Hockey as a Comparison

Hockey as a Comparison

Always being one to look for new ways to promote dancesport, I find it necessary to watch, and in some cases even participate in, other sports to see how they are promoted, played and why they attract such large audiences.  Only with a complete understanding of how the game appears to spectators can one fully appreciate the nuances and finer points that make some sports so popular.  At least that is the reason I give my wife for the time necessary to watch some sports and attempt to play others.  In addition, the occasional consumption of many glasses of ice cold beer should be tax deductible since they are integral part of being the consummate sport’s spectator, and therefore necessary for my work.  To get to the current sport of interest, I choose Hockey.

I write this while watching the final game leading to the awarding of the Stanley Cup.  This is a great big cup offered by a Lord Stanley, who must have been a big coffee drinker to have such a large cup lying around in the first place.  This, before he was put on one of those new fad diets and told to give up coffee and give his cup away.  I find this sport of particular interest since I live in Florida, and prior to this tournament only a few hundred people in the Tampa Bay area even knew there was a game where people ran around on ice, and they came down from Canada.  Here the only thing ice is used for is to cool off drinks, and keep food on hand for future consumption.  Now after winning a few games thousands upon thousands of people stand outside the arena watching the game on a big screen after paying for the privilege of standing in the heat instead of watching in the comfort of their own home.  People are upset that they were unable to buy tickets for hundreds of dollars from some scalper to watch a game they still don’t understand.  To help, I offer some comparisons.

First of all there are several similarities.  All the men wear numbers.  Granted they use smaller numbers than does dancesport.  This might be because hockey players can’t count that high, or it might be because the hockey league doesn’t worry about making it that easy for judges/umpires and/or statisticians and are more concerned with the audience and fans remembering their favorite athlete’s number.  Next they all wear special footwear.  Just like dancers, having your footwear come apart in the middle of an event will put you out for a while.  You wouldn’t expect a skate to come apart, but after seeing it happen, you have to have more sympathy for the girl who loses the heel.  After all they go backwards too.  Next they like to get close to each other; especially towards the outside of the rink, or next to the glass, as the experienced hockey fans know.  This corresponds to the closed contact required of our standard competitors who also like to use the outside of the floor.  I know, in hockey they are hugging other men, but who would have guessed that hockey would be more politically correct than dancing.

Outfits are also important in both sports.  Granted in hockey all the players on the same team wear the same colors, and in dancing all the men wear black and the corresponding team player (the partner) wears something entirely different.  This will most likely change.  Styles always change and retro is cool again.  In eons past it was considered appropriate for the man to wear an outfit to match his partner.  This was fine until it got to the point that men looked more like peacocks than partners.  Those that know me can only imagine a green cat-suit with gold epaulets and enough beading to furnish a Mardi Gras parade.  Wait before you laugh out loud, your time will come.

Now, to some of the differences, and I suspect that it may be these differences that have resulted in hockey’s popularity as opposed to dancesport.  Though both sports travel, dancesport requires all competitors to go the same way.  In hockey the flow goes back and forth and around and around, but rarely with everybody going the same way.  Imagine the contact if dancesport competitors were not bound by such tradition and rules.  Furthermore, in hockey such contact seems to be encouraged if not at least tolerated.  Dancing as a last man standing sport.  Reminds you of other sports that attract mass appeal, doesn’t it?

Another difference is the use of extra equipment.  I really can’t believe that the extra equipment, the hockey stick, and puck, add that much to the excitement, but just in case, to try it out maybe dancesport could add a very large rolling ball that dancers would have to avoid or suffer the consequences or some goal posts could be added that couples would have to pass through on each round of the floor.  The current power brokers of the sport have no problem adding senseless rule changes that benefit their particular constituency.  May be they will be ready to try some changes for the benefit of the audience.  Not likely.

In fact it is the simplicity of the sport that most spectators enjoy.  The puck goes in the little net, and you get a point.  Most people in Tampa still don’t know what “icing” or “off-sides” means.  They know their team put the puck in more than the other team, and are now trying to find a place to get enough coffee to fill the cup before they drive home.  Otherwise somebody else in a uniform may pick them up.  Dancesport would do well to look for ways to simplify their sport so spectators could play along.  Now all they can do is watch and wait for the elite to tell them what happened, but never, and I mean never ask why it happened.  In my meager estimation, this is the reason dancesport remains out of the mainstream.  It isn’t that hard to fix, but fixing it requires a new vision that would result in those in power losing control, and we know that will be harder than winning another cup.

Michael S. Reichenbach


Dance Week

July 16, 2004

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