Yesterday evening, I was shocked to receive an email from my childhood hero, the legendary figure skater and analyst Dick Button. He said he wanted to talk. This prompted me to reply: “Is this actually Dick Button?”
As I’ve written previously, the voice in my head sounds just like Dick Button. I spent years watching and re-watching him commentate figure skating events, cementing my expertise in the sport. But I digress. Dick Button is widely regarded as the best American figure skater of all time and the voice of figure skating. He is the only man to have won two Olympic gold medals in men’s figure skating, as well as the first man to complete a triple jump in competition. Button is a legend in my house, notably because of his consistent description of the double axel as “treacherous.”
In a conversation I can only describe as “life-changing, “Dick Button and I shot the breeze about the Olympics and his new book, “Push Dick’s Button.” As a commentator for ABC Sports, Button’s reputation was for an acerbic wit and unfiltered honesty. We had so much in common! For example, Button is not in Sochi. He is watching the Olympics from his home, much like me. He’s also live tweeting the events @pushdicksbutton (I also tweet during NBC coverage @newsbysamuels).
“I’ve never done twitter before, but I am loving it,” he gushed.
Here’s are some of the highlights from our chat:
Dick Button also thinks the” team figure skating” event was ridiculous.
“First of all, it wasn’t a team event,” Button told me. “It was a country event.”
A true team event, Button said, would be an event similar to competitions done in the United States and Canada before World War II. They were called “fours” and “eights,” in which teams of four or eight would be on the ice at the same time. It is essentially a pairs event, with jumps and lifts, but with more people on the ice. That might be a decent alternative.
Dick Button is also impressed with Russian jumping phenom, Julia Lipnitskaia, although he is worried about the state of the sport in general.
“She could become the first three time gold-medalist since Sonia Henie,” Button told me.
I gently suggested that she does not yet have the gold medal in her hands, particularly with South Korea’s Kim Yu-na still in the mix. But Kim, the most dominant skater since Michelle Kwan, isn’t perfect either. While Kim has pushed the women’s field technically, Button takes issue her lack of polish, particularly the way she doesn’t point her toes while she is stroking the ice. “The problem for me is she carries her free leg like it has a mallet on the bottom. It’s just clumpy.”
Skaters today! He worried that today’s top skaters lack the panache of the ones in past, especially because the new scoring system requires so many steps to be competitive.
He had two exceptions – the aging Russian Evgeni Plushenko, who Button said “has some wild shallowness, but I can’t take my eyes off him. Because he has pizzazz and he has theatre.” The other was Meryl Davis and Charlie White, the American ice dance couple vying to become the U.S’ first gold medalists in ice dance. “A very dramatic pair, loaded with theater.”
Then we also talked about his kids – he has two children approaching 40 – and had some fun talking about my love for Natalia Mishkutenok and Artur Dmitriev. He also shared that love. This should have come as no surprise to me that we shared this common. Dick Button is the voice inside my head.
We talked about a lot more, but we’ll save those tales for later in the Olympics. Here he is commentating one of the greatest performances of all time, Michelle Kwan’s long program at the 1998 U.S. Championships: