Dick Button, the great immoderator

THE BALTIMORE SUN

To: Dick Button, figure skating analyst, personal hero.

From: An old fan

Dick, you still know how to push our buttons. You've been called the Keith Jackson, John Madden or Simon Cowell of figure skating. No - you are the Dick Button of figure skating! And we have needed you in these tripping, feuding, underachieving, under-rating'ed Winter Games.

We go way back with you - back to the '88 Games, when you innocently commented on a pair of ice dancers: "That was an angry tango!" A classic Buttonism was born! And how about the '92 Olympics when you watched Russian gold medalist Victor Petrenko perform a triple-toe loop during an exhibition: "Put that thing away, Victor. Somebody tell Victor the competition is over."

So good were your Buttonisms that fans collected them on skating Web sites. Here are a few of your catch phrases, as posted in 2004 by a recreational skating newsgroup:

See how her back moves up and down, sorta like an oil rig.

That was very Paul Wylie.

That was a triple ... something.

I am aghast at the beauty of their performance.

Delicious! Judging by your performance in these Olympics, you have not lost your form. Early this month, when addressing how judges will score specific elements, we believe you set the tone for all the athletes when you said: "When in doubt, grab your foot and pull it over your head." That, as you know, can be applied to so many challenges in life.

Dick, we have enjoyed your critique of the fashions, notably figure skater Johnny Weir's swan costume with the 8,000 rhinestones. "You almost feel that you have been trapped in a windmill in the Metropolitan Opera costume department." Not bad, but we preferred this, re a Swiss skater's costume: "Looks like a distant family relative of my dining room curtains." Seacrest out!

You never suffered bad skating gladly, Dick. This week you seemed a bit crankier than usual. You've been criticizing some skaters for perhaps substituting technical skills for passion. "If you're going to sing the national anthem, you better be Whitney Houston and not Rosanne Barr."

As skating fans might know, a twizzle (Ice Dancing Regulations Rule 504, paragraph 14) is a traveling turn on one foot with one or more rotations. "There's no schnizzel in that fazizzle," you said the other night with disappointment. At 76, you're talking like Snoop Dogg!

You have also exhibited your trademark graciousness. After American Sasha Cohen edged her Russian rival in the short program, you offered: "There is no greater burden than having potential, and boy, that burden was lifted tonight."

Cohen skates today for a gold medal. We'll be listening, Dick. Just be yourself, just be the Dick Button we've come to know and love and fear. And when in doubt, just grab your foot and pull it over your head.

rob.hiaasen@baltsun.com

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