From Chad Ochocinco and Dwight Howard to Johnny Weir: The Art of the Athlete

From Chad Ochocinco and Dwight Howard to Johnny Weir: The Art of the Athlete

SPOKANE, WA - JANUARY 24:  Johnny Weir skates during the exhibition gala at the US Figure Skating Championships at Spokane Arena on January 24, 2010 in Spokane, Washington.  (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images) Johnny Weir: Dressing like a member of metal band Kiss?
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty ImagesHUMOR — Ask a professional athlete how much he has trained since he was a boy, and he will likely tell you three hours per day, nearly every day for over a dozen years. 

Ask Chad Ochocinco if he has ever been fined and penalized $20,000 for uniform violations during a game.

Ask Terrell Owens if he has ever been fined or penalized for speaking ill of an organization in the NFL.

Ask Shaquille O’Neal if he has ever been penalized and fined $50,000 for disparaging the referees.

Ask Rajon Rondo if he has been told he is forbidden to wear the NBA logo upside down on his headband, or if practicing on Rollerblades has improved his game.

Ask Blake Griffin if he must choreograph any complex twists, moves and gestures for the NBA dunk contest.

Of course, the answers are a resounding “Yes!” to each of these questions.

If you were to ask Johnny Weir, the outrageous and flamboyant figure skater, if the same is true for him in his sport, he will tell you a resounding “Yes!”

Some sports fans will disdain Weir and his figure skating as not a sport like the ones Rondo, Ochocinco or Blake Griffin play.

84800690_crop_340x234 Dwight Howard in costume….
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

But professional sports have come to resemble figure skating.

Judgment is against criticizing the referees (and Weir openly criticized his judges).  Weir explained how the color of his costume—not the quality of his athletic endeavors—loses him contest after contest. He is punished openly for his attitude.

Players of all sports want to play with fierce emotion, but in the NBA, if you make gestures deemed outlandish, you may be fined or given a technical foul.  Players are forbidden to accessorize their uniforms, whether in the NFL, NBA or even MLB.

Ask Terry Francona, who was told that those sweatshirts were not appropriate fashion during a game.

So, when a friend suggested that I watch Johnny Weir’s documentary, “Pop Star on Ice,” I was more than a little surprised that Weir has faced many of the same sanctions, and worse yet, he may have lost competitions because jaded judges base their decisions wholly on his costumes, his hair color, his makeup and lighting, the colors he chose to wear and his demeanor!

Figure skating is not classic mano-a-mano combat, not strength against muscle. It has more art than most other athletic endeavors. Yet, who does not see art in a pitcher’s movement to pick off a runner? Don’t we see art in the graceful grab of a football in the end zone? How often do we admire the art in the smooth behind-the-back pass in basketball?

Shaq_crop_340x234 Shaqita, presumably Shaq in costume….

Heaven help us, there is even art in Dwight Howard’s sculpted muscles.

Perhaps Weir ought to skate to Queen’s “We Are the Champions” and dress like a member of Kiss.

Would that make figure skating an acceptable sport to young sports fans who would not be caught dead watching a double axle?  I rather doubt it.

To be honest, after watching “Pop Star on Ice,” no longer can I see a big difference between figure skating and other professional sports where you work your tail off for a decade or two. You compete fiercely at every matchup, and you work with trainers to keep in shape and extend your professional career. Johnny Weir showed me all of that in “Pop Star on Ice.”

It’s the mark of a true athlete.


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