May 12, 2013
A memory of the smell of smoke
Allow me to indulge in a personal digression (trust me, it's sort of relevant). Every child has thought about its future nuptials in one form or another, and I was certainly no exception. My dream was to get married in Givenchy haute couture after eloping to Cagnes-sur-Mer in France. Possibly more than a little inebriated, my partner and I will stumble into a small chapel, dragging along with us a random witness pulled off the street. After the kindly French priest officially pronounces us Spouse and Spouse, I will hold back the partner’s hair while he discreetly throws up behind the altar, a sign of True Love indeed. Dinner will be comprised of two bottles of Château d’Yquem (each bottle a vintage from our birth years), fresh seafood and a tarte au citron. After frolicking around the Côte d'Azur, we will return home, happy and bronzed. One month later, we will probably get divorced.
What was I trying to say there in that overlong, possibly TMI, digression? Simply put, I think I am prone to strongly responding to what is colloquially known as the "honeymoon stage" in multiple areas of life, not least of all figure skating. Exhibit A: Yuzuru Hanyu.
Last season, upon watching an exhibition version of his Romeo and Juliet long program at THE ICE, I became immediately infatuated with Yuzuru Hanyu's skating. I wrote multiple flowery paeans dedicated to his utter perfection on this very blog (here, here, and here). I resolved to construct for Mr. Hanyu an altar in the plum location right between my Stephane Lambiel and Michelle Kwan altars for convenient daily worship. I was ready to happily crown him a World, Olympic and Life champion. I still think his long program at the 2012 World Championships is one of the greatest performances of the current Olympic cycle. It was a heady experience not unlike spinning around in the Côte d'Azur in utter rapture like a character from a Terrence Malick movie.
But this season was different. To use the whole marriage analogy, it's now one week after returning home from the Côte d'Azur and I'm already thinking of raiding my offshore bank account(s) to hire a tough-as-nails attorney for the acrimonious legal battle ahead. Alas, for I did find Mr. Hanyu's skating....really, really dull this season. His short program was tolerable in a certain way (I could at least approve of its balance between complexity and attention to the music, even if it gave a certain 'trying too hard' vibe at times) but the long program was utterly forgettable--er, I meant, unforgiveable. Well, both, really:
Is it the fact that the program itself appears to be a clothesline for elements with some random-ass Important Transitions thrown in so that the judges will mistakenly construe them as good choreography or interpretation*? Or is it the straining music itself, which seems like a giant grindstone that Mr. Hanyu is fumbling around with instead of skating to? Or perhaps it's the fact that what I most loved about Mr. Hanyu last season--the incredible, impetuous abandon--seems to be somehow smothered and consequently the annoying wet noodle tendencies are now out in full force? May it's the strain of having asthma and doing two different types of quads and sticking both triple axels in combination in the back half of the program. Or it perhaps it's the shock of having to adjust to the frozen wasteland that is Canada. But whatever it is, I wish it were otherwise.
Don't get me wrong, I still think Yuzuru Hanyu is an incredibly talented skater and future World and Olympic champion material. But the honeymoon period is now officially OVER.
*in other words, CoP mediocrity writ large