I hadn’t really been into the Winter Olympics this olympiad — I’m still not, really, although I watched the Men’s Snowboarding on a whim and was surprised to see that Shaun White was still competing, since that’s a name I actually know, and I haven’t followed extreme sports for some ten years.
Then I stumbled upon a fascinating article about Olympian Adam Rippon, and upon reading of the author’s love for watching figure skating as a youth, I myself was transported back to high school.
It was probably a Friday night. I was a Freshman in high school, and my Friday nights were always spent at home watching TV; alone, as my Mom played in a pool league at the bar down the street. This particular night, I was perched close to our 12″ color TV to watch the World Professional Figure Skating Championships (sponsored by Nutrasweet). I might even have pulled open the hide-a-bed so I could sit even closer.
Brian Boitano glided onto the ice, wearing a white poet shirt and black tights. I was entranced, mesmerized, for the next six minutes, as he performed his Artistic program to Music of the Night, from Phantom of the Opera.
Thinking back, that program may have been my introduction to Phantom. Later, I would buy the double-CD of the Original Broadway Cast and listen to it with headphones at full volume, swooning at Michael Crawford’s powerful tenor. (Did I mention that I was a choir geek?)
That night, though, the music was brand new, the lyrics poignant to me, and Boitano’s long, graceful lines complemented it perfectly. It was intense — possibly the most intensely emotional performance I’d watched at age 14 or 15, despite me having watched so much figure skating that I could tell a triple Salchow from a triple Axel. As a teen, I prided myself on my stoic nature, so being emotionally moved by a performance, and being OK with the emotion since there was no one there to witness it… the experience tattooed itself on my brain, despite being just another evening at home watching TV.
Epilogue: My memory of watching this program in this moment is clear and vivid… yet, when I went to look up what year Brian Boitano performed Music of the Night, it was actually the 1989 Championships — not 1990, when I would have been a Freshman. Being unable to find the TV listings archived anywhere, I can only assume that they replayed the Championships months later.