He likes it ... go figure

MIKE ULMER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:18 AM ET

I've decided to come out: I love figure skating.

I know, the headshot infers a two-fisted, hard-drinking John Wayne type, not some sequin-loving, teddy-bear clutching sissy-boy.

I know what you're thinking.

"Come on, man. They'll settle this lockout thing and everything will be fine. Don't say something you can't take back."

It's too late. I can't take the lying anymore.

Figure skating isn't stupid. NASCAR is stupid. You can't see the drivers, you can't hear yourself think and they just go around in circles.

The NFL? Stupid.

The NHL? I don't know, I forget.

Baseball. Stuuuuuupid.

Call me unmanly, but I like sports with women, and figure skating has women. Shae-Lynn Bourne and Katerina Witt, the sublime Josee Chouinard and Jennifer Robinson, to name four of my favourites.

I began to like figure skating a year ago, on assignment for this very newspaper at something called the Four Nations Cup in Hamilton.

Canadians Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon were in the pairs ice dancing.

STUNNINGLY BEAUTIFUL

Marie-France Dubreuil is a stunningly beautiful woman. The day I met her, she was wearing a highly cantilevered thing she had to get back to Peter Pan right after the skate.

Dubreuil was born to be a figure skater because it is one of the very few occupations you can wear fishnet stockings to work.

I asked her about the theme behind the dance. You know, one of those "how'd it feel out there" questions.

"Basically," she said cheerily, "the dance is about domination. He is trying to dominate me and I don't want to let him ... too much."

When I got back to the media table, I listened to my tape to make sure I hadn't flubbed my next question.

This is what I heard: "Humana-humana-humana."

Whew. For a second I was worried I had lost my cool.

It is a wonderful thing indeed to spend a cosy night with the all-female family watching athletic, superbly conditioned women as you gain points for being progressive.

Apparently, some figure skaters are gay. Whoa. Better stay away from that.

While I'm at it, I won't watch a movie, take in a play, and, just to be on the safe side, read a book.

Why is it okay to dismiss figure skating because you're uncomfortable with the sexual preferences of one group of athletes but not condemn the sometimes serial sexual practices of another?

Is skating a sport?

Well, can you do it?

Why is facing a 100 m.p.h. fastball courageous, but having your unprotected head whirled an inch above the ice just a trick?

Why is golf, in which a player has to navigate his own psyche as much as the course, laudable, but the crucible that is the long program somehow less so?

Why is it that 400-pound guys pulling off their shirts in sub-zero cold is kind of fun, but grandmothers knitting in the stands between skaters is a sure sign of the sport's illegitimacy?

Sure, no other sport has a kiss-and-cry zone, but is crying so bad?

Maurice Richard cried when they closed the Montreal Forum. Lou Gehrig cried when he told the world he was the luckiest man on earth. Wendel Clark cried when he retired.

Did that make them any less compelling and human?

Sports is sports.

There are no good or bad ones, no right ones or wrong ones, no legitimate ones and bona fide ones (aside from the Original Stars Hockey League, of course.)

And so I say to you, my name is Mike Ulmer and I love figure skating.

At least until hockey comes back.


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