Thursday, October 1, 2015

Our Top Ten Changes to Improve the World Cup

A Boston Blickbild Exclusive
A couple of days ago, Ski Racing magazine posted an article with its top 10 ways to improve the Alpine skiing World Cup. While Ski Racing's effort was noble, it turned out that we are ahead of them in suggesting how the World Cup can be more exciting for the fans. We polled our intrepid reporters and researchers to see what they would include as their top 10 improvements. Instead of our usual interview format, we will make a list. The list is not in any particular order. Let's find out what our staff had to say.
1. Parallel Slalom Races. The City Event races are a big hit with ski fans because they feature athletes competing head-to-head. Ski Racing magazine also agreed, because it said that there needs to be more parallel races in the World Cup. The team events at the World Championships, as well as the Nations Team Event at World Cup finals, get the biggest TV ratings. As we all know, TV ratings are as important to the FIS as athlete safety. However, we were ahead of Ski Racing in announcing this. Back in 2013 we announced that the FIS was planning to switch to a parallel racing format for all World Cup races. See this story from June 2013. We are sure that this will be a big hit with ski racing fans all over the world.

2. Compete on Different Continents. Ski Racing had a point that just about all of the World Cup races are in Europe. This needs to change. People in Asia, Australia, Africa, and South America also deserve their share of World Cup races. Fortunately, with every race being a parallel slalom, it is easy to bring World Cup races all over the globe. The FIS needs to build its audience, and this is the ideal way to do it. For areas which have no snow, like Dubai, races would be held indoors. Yes, there will be yearly races in Dubai. Every major sport has at least one tournament in Dubai and the World Cup should be no exception. One of the things that our staff proposed was to have races on a different continent each week. If Mikaela Shiffrin could compete in Levi jet lagged from 28 hours of travel, so can everyone else. Jet lag will also take away the advantage from European racers who can stay at home during the week and drive 30 minutes to the race venue. The playing field will be more even, and the races will therefore be more exciting. The first series of parallel races will take place on every continent except for Antarctica. See the article in the previous section for more details about where the races will be held.

3. Allow Fictional Countries to Compete in World Cup Races. The Freedonian Ski team of Mafia enforcers was allowed to compete at the Sochi Olympics because the International Olympic Committee wanted as many countries as possible at the Games. However, the FIS currently does not allow athletes from fictional countries to compete in its races. In order to generate fan interest, as many nations as possible should be allowed in World Cup races. It doesn't matter if they are real or not. Ski fans would love the novelty of a team of hobbits from the Shire being in a World Cup race. The FIS should also expand its membership to those from other planets and galaxies. Then fans can  find out if the Klingons or Romulans are better skiers than Earthlings.

4. Have Pro Teams and a Draft. Ski Racing's proposal was to have racers join pro teams that are sponsored by firms such as Red Bull. Back in 2013, we had an article that featured a new national team format. Countries, not firms, would draft all of the available ski racers. At the end of the season, racers can switch countries. For example, an athlete can compete for Germany one year, Austria the next, and Canada the year after that. However, this switch is not voluntary; the athletes are drafted by the various countries. Here are the details in this article from July 2013.

5. Let Men and Women Compete Against Each Other. Lindsey Vonn wanted to race against men in 2012 and was turned down by the FIS. Back in 2014, we came up with the ideal solution. There would still be men's and women's races in the World Cup. But the FIS would add a third category, which would be for transgender people or for racers who wanted to compete against the opposite sex. Women who wanted to race against men would get their wish, as would those who don't fit into the conventional FIS categories. Again, we were ahead of our time and what Ski Racing magazine would propose. Check out this article from 2014.

6. More Fan Interaction. The fans want to be able to interact with the athletes as much as possible. It is no longer enough to get their autographs or photos after a training session or a race. Ski Racing magazine had it right when it proposed ways to get the fans and racers together. It is hard to have seats on the finish line, but there can be ways for the fans and racers to interact. We have a few proposals. In Levi the race winners receive their very own reindeer. During the week before the race, fans can join the racers at a special Grillfest featuring reindeer steaks. At races in Norway, the Norwegian team can sponsor a competition between fans and racers to see who can eat the most ojlmsfjaegger. We're sure that Grandma Jansrud could provide the ojlmsfjaegger. Sweden could host the most interesting fan competition. Fans can join the athletes in a closed room, where a can of surstroemming is then opened. The athletes and fans would compete with each other to see who could last the longest. The possibilities are endless for finding new ways for the racers to be more accessible to their fans.

