The Future...

(This essay was submitted by McFarlan. McFarlan had one of the first waterski blogs and focoused completly on show skiing. This was written completly by McFarlan and does not necesarally represent the opinions of the CRB or ODBF)

The Future Death of Showskiing – or how I learned to stop worrying and love to fall
Malcolm Forbes (of Forbes Magazine fame) said “Failure is success if we learn from it. “
The rest of the quote, lost in time somewhere, probably has to do with failure being the worst thing ever in life, and that you should give up what you are doing and consider reading a good book and collecting unemployment.
I am a fan of showskiing. I was when I took part in it, and have been in the many years since. The innovation, the skill, the crowds....all things that make this truly a family sport. Everyone can participate, from the eldest grandparent down to someone Mark Jackson would want to talk to. I would love to be coming to you today to give everyone words of encouragement about how, thanks to an NBC reality show about “Making the Ski Show”, there are now five-thousand new teams forming around the world, and barefoot pyramid ATB's are the new, hip thing.

Instead this is that long awkward silence in the doctors office after you ask “So I'm going to be Ok....right?”
Your Habits – What You Eat May Be Killing You (or damn, I love bacon)
Trying to keep everyone involved on a large team is tough. Show Directors I have spoken with have used many colorful phrases to describe, ahem, those that demand more than they deserve in the show. Bad Show Directors almost never have this problem, as they let the team rail-road them into something that, at one time, may have been a show, and now has turned into an Iggy Pop concert.
The worst habits in life are things that you do, over and over, that are bad for you, but you find yourself caught in the grips of the addiction. For some it is the bottle, others, abuse, or drugs...the list of vices is endless, from sex to bench to Miami. Break the habit to succeed.
Because so and so helps bring on a giant sponsor on the team, does that mean they are more likely to appear in an act over another person?
Five years ago at think tank you 'accidentally' spent the night in this persons hotel room, does that mean you cut them from every act out of spite? (oh, and I do apologize, I was drunk, and that kind of thing doesn't normally happen to me)
Make cuts. Tell people they can't ski if they really can't. Make them work harder in practice. Make them work harder at anything. I'm sure there are teams right now reading this and not understanding what I'm talking about. hint: If you do not actively hear people being told on your team to improve or else, you are either on a team that has this habit, or you are deaf.
The Numbers – Positive, Negative, and Dividing by Zero.
It all comes down to numbers, doesn't it. What is with all this 'Big Act' (one act show) nonsense. So you found a swiveler that can do a hand turn at 32, a doubles couple built like a tank, and a Pyramid that shows no fear. Throw in a barefooter and a jumper and you then.....take them on the far side of the show course away from the crowd.
Meh
Do it Texas style or go home. The act isn't as impressive as you think (or as it is judged) to be. Sure, as a one trick pony, they all are, but to the spectator, most of the time, it is too much to watch.


Texas style?

When planning a show, try to imagine your crowd as a whole has ADD. (no, I'm not making fun of persons with that disorder, as it is a terrible thing to have to deal with and a very difficult I wonder if the tuna salad in the fridge is still good. I should check that. Is Taco Bell open still? Hey, why am I wearing two different socks anyone with that condition has many things to deal with) Throw one thing at them, at a time, stage center. It will give the audience the best chance to enjoy it, the water the best chance to calm down, and give you great motivation to not fall, because falling is bad.


When building a house, if a frame isn't being held together very well, and something is askew, do you just hammer more nails into it until the whole darn thing works? No, you measure twice, cut once. Why do teams insist on ruining perfectly good acts by adding things to it that do not add to the act in any way, shape, or form. Now I'm not talking about swivel escorts (or escorts that have become swivelers or swivelers that weigh as much as Ford Escorts) because at least you have lines, you have ladies, you have matching costumes etc., I'm talking about the weird strap prefab everything ends up as a four high type stuff. Bring something new to the table. How would your jump act get scored if they came back as a four high? What about your ballet line? Do you see where I'm going with this?

As a gimmick, it worked. Once. Move on. By throwing all these pyramids at your audience, you are ruining the magic of the big final pyramid, especially by 'giving' all your building secrets away to the crowd. Do you know how amazing it is to someone who doesn't follow show skiing to see something like a four high come around the corner, and they have this look upon their face of “how in the heck did they do that???”.

