are no LeBron Jameses or Johnny Manziels dominating the amateur baseball headlines, and these two stars’ sudden fame and equally sudden wealth in no reflect the America we live in—the America where people work their up, step by step, and finally achieve some sort of stability and comfort. In baseball it still works. Baseball players, as good as they may be, generally start in the minor leagues where their everyday life is far from romantic:

—They often share a room with three or four others;

—Most require second jobs in their home team city;

—Their post-game spreads may comprise little more than peanut butter and jelly and a few pieces of fruit.

—Many of them live below the poverty level and earn less than the famously underpaid fast-food workers whom they see often enough from the other side of the counter.

It’s a humbling experience, one which they accept because they love the game. But that experience humanizes them too, so that when they get to the majors—to the show—they are more appreciative than those who go from nothing to millionaire overnight.

—Derek Jeter, for instance, in the early nineties played for the Gulf Coast Yankees where he was mercifully benched late in the season so that his average would not fall below .200;

—He later played for the Greensboro Hornets where he made nine errors in his first forty-eight chances;

—In his second year at Greensboro he was voted “Most Outstanding Major League Prospect.” That year he made fifty-six errors, still a record in that league.

—He also played in Tampa, Albany, and Columbus—not exactly Podunk towns, but not exactly New York City. He was never an overnight sensation, and when he did arrive it was due primarily to injuries to a starter and back-up. The rest may be history, but it’s legitimate history. Earned history.

Yes he kept his nose clean and never embarrassed his team or his family or himself. And he never strutted about as if he were bigger than the game. And he played for a team and never forgot that fact. Dustin Pedroia, Andrew McCutcheon, Adam Wainwright, Torii Hunter—baseball is filled with similar team players who shrink from the spotlight and refocus glory on those around them, who don’t show up the oppositions and don’t strut around the bases following a home run. Contrast that with the NFL receiver who must choreograph a football celebration or jump into the stands to prove how special he is while the team celebrates somewhere else.

Many claim that football has supplanted baseball as the American sport of choice. I won’t deny that, but until football (and basketball too) become once again team sports instead of showcases for individual achievement, it’s unlikely that a game between two losing teams going nowhere will fill the stands just because one of the players is retiring. That’s what happened at Fenway all weekend, and it’s a tribute not just to Jeter or to Boston, but also to the fact that we haven’t quite lost that appreciation for the struggle that precedes the success.

How good does it feel?

At one time sports reporters asked real questions—questions like what kind of pitch did he throw you when you hit that home run? or were you surprised when the coach told you to line up at tight end? or where did you learn to hit a topspin backhand like that?

These were questions for which there were actual answers, that required the athlete to construct, if not a sentence, at least a thought. That must have been the heyday of sports journalism—now seemingly gone.

Today’s sports reporters ask questions like how good did it feel to hit that home run? or how surprised did you feel when the coach told you to line up at tight end? or how great does it feel when you hit a topspin backhand like that?

These three questions have three answers, but they’re all supposed to be the same: Very, very, and very. They require no thought and provide no insight. They render the entire interview unnecessary and superfluous, in very much the same way I don’t need both unnecessary and superfluous in this sentence.

If I could momentarily interrupt this mild tirade about what is admittedly a trivial topic…the title of my blog, Begging No Questions, is a gentle jab at all those people who see no difference between begging a question and raising one. I’m currently raising one about sports interviews, but the interviewers themselves are coming close to begging the question—a term which means assuming something true that ought to be proven first. For instance, how do you know the baseball player felt good about hitting the home run—maybe, like Paul O’Neill in the Seinfeld episode, he was supposed to hit two home runs, just the way Kramer promised the little boy in the hospital. How good did it feel? That’s begging the question, and that’s what sports interviews have become.

(For those with an aversion to correct usage but a predilection for crime shows, we can call it leading the witness. I’m okay with that also.)

The whole idea of an interview is to glean information, not simply to fill time or satisfy some network requirement. Yet today’s format is designed so that even the most unconcerned interviewee can provide a response. In fact, the Japanese players on the Yankees (for instance) do not need a translator for those post-game on-field interviews. They simply need to remember 非常に非常に、and 非常に、 (See above for translation.)

If throughout history this had been the standard of Q and A, I’m sure we would have heard questions like these:

—How good did it feel to see that Eiffel Tower after thirty-three and half hours in the air?