7. Change the Scoring System. In the current system of ski racing, the winner is the fastest one down the course. That was a good idea in 1966, when the World Cup was proposed. But that concept is so 20th century. The FIS needs to move with the times and take its cue from popular sports like gymnastics and figure skating. Those sports moved from a scoring system that was easy for fans to understand to one that requires a PhD in astrophysics to figure out. Ski racing needs to do the same thing. The concept of the fastest one to reach the finish line is too simple and needs to be replaced with a system that rewards both speed and artistic impression. This system would keep fans interested because every racer would  have to come down before a winner is announced. The race would not be over after the first 30 have come down like with the present system. The details of giving artistry points to ski racers are in this article from February 2013.

8. Parity. Ski Racing magazine had a good point about parity and trying to find a way for non-top-rated athletes,or those from different countries, to score points or get onto the podium. Its proposal was to flip the start order so that the top racers go later and have a handicap. That is a very good idea in theory. But there is a flaw. Athletes with high start numbers have been known to win races or get on the podium. Tina Maze won a race with a start number in the 50s. Carlo Janka was 2nd place in a race where he had start number 65. Our proposal for achieveing parity embraces the American ideals of fairness and equal opportunity. Everyone also has a chance to be a winner and earn a trophy. It is simple. Any athlete who won a race at a venue in the past is no longer eligible to compete for World Cup points there. But he or she can compete as a forerunner or as an exhibition racer. For example, Lindsey Vonn has won the Lake Louise downhill many times. She would no longer be eligible to compete in that race for World Cup points in order to give someone else an opportunity to win it. It would be the same for Ted Ligety in Soelden, Lara Gut in the Lake Louise Super-G, or Marcel Hirscher at the Garmisch GS. TV ratings, which are very important to the FIS, will go up because the race winner cannot automatically be predicted.

9. Crime and Punishment. Everyone loves to watch their favorite athletes giving their all on the race courses. But the other thing that everyone loves is watching their favorite athletes being taken down and punished. US American football fans rejoiced when Tom Brady was punished by the NFL for deflating footballs; and they were disappointed when his punishment was rescinded. Football (soccer to our North American readers) fans celebrated Luis Suarez's ban for biting an Italian player in the 2014 World Cup. What the World Cup needs are some good punishments that the fans can get behind. Fans need to celebrate the punishment of someone whose boots are 0.000001 mm too high. A simple disqualification is not enough anymore.  Fortunately, we came up with some great punishments back in 2013. We really are ahead of our time. Anyway, punishments like the pillory, mask of shame, losing World Cup points, fines, and working in an Austrian salt mine need to come to the World Cup. We talk about those punishments in this article from January 2013.

10. Guns. If World Cup ski racing wants to appeal to a US audience, it needs guns. They are more appealing than photos of racers in bikinis. Guns would also appeal to Europeans, since biathlon is a big sport there. Eurosport broadcasts many hours of biathlon, so it must be popular. Oh wait, Eurosport also shows hours and hours of snooker and darts. Back to the guns...Here is our proposal. While the athletes are doing their parallel slalom races, they will carry a gun and try to shoot each other. We know what you are thinking at this point. If all of the athletes shoot each other, there won't be any left. The FIS thought of that already. Instead of using real bullets, which could be fatal, the athletes would either carry paintball guns or use a laser tag system that recorded hits. The laser tag system seems to be more favorable because it is less messy and it would record the hits more accurately. Each athlete would get five shots. Every miss would carry a 0.10 second penalty. Ski racers would not only know how to race quickly down a course, they would have be able to hit a moving target while they are themselves moving. This makes ski cross seem tame by comparison.

Well, it looks like we have finished our top 10 list of improvements to the Alpine skiing World Cup. Hopefully the FIS will get new leadership with the courage to enact these. And that concludes another Boston Blickbild exclusive story.

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