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February 15, 2002

by Bill Hogan



CBS has given us the ultra-popular reality-TV show "Survivor". Then "Survivor - Outback", then "Survivor - Africa" and soon "Survivor - Marquesas". And in the process, they've killed NBC in the ratings wars.

It may have cost them $705 million for the rights to the 2002 Winter Olympics but now NBC has its own reality-TV blockbuster that rivals any in the "Survivor" series.


I call it "Survivor - Salt Lake" and it has a little bit of everything we (the television viewing audience) ask for from network programming. It has scandal, lies, deceit, back-stabbing, pushing, shoving, spitting, trash talking and if it were a cable program I bet there'd even be a little sex. Basically, it's a cross between the Enron Congressional hearings and a NBA game.

The key to winning the million-dollar prize on "Survivor" is forming as many alliances with the other players as you can. Apparently, the key to winning the pairs figure skating gold medal is to, well, form as many alliances with the other judges as you can.

Lying, cheating and back-stabbing are all well within the parameters of the game. "Survivor" that is, not figure skating. Or so the International Skating Union (ISU) would like for us (the television viewing audience) to believe.

For those of you living under a rock, or too consumed with "King of Queens" repeats to pay attention to the Olympics, here it is in a nutshell. The Russian couple won the pairs figure skating gold medal. The Canadian couple clearly should have won the gold medal. Since then, there have been allegations of impropriety on the part of the judges.

The fix was in. And it was so blatant that the audience started booing after the results were announced.

It was so obvious that even the popcorn vendor at the Salt Lake Ice Center could smell a rat. (And the stink wasn't coming from the hot dog hawk.)

Impropriety among the judges as a figure skating event? How shocking. Boy, you could have knocked me over with a double lutz.

Other skaters, announcers, coaches - everybody associated with the sport - were dismayed, bewildered, disheartened and saddened by the turn of events.

What? How can this shock these 'experts'? Figure skating is more cut-throat than "Survivor - Outback". Colby may have lied to Jerri, but nobody got taken out at the knees with a tire iron.

More blade-wielding thugs are found backstage at a figure skating competition than in the rumble scene between the Jets and Sharks in "West Side Story".

The famed "Kiss and Cry" area where skaters go to wait for the results of their performance should be more aptly named the "Slap and Spit" pit.

Four-foot-eleven-inch American figure skater Sasha Cohen is more likely to clothesline Michelle Kwan skating in warm-ups than plant a wet one on her cheek.

It's laughable that the entire skating world is in "shock" over this incident. We (the television viewing audience) have just assumed that this kind of chicanery has been going on for years.

This isn't the first time judges have conspired. This isn't the first time judges have 'aligned' themselves for a common purpose. It's not even the first time they've gotten caught.

These guys/gals are Wiseguys. Goodfellas that would throw their vote for a pizza and a pint of lager in the Olympic Village.

And this time, their actions were so brazen that even the most casual observer could immediately recognize an injustice had been done.

An opinion poll at nbcolympic.com shows that the public so overwhelmingly believes the Canadians should have won gold that the numbers look like a Rudy Guiliani approval rating.

But what do we (the television viewing audience) know? The head of the ISU made it clear "No figure skating competition is judged by the public".

No, but every figure skating competition is watched by the public. And if the public feels like they're being duped, if there's a lingering feeling that the outcome has been pre-determined, they will stop watching.

What happens when a figure skater falls on his/her ass while attempting a quadruple salchow and nobody is there to see it?

And what happens when Victoria Secret and Budweiser tell NBC that they want their ads broadcast during the Curling finals instead of the ladies short program?

One can only speculate.

But I do know this: if we (the television viewing audience) ever find out the fix was in when Ethan beat out Kim on "Survivor - Africa", CBS will have to come up with another show to fill that time slot this fall.


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