All of you are taping the receipts to the Christmas Gifts on the outside of the box. Great. Now we know exactly how much you spent on us. Thanks for giving us that number. And with that number, you will now be judged. Make the simple stuff look easy and the easy stuff look difficult.
Does your average tourist know the difference between three three high pyramids a four high? Nope. But the Judges do. Little hint teams, Judges do not fill the hat at your home shows, buy ads in your program, or send their children to ski with you all summer long. Now I'm not saying everyone should pull a “Ski-pocolypse Now”, go all native, and show up next year with Disc and Chair acts and Paddles, but ask someone who has never seen a show ever at your next home show what act they thought was the most amazing. It probably will surprise you. Air Chairs man. Freakin' Air Chairs every time.

Do you know why it impresses the crowd. It happens stage center, it is flashy, it is a single thing going on in front of them, and the foil is silver and shiny. Have your sound person play the sound of jingling keys and you could probably make them all drool with the anticipation of fresh ground beef. I don't mean to get all Pavlov on you, but teamwork is also about letting everyone be a star for one brief moment, not about how many members of your team you can get onto the water.

Flow and the pace of the show is suffering because of the lack of this. Two minutes – big act – two minutes – big act – two minutes – big act is boring. I came to see skiing, not an announcer struggle to connect to the crowd. Stand up comedians don't stop their show for waterskiers, so waterskiers shouldn't stop their show for stand up comedians. Oh, and if you ARE a stand up comedian and you are announcing for a show team, boy, sucks to be you.

Up To Your Neck – And out of your minds

Most of you have participated in or have taught people to ski. Some of you have become showskiers because of those sessions. It is one of the greatest things showskiing does over any other sport in the world. We try to teach anyone anything. You won't find the beer vendor for the Vikings trying to work his way up to punt returner in football. It is awesome, high fives, and smiles all around when you get someone up, all shaky legged with that death grip on the handle and that sheer terror face. Wouldn't trade anything in the world for it. Then the person falls. You may have to remind them to raise their hand to indicate they are fine, but that is the way it goes.
For your average spectator, water skiing was something they may have tried once with people who couldn't teach them, or thought about trying, but knew they couldn't or figured they would fall. Some people fall quite a bit when learning to ski, learning to jump, or when they are swivelers. This is where I feel that showskiing has taken a turn for the worse. No, I'm not talking about swivelers, I'm referring to this culture of crashing.

NASCAR is the only event I can think of the compares to the last five years of showskiing I have witnessed. Has the lakes, rivers, streams and retention ponds we all ski in developed some awesome taste that we must drink from it to survive? I don't attend shows for the crashes.
Falling happens, and that goes back to the points above regarding cutting skiers and practice. The current interpretation of execution is “through the show course”. That isn't execution, that is only half the act.

I attended the circus a few months ago, and was amazed at the clean, tight performance. Now I know nothing of the circus, trapeze, cannons, or elephants, but not a single trapeze person hit the net. They do clean, simple grabs and releases, probably of the extent of no difficulty to the terrifyingly insane, but I wasn't one bit the wiser. I'm sure there is a circus judging contest, and I bet that they would call the act elementary at best, but I paid cash to see it, and pretty much that is all they are in it for. Putting on the greatest show they can for you to enjoy.

You could explain to your home crowd (at least those who haven't seen a show before) that the helicopter spin was the most frightening of jumps, as skiers have been known to become dizzy or have their helmets fly off in mid rotation, and killing flocks of geese, and they would oooooh and aaaaaaah. When your skier lands it cleanly, they will applaud and think that is amazing.

Why are you putting out large acts and only bringing half of them back? To the average person, it means only half of the people involved knew what they were doing. Think about it. Do you know what that person who attended that first day of “Learn To Ski” and your 48 person pyramid sucking brine down river have in common? Everything. Both are swimming, raising their hand, and a select few are taking that chance to go to the bathroom.

I do not want to get into what the judges are interpreting and what they should score, but if my opinion was asked (it wasn't) and my advise was taken (it won't) is that execution is everything that left the dock, came into shore to be introduced, unless doing so is utterly impossible. If half or more of the people fall, that isn't half of your execution points gone, that should be all. You didn't do anything. You swam. If you turned in before the tournament (act 12 – sixteen people fall of the dock and we have a single three tier that falls coming into shore over the ropes of the others) that would be the only way you would get any execution points. And this leads to my other issue...

