Monday, July 2, 2007

Battle of the Brians

I was rummaging around looking for a blank videotape so I could record some Food Channel for a friend when I found a tape from way back in 1988 that turned out to be pure gold.

The men's short and long programs from the Winter Olympics in Calgary! I have the real, unedited, absolutely fabulous Battle of the Brians on tape and I'm here to tell you it was every bit as wonderful as my memory has painted it over the years. A young Viktor Petrenko! Christopher Bowman pre (or was it post?) Betty Ford Center. The terrific Paul Wylie. Kurt Browning. (I'm hoping I dig up the Battle of the Carmens somewhere so I can watch Debi Thomas battle Katarina Witt for the Gold.)

I said it in 1988 and I'll say it again: Boitano's two performances at the 1988 Winter Olympics was the single best skating exhibition I'd ever seen to that point and today, 19 years later, it still is. I mean, I know how it all turns out and I was still on the edge of my seat. I still get goosebumps during the short program when he takes the "snow" from his skate blade and tosses it exuberantly over his shoulder. I still burst into tears when he finishes his long program and looks up toward heaven.

I still love Brian Boitano but I have to say Brian Orser was better than I remembered. I just now Googled him and found out he's coaching up in Canada. So hard to believe these beautiful young men are now in their forties. Where did the time go?

I know competitive figure skating is an imperfect beast. You'll never be able to separate the objective components from the subjective ones when it comes to judging. And God knows there will always be national biases to skew things. You can't help feeling a little extra something for the hometown guy but for me that quickly passes when the skaters hit the center of the ice. The lights dim. The music starts. The program begins and suddenly all that matters to me is the beauty and atheticism and downright artistry. I call it the Goosebump Factor. When it's good, it's good. It defies borders and boundaries, language and culture.

Which is why the Battle of the Brians at Calgary in 1988 was so special. It isn't often that a skater perfomers the skate of his (or her) life at the exact moment he needs to do it. (Remember Scotty Hamilton in 1984 and how disappointed he was to win the Gold with a less than stellar performance?) Brian Boitano gave the skate of his life that night and so did Brian Orser. Skating just doesn't get any better than that.

YIKES! I was typing up impressions on my Alphasmart while I watched the tape and cut-and-pasted them to this post! Talk about embarrassing. However, in the interest of honest reportage, I'll leave some of it intact. Be kind . . .

Can you imagine how it felt to be out there on the ice the cool air the way your muscles feel the sound of the blades on the ce the crowd the energy the lights I'll bet he wasn't aware of anythig but muscle memory and

ahis line was exquisite every movement balletic extensions the martial music the most amazig thing of all was the spread eagle the line of his body the angle breathtaking the midair splits

brian orser you could see it in his eyes after hi performance the elation that was in bb wasn't in orsers it was almost like he knew

what memories
debi thomas watching paul wylie christopher bowman whatever happened to christopher bowman

God love google. I'm going to go find out.


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