by | Nov 21, 2008 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

SALT LAKE CITY — But enough about the judges. Let’s get to the real issue in figure skating. The costumes.

Really. As a man, I can be silent no longer. If the women want to skate in flamenco red and baby-doll blue — fine. Who am I to complain? I stopped understanding women’s clothing when the miniskirt went maxi.

But watching my fellow males skate in leprechaun vests, tan boots, sequined belts and puffed sleeves that haven’t been seen in athletic competition since Sir Lancelot jousted King Arthur — well, that’s it.

I’m putting my skate down.

The other night, in the men’s short program, a guy named Dmitrenko from Ukraine actually came out in a beige body suit with blue orchids draped over his shoulder. And under the orchids were golden berries.

Are we skating or gathering the harvest?

The same guy, two nights later, no longer had flowers on his body. He had aluminum foil strips, at least eight of them. Someone help this man. He’s been attacked by leftovers.

A Bulgarian skater, for successive performances, wore a “Star Trek” outfit and a black shirt with what looked to be — and I’m not kidding here — a yellow bra painted across the chest. (We definitely need to send Bulgaria more aid.)

Meanwhile, an Australian skater donned blue sequins with a lacy puffed sleeve straight out of Victoria’s Secret. I know it’s a night event, but why wear a negligee?

Battling candy bars

I asked Christine Brennan, a journalist, author and figure skating expert, how these marvelously skilled athletes, like the leaping, twirling Russian Evgeny Plushenko, get roped into these outfits.

“Well,” she said, “the stuff Plushenko is wearing now is pretty tame.”

“Tame?” I said.

“Yeah. Not long ago, he was dressing like a candy wrapper.”

. . . (thump) . . .

Excuse me. I fainted.

A candy wrapper? Wait. Don’t tell me. Almond Joy? Because sometimes you feel like a nut?

“Not the outside, the inside part, the shiny aluminum part.”

Oh. Of course. The outside of a Milky Way is just so tacky.

Now, allegedly, a lot of thought goes into figure skating costumes. They are chosen months in advance, behind closed doors, in top secret meetings attended by only the coach, the skater and the French pairs judge. The goal is to choose outfits that match the music and the drama of the program’s moving message, that message being: “It’s fun to stay at the Y-M-C-A!”

Here’s what I want to know. At what point does a skater stand before the mirror with flowers on his shoulders and berries on his chest, and say: “Yeah, I’m ready to kick butt?”

Uniform overhaul needed

Now, it’s true. Figure skaters are not the only athletes to dress oddly. Baseball players wear those stupidly tight pants and high socks. Basketball players can hide a major appliance in their shorts. And track and field stars don’t actually wear clothes. They just paint a number on their chest.

Still, none of the above look as if they’re trying out for Cher’s “Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves” tour. And I’m not just talking the also-rans here.

Plushenko — the Russian with the straight blond mop — is one of the top skaters in the world. Yet he did his long program in a sequined tuxedo shirt, with a red-sequined bow tie and sequined gloves. Call me crazy. But when you have Rod Stewart’s hair and Helen Hunt’s face, do you really want Michael Jackson’s seamstress?

You know what I’m afraid of? I’m afraid they’re going to find out those judges didn’t put the Canadian pair second because of some Eastern bloc conspiracy. They did it because his vest was just so passe.

Which only proves my theory about figure skating: Hershey’s beats Reese’s.

By the way, Plushenko, with the sequined tuxedo shirt, actually won the silver medal. Sadly, he returned it the next day.

It clashed.

Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or albom@freepress.com.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

New book, The Little Liar, arrives November 14. Get the details »

Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

Subscribe for bonus content and giveaways!