—How much did it hurt to know, your majesty, that some ragtag American rebels your soldiers?

—How surprised were you, General Custer, to learn that you had underestimated the strength of those combined tribes? General Custer? General?

When I was still teaching English and polled my students at the end of Macbeth to elicit final questions, they would often ask why Lady Macbeth took her own life but her husband didn’t, or why Malcolm gets to be king at the end, or why a man with free will can be controlled by three weird old women with a cauldron. Good questions all…with actual answers. Today, however, my students would probably say, “Mr. Radda, how satisfying is it to have just finished teaching a major tragedy for the thirtieth time?”


Believe me.


Walking our streets in peace

Soon we’ll all be safe from chimps, and they’ll be safe from us.

If our legislators do their jobs (and yes that would be unusual) we can soon put an end to the epidemic of multiple-, even mass-murders committed by these primates over the last dozen or so years. It seems hardly a day goes by when some chimp or ape or baboon isn’t terrorizing a school or a shopping mall or a movie theater or a military base. And this doesn’t even take into consideration drive-bys and domestic disputes that seem so prevalent. Thank goodness (and just in time for the latest Planet of the Apes film) peace may be as close as the next Washington signature.

We should all be grateful to our elected protectors for taking this most courageous step toward curbing the menace. Thank you Chris Murphy, for one. When I voted for you I didn’t know you would someday shield me from animals too, otherwise I’d have voted more than once! And Senator Blumenthal, calling these rogue primates a “ticking time bomb,” well, that does capture the fear many of us experience whenever we step outside our homes these days, living (as we do) in this land of unregulated simians. Kudos to both of you.

Now I know some readers are thinking—hey wait, chimps aren’t really the problem. And those readers paying really strict attention probably caught me making stuff up—sometimes I do that. It wasn’t chimps terrorizing schools and malls, etc. It was people with guns. But guns…well, now…um…see there’s something we can’t address because, although chimps didn’t manage to get themselves included in the Bill of Rights, guns did—or at least muskets did—or at least a well regulated Militia did—which is almost like guys with unlimited access to assault rifles and all manner of automated and unregulated weaponry. Sort of.

But if we can’t do anything to eliminate gun deaths and actually improve life in America, at least we can stop the scourge of chimps…with a law no less. And before you go asking some moronic question like, can’t we pass a law that requires background checks for someone who wants to buy a missile launcher to protect his bird feeder from squirrels? well, it’s that whole musket and militia thing-y again. That and the fact that some folks just like to shoot things. Still, generations from now chimps will still shudder when they speak of their twenty-first century human regulators. Of course those twenty-first century humans still have a problem with the muskets, but at least there will be fewer domesticated primates to apply for (and no doubt receive) firearms permits—and that’s a good thing because you know, sooner or later, someone is going to inform the chimps of their Second Amendment rights.

Just a word if I might about Charla Nash whose bad fortune it was to befriend a woman who owned (kept?) a chimp. Despite Chris Murphy’s baffling comment (“I think she looks pretty good.”) no one is denying or making light of her suffering, nor is anyone claiming we don’t need laws to protect animals and the humans who interact with them. But in the time it took you read this, someone with a gun killed somebody. And though I don’t have the statistics to prove it, past history indicates that during the same time span, nobody was killed by a chimp.

Short memory—long memory

Now that tennis season has ended (and ended, I might add, with two closing losses) I’m finding it more and more difficult to look back on it as anything other than an unmitigated failure. There’s a part of me that knows that isn’t true, but that part has been so deeply interred that I can’t dig it out. If anything, since last Thursday it has burrowed a little bit deeper. The last two losses which kept us out of states and, unbeknownst to me at the time, deprived one of my players of an all-conference selection fall squarely on the shoulders of my team and, therefore, on me.

But as always there are factors. All week my players were obsessed with a little game called Water Wars, a contest whose rules center on trying to “eliminate” people by squirting them with water guns. There are other more specific rules also, but at bottom it’s no different from a million other inane childish games that serve to eliminate contestants one by one—no different, for instance, than musical chairs. I wish it had been musical chairs in which my team became involved, because that would have ended faster. This water gun contest dragged on and on, eventually sucking in many of the best players on my team and creating an atmosphere—even among those not involved—that relegated tennis to a secondary position. I have never seen a team so unready to play as mine last Thursday, and even after they lost, their prime concern was checking the progress of their prospective attackers and finding out who had been eliminated. To have a chance to accomplish something and let it go without a fight was disheartening, but mostly to me.