Out Of Your Minds – And out of your hands

My only proposal in this entire essay I wish to be addressed seriously is this. Now it goes a little bit with execution, but only for this regard. In any act that is in an oval or has a corner involved, if more than half of the skiers (like say 10 or more) have fallen and the ropes are dragging (IE the number of ropes in the water are more than the skiers) the act should be released or everyone should let go. From a safety stand point, reaching down to pick up handles, large knots, crossing bundles of ropes, and tight corners, this has lead to injuries and falls. What exactly do you hope to accomplish with half of your people gone from the act to begin with? There is no salvaging a five high if over half are gone. Oh, I remember why you do it....
Rewarding poor half attempts with difficulty and execution points has led directly to this unsafe and dangerous tactic by teams to put something together to make the act work. It is one thing when one couple falls from the dock, but when you lose half the act, you have lost the act. Release it, make everyone let go, and move on.

If your team does not have resources to devote to picking up a mess like that, then keep the acts down to those that don't turn into messes like that. Imagine this last nationals if every team that lost half an act had to release them or make them all let go. And those acts got scored zero on execution and zero on difficulty. If you went to the circus and over half the trapeze artists fell, you would imagine they sucked eggs, correct? Well, I saw Nationals and....

I'm sure at this point eyes are rolling “What, release half the act if the ropes are dragging?” but seriously, think of the savings in regards to fuel, the risk of injury to skiers (letting go of the rope or a controlled fall of a pyramid is much nicer than crossing the waves with a bundle of bouncing handles in front of you), and the quality of the shows in general.

Teams won't slap those extra four high pyramids on the water if they are shaky, if they know the risk is that they will lose the whole act. This is a ski show folks. Making the simple look difficult, and the difficult look easy.

Everyone agrees the best ski shows are ones where you look at your watch and you can't believe the hour is up. The worst ski show is one that you look at your watch and wonder if they will get the ending pyramid picked up in time for the final dance.

(about the author – McFarlan used to do stuff, and now he doesn't, but if he did, he probably wouldn't do it with your team because you aren't the type of people he would associate himself with. He still has T-Shirts for sale http://www.cafepress.com/banswivel.28851057 but has yet to sell a single one.)

Comments

  1. I want the 1/2 hr back that I spent reading this crap... I always thought show skiing was all about super hit chicks. Anyway I got the t-shirt and will weat it proud.

    ReplyDelete
  2. haha, i figured all non showskiers would read this and then want to punch us all in the face. Save that for McFarlan and as I have no idea who he is you will have to find that out your self.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Anonymous9:55 PM

    I must say that I agree with McFarlane's opinions. I had the great task of being show director for our team this year. The main goal of every act was SUCCESS. If one person missed their start or fell along the way, the act failed! That's the way it is. I prefer lots of small quick acts to keep things moving and keep the audience interested. Put up the big pyramid at the end but first do a bunch of great skiing.

    ReplyDelete
  4. J Landers8:30 AM

    Mr. McFarland makes some points worth pondering (you do have to wade through some crap to get to it though). However in his discussion about "cutting skiers" and producing an absolutely "no fall show" he overlooks one aspect of the show clubs he is critiquing: we are amateur groups.

    Should we have standards? Sure, but to what extent? We recruit skiers of all abilities and work all summer to develop their skills. At some point they need to start skiing in shows. A new skier may be doing very well skiing an act during a practice session only to fall during the show. I think we all understand that when it is show time everything changes. How do skiers learn how to ski in the show? - By skiing in shows!

    McFarland also needs to consider that we have a lot of children involved. Along with these children come their non-skiing parents who will run the dock, sew costumes, ride in the pick up boat. To keep these families engaged the kids need to get into the show.

    The larger clubs can run the skier development programs to bring skiers up. Most of these include a junior show a couple of times a summer.

    However the smaller clubs may not have the resources to run separate programs for new skiers. In more than a few cases the entire club is a skier development program.

    The professional shows have try outs and performance objectives for every skier. They are able to do this as there are plenty of well developed skiers vying for positions in their shows. The amateur clubs produce these elite skiers.

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