Throughout I was told that this was for a good cause—that the money (was it five dollars per entrant?) would be spent on cancer research. But who’s auditing? And what assurance does anyone have that this money will ever get to the right place? I would like to know how many contestants there were and how much each one paid—then I want to see a receipt from whatever cancer-fighting charity involved, you know, just to see if the numbers match. Good cause? Really? When I believe in something I write a check: I don’t buy a squirt gun and shoot people so that a disease can be eradicated.

Three full days have passed now, and while I should be calming down, I find I’m angrier each morning. What’s worse, I now have to fake cordiality with my team three times in the next three days before I can put this behind me and forget tennis. By Wednesday evening I should be ready for a straitjacket. Last year at this time we had won our final game—somewhat of a surprise—and everything looked rosy; this year we compiled a much better record and fielded a much better team, but I can find very little to be optimistic about. And as far as having everyone back next year, well that doesn’t matter when the people coming back can be so easily distracted.

Just who IS listening?

I’m always suspicious when everyone stands four-square against something or, in this case, for it. You have to admit, it’s pretty difficult to find anybody unwilling to dance on Donald Sterling’s grave these days. The Los Angeles Clippers’ owner, banned from the NBA for life for incendiary racist comments, enjoys about the same level of popularity here in America as Osama bin Laden did for the first decade of the century. And his ignominy is well deserved. (Incidentally, don’t think I don’t realize that there are many Americans who share Mr. Sterling’s views but who, in the light of public opinion, have opted for a somewhat lower profile.)

I have no problem with his banishment or his disgrace—to allow him to manage people of any color is a travesty—but I do have a problem with how this came about, as well as how conciliatory the NBA owners had been toward Sterling throughout his twenty-nine year tenure as owner of the team. (He bought the then San Diego Clippers and moved them to Los Angeles in 1984.) During that span he has made no secret of his disparaging views of black people. As recently as 2009 he was sued by former NBA great Elgin Baylor for age and race discrimination, Baylor claiming that the owner ran the team with a “Southern plantation-type structure.” Baylor lost the suit. Sterling continued on as owner. If there was any NBA mortification, it was feeble and muted. That same year Sterling settled a housing-discrimination suit brought by the Justice Department on behalf of African-Americans, Latinos, and families with children. Sterling paid out $2.76 million to settle—there’s no indication that his attitude changed as a result. Nor did the NBA’s.

Now there’s a new commissioner—Adam Silver has replaced David Stern—and the new sheriff in town is patrolling the streets with a little less flexibility. He has banned Sterling for life and pretty much threatened the other owners to follow that lead and force Sterling to sell the Clippers. And if this were some kind of fairy tale, Sterling would admit his flaws, wear the scarlet R around his neck, and sell Oprah his basketball team. (She, apparently, has expressed interest.) But this isn’t a fairy tale, and Donald Sterling doesn’t seem the kind of man to go gently into that good oblivion; and although I can’t abide any of his beliefs, I can agree that, ironically, his rights have been violated. Not civil rights—that would make it more ironic, but his Constitutional rights. In the eyes of that document—yes, the one gun owners are always brandishing—he has a right to express himself in a private conversation, no matter how offensive his words might be. He wasn’t plotting a government overthrow or a terrorist attack—he was just being ignorant. How many of us, in private conversations, have said things we don’t necessarily want to read in the N.Y. Times, or hear repeated by Brian Williams on the NBC Evening News? Don’t bother raising your hands—I’m pretty sure I know the answer.

There is no place for Donald Sterling’s bigotry in a progressive society, one that intends to move forward toward the betterment of everyone’s lives. But I don’t think there’s room for phone dialogues to become public discourse which are then used as philosophical proclamations in order to relieve someone of his position. It’s offensive in its own right; worse, it’s gutless in light of the NBA’s prior knowledge of Sterling’s actions and willingness to turn a blind eye.

I want Sterling gone. I want him to unload the team. I want his attitudes to go away. But I want billion-dollar industries like the NBA to address bigotry because they should, not because a stray conversation leaked to the public made it easier to do so. And I want to feel free to carry on a private conversation, no matter how stupid or politically incorrect, in a country that purportedly guarantees that right.

Not a pastor—not a church

Took a little Internet junket to the Westboro Baptist Church home page recently. In case you’ve forgotten about that little organization (and most of us have) they’re the folks that came to prominence a decade and a half ago when they picketed Matthew Shepard’s funeral. And if you’ve forgotten him too, well shame on you: Shepard was the young gay man, a student at the University of Wyoming, who was tortured and murdered in Colorado by two men subsequently arrested, charged, and sentenced to two consecutive life terms in prison. At Mr. Shepard’s funeral a contingency from the WBC appeared bearing homophobic signs and other indications of their highly developed intellects. We all know that funerals don’t get picketed that often, mainly because insulting the deceased is usually a waste of breath. But the Westies hadn’t really thought that through; besides, they were more interested in getting their message out. And their message is pretty much summarized in the name of their website—Godhatesfagsdotcom. (I didn’t leave that in link form because I wouldn’t want anyone to go there by mistake—or actually to go there at all.)

It’s probably important to note here that the Westboro Baptist Church is neither baptist nor religious, though their leader, Fred Phelps himself was ordained a Baptist minister in the forties, a decade or so before he founded Westboro and declared himself a Primitive Baptist, someone more in tune with the Calvinists of the seventeenth century than the Baptists of the twentieth. Of course even hinting at that connection is a gross insult to Jonathan Edwards, the Mathers, and other zealots of pre-Revolution America, though anyone who has ever read The Crucible might not agree. The modern zealot Fred Phelps was 84 when he passed away, much to the jubilation of modern thinkers everywhere.

They’re wrong to celebrate.

Anyone who believes that the death of one man will change attitudes is not paying much attention. People like Fred Phelps do not exist in a vacuum from which they send out their baleful ideas in the hopes that someone somewhere will listen. He has plenty of followers who, were there no Fred Phelps, would merely create one. That kind of lunatic fanaticism exists on all sides of the spectrum, but at least men like Fred Phelps gave the rest of us the opportunity to gauge middle ground, to align our own thoughts with what we perceive to be an area of compromise and moderation. Much of our hate-crime legislation is the result of open, often heinous, treatment of people deemed different for whatever reason, and when Fred Phelps sought to make hatred our national pastime, our leaders had little choice but to balk and legislate against it.

Fred Phelps and his followers allowed us a long peek through the window of hatred and intolerance—allowed us to see just how far into degradation and inhumanity bigots could sink. Now that he’s gone we’ll have to keep a sharp lookout for the next Phelps who may not give us as clear a view and who, because of that, may be even more dangerous.

And just a postscript: Cal Thomas, Fox News reporter and syndicated columnist in the Courant, excoriated Phelps in a recent editorial, and did so (don’t wait for it—it’s not a big surprise) without ever mentioning homosexuality or gay-bashing. This is akin to a Boeing exec commenting on 9/11 yet refusing to mention airplanes. Since Mr. Thomas is so certain of Phelps’s repugnant behavior, couldn’t he have taken a few strides away from the ultra-conservative Foxies at least to mention the group that suffered his greatest scorn? Would that slight incursion into humanity really have been such sacrilege?

No, I didn’t mean RECKless

Last weekend John McCain accused the president of carrying on a “feckless foreign policy” that has led Vladimir Putin to have his way with Ukraine and not worry about pissing off the Americans.

It should be noted that he made the statement in a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, and any time a politician talks to an interest group you have to, almost automatically, dismiss what he says. And his making the statement on the same day the president was supposed to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu further impugns his motives. Then there’s that whole Sarah Palin thing…but, as Arlo Guthrie once said, “that’s not what I came to tell you about.”

I want to talk about words. Years back when I was teaching English full time, I always attached a great deal of significance to vocabulary study. I often appended the students’ prescribed word lists with some of my own: Götterdämmerung was a favorite. And apocryphal. Even tsunami way back when the word was more hypothetical than disastrous.I liked the ones that we appropriated from foreign countries and the ones that had fallen into desuetude…like desuetude.

And feckless—a perfectly good word which had spent its entire existence stuck in an expression with youth, much as lunatic has been imprisoned with fringe; foregone with conclusion. As for Feckless, it seems to derive from an old Scottish word, pretty much the same word as our effect. In a sense then, we could define feckless as effectless—it even sounds the same. But more accurately the word implies a lack of character or strength—cowardice in the face of important decisions. To translate that into McCainspeak—it’s the unwillingness to start a war even though we’re overdue for one.

To Senator McCain (whom many in his own party consider too far left…really) manpower and weaponry are the only solution to crises like the current one in Ukraine, even though this essentially mirrors Putin’s approach. And the other day some of the senator’s compadres, patriots all, offered to pitch in and help our feckless president if he promised to get tough with the boldly unfeckless Russian president. Getting tough is the way conservatives do things—they get tough with the immigrants, with the poor, with minorities, with low-income wage earners. So far they haven’t gotten tough with the insurance companies or bankers, but I’m sure those people are on the list. After all, getting tough proves you’re not feckless.

Getting tough also means forgetting certain facts, like seven-thousand American soldiers dead in battle since 2001; close to 120,000 Iraqis, civilian and military—dead; somewhere in the vicinity of 20,000 Afghan civilians killed during the first four months of U.S. air strikes. (We’ve been there 150 months.) Numbers sometimes become meaningless, but if you want some perspective, go to the following site:

Attaching a name and face to a casualty list makes the avoidance of war seem a lot less feckless, doesn’t it?

John McCain, for all his history of service, has become pretty much a caricature of himself, and under ordinary circumstances I would ignore him just as most others have learned to do. But when he starts rattling that saber in hopes that Russia will respond, and seems to have forgotten about our recent thirteen years of war, well…Götterdämmerung—the twilight if the gods—was one of my words. I’d hate to have to put it to use out of necessity.


Merge Ahead

Something really bad is about to happen to us. I guess that’s true most days, but this time it’s not a Democratic debacle or a Republican fiasco or a Tea Party disaster, so you can’t just settle comfortably into your FoxNews or MSNBC niche and await further instructions from Sean Hannity or Rachel Maddow. Although…it is kind of about television, who owns it, and who decides what you watch.

You’ve undoubtedly heard that there’s a merger in the works. Comcast wants to purchase Time-Warner for $40 billion. That’s a four with ten zeros after it—in case you haven’t written this on a deposit slip lately. After said purchase Comcast will control about 30% of the TV market and 40% of Internet access. Now companies don’t spend $40 billion without some certainty that they can eventually make more than that. It’s an investment, and the investment will be financed by the people with shallow pockets—you and me—but there are so many of us that the pockets might as well be…well they might as well be the Mariana Trench.

Even without Time Warner, Comcast has been raising our cable bills unabated for  decades. Lest we think the merger might in some way benefit us, the new giant—which hasn’t even been born yet—has already stated there will no decrease in monthly bills, and won’t even promise any decreases in the rate of increases. Points for honesty, Time-Warner-Comcast. No points for us. And if we’re not offended in our bank accounts, we should be offended in our intellects. A country like ours depends upon the free exchange of ideas, even ideas that most of us find distasteful. House of Cards, for instance, manifests Washington and many of its players in a most abhorrent light. But what if Netflix’s next series exposed similar corruption in the cable TV business, pointed out the huge profits and unconscionable bonuses, brought to light the chicanery, the duplicity, the gouging and monopolizing? How would we get to see that when Comcast decides Netflix will no longer be accessible because of some “price structure” Comcast won’t accept? And what would be the motivation for Netflix even to produce such a series and bite the hand that bites it…but only bites it occasionally?

One way or another, we lose.

And we probably lose even if we all rise up and demand that this merger never take place, but I don’t think we lose as badly. We might at least salvage some of that self-respect we seem willing to give away every time we complain about our cable bill, then quietly pay it. Writing to a legislator is a quaint throwback to a previous century, but this might be a good time to resurrect the practice. It’s your money, and soon enough your intellectual freedom also.

$400,000 to burn

Buried in the seamy tale of the UConn music department—included almost as an afterthought—were the salaries of these two accused vis-à-vis their current status. David Woods, the former dean of the School of Fine Arts, who is apparently still a professor in good standing currently receives a salary of $237,547. He is the man alleged to have ignored years of formal and informal complaints against Robert Miller, his department member who we now know was behaving in a reprehensible manner for what appears to be decades. Miller, currently on administrative leave and barred from campus, is receiving a salary of $140,907.

If this weren’t so tragic, it would almost be funny. Here’s a university whose tuition rises every year—which has recently stated openly the desire for more out-of-state students because they would pay more—frittering away close to $400,000 a year (or this year anyway) on two employees, one of whom has allegedly harmed students directly, and the other who has harmed them, it appears, by omission. I understand that there are contracts that need to be honored—that unless formal charges are brought against Miller (or less likely against Woods) they cannot summarily be drummed out of Storrs penniless and debased. What I don’t understand is why an individual music professor—even one at a large university—deserves twice the salary of a high school music teacher whose responsibilities are possibly more diverse.

Most high schools—even larger ones—have fewer than five music teachers, and very often have but two—one for instruments and one for voices. The instrumental teacher becomes ex officio the orchestra leader, the band leader, the marching band leader, and probably the supplier of music for every assembly, event, and theater production in the academic year. And since the likelihood of the school having a music librarian is nil, he’s that too. And he teaches.  The voice instructor handles everything that involves singlng, from the holiday concert to the graduation exercises and every National Anthem in between. He’s at everyone’s beck and call. And he teaches. I’d be willing to bet that Robert Miller has never had that number of responsibilities in any given year; instead they are probably spread out among fifty staff members in the music program at UConn. Most of these instructors are undoubtedly performing their jobs at a high level but not earning anywhere near $140,000 a year. Half that. Less.

Centering this discussion on UConn is unfair: every major university must have its share of staff members turning a blind eye and men and women who exploit and abuse their roles as instructors. And harping on salaries can sound cynical, for it’s very likely that real harm has been done here—done to a lot of young people over a long period of time. (And before anyone reminds me that the acts were consensual, let’s remember that the word loses its meaning when one of the so-called participants holds a position of authority over the other.) In the end there’s that $400,000 which could be put to better use—maybe to set up a fund to counsel the victims who, now that the story has broken, may very well appear in greater numbers. 

Quantifying artistry

What I don’t now about winter sports could fill a container ship, but I do know this: there was something amazing about the ice dancing of Meryl Davis and Charlie White last Monday, something that differentiated them from all the other couples. If I knew all the terms, I’d include them, but as I said, I don’t. I would venture to say that most people who watch the skating events are a lot like me—we can appreciate the beauty and the grace, but we don’t always know why. Because of that our praise is generally reduced to comments like “They were really really good,” while we wait for the results and hope they corroborate our opinions.

On Thursday, in something called the long program—I have some idea how it received that name—Russian figure skater Adelina Sotnikova outpointed the favorite, Yuna Kim of South Korean. The Russian went first, her program breathtaking in its energy, athleticism, and risk. The crowd of course was raucous, rooting for one of its own, and after the performance littered the ice with bouquets purchased for just that use. (Emerson would have wept, but that’s a complaint for another time.) When the Russian skater’s results were announced. and even more so with the announcement of Yuna Kim’s, the place erupted. (In other circumstances I’d say exploded, but with all the worries about security, that may not be the best choice of words) As for my reaction, just remember the container ship.

Immediately there was controversy: Had Yuna Kim fallen victim to home-judging? Had Adelina Sotnikova been the recipient of audience-motivated largesse? On Friday the experts spoke, the consensus being that Sotnikova had accessorized her program with so many leaps and spins that her point total became insurmountable, this despite any lack of artistry. (This failing the experts ascribed to her youth.) Not a fix then, just numbers.

Earlier this month when Seattle beat Denver in the Super Bowl, Seattle had many more points. That’s how they won. Maybe a more apt analogy would be Olympic hockey where the teams from Canada seem able to score more goals. I’m fine with both those situations: in competitive team sports  winners and losers must be defined by totals. But in figure skating, I come down on the side of artistry. Yuna Kim was elegant, graceful, and evocative—every gesture told us something. Adelina Sotnikova was athletic. Yuna Kim was the NBA player weaving through defenders and driving the baseline for a reverse layup, then quietly racing downcourt without contact; Adelina Sotnikova was the winner in the slam dunk contest, rattling the backboard and amassing the oohs and aahs. Yuna Kim belongs in the same conversation (and on the same podium) as Meryl Davis and Charlie White; Adelina Sotnikova doesn’t—not yet.