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Michelle Kwan has a new partner on ice: Dick Button

DIANE PUCIN / ON SPORTS MEDIA

The veteran skating star will team with skating's star voice for commentary on the world championships on NBC.

March 27, 2009|DIANE PUCIN | ON SPORTS MEDIA

Most of the coverage of the World Figure Skating Championships this week at Staples Center has been hidden away on the Oxygen Network where even the most ardent of fans have had trouble locating the broadcasts.

But finally, on Saturday for the women's finals, Channel 4 is taking the broadcast and bringing out the stars. In fact, the most-watched performers might not be the ones on the ice -- it might be venerable skating voice Dick Button and beloved skater Michelle Kwan, who is making her television commentating debut.

Bob Costas will be the main host of the prime-time show while Tom Hammond will call the play-by-play with Scott Hamilton, Sandra Bezic and Tracy Wilson as analysts and Andrea Joyce as reporter.

The pairing of the impish 79-year-old Button and the 28-year-old Kwan is inspired.

Button has always been eager to offer his opinions without any filter of sympathy for a skater's feelings.

"I speak my mind," Button said. "I don't criticize the person but I criticize the movement or where the edge of the skate is on a jump or whether a spin was lousy or not. What I say is not a compliment or a criticism. It's a statement of fact and is always intended to be a factual point of view."

Button said once that U.S. pairs skater Jason Dungjen called him after Button was particularly critical of a lift. "Jason called and said, 'Dick, tell us why you didn't like us. Tell us what we did wrong.' I loved that, I love to push people. Evgeni Plushenko, the great Russian skater, I criticized his spinning. He never said anything to me but two competitions later he came up to me and said, 'Mr. Button, are my spins any better?' He heard me and worked on them and that's the biggest compliment I can have."

Kwan, who has been a fixture at women's practices this week, taking notes and paying attention to the movements she will be expected to make observations about, said she was less likely to be critical. Her role, she said, was to explain her own on-ice experiences as a five-time world champion.

"I can give insights about the emotions I went through during a six-minute warmup, how intense the feelings are on the ice, how fast you're heart is beating. I think viewers will be interested in my personal experiences. I hope so. Because I'm not going to be like ['American Idol" critic] Simon Cowell. That's just not me."

And Kwan can't keep her little-girl admiration for Button from shining through. "I mean I just keep thinking, 'Michelle, you're going to be sitting next to Dick Button. Dick Button. That's just so cool.' He is figure skating," Kwan said.

A legend honoring a legend

Dick Enberg will receive the second annual Vin Scully Lifetime Achievement Award in Sports Broadcasting from WFUV Radio National Public Radio from Fordham May 6 at the Puck Building in New York City. There are a lot of awards handed out rather liberally in television and radio but this one is special according to Enberg. And according to sponsors of the award, Scully was quoted as saying "Oh my," in his reaction to Enberg receiving the award.

It is, of course, the perfect reaction, using Enberg's signature exclamation to a great play.

Good to watch today

Check out the Ducks, who are playing host to Edmonton and who are jockeying for playoff position on Prime Ticket at 7 p.m. But that's only for you die-hard hockey fans. The rest of you will be watching NCAA basketball. Channel 2 will have Arizona-Louisville at 4 p.m. and Gonzaga-North Carolina at 6:45 p.m.

Good to watch Saturday

Tiger Woods might be in contention at the PGA Arnold Palmer Invitational beginning at 11:30 a.m. on Channel 4 and even if he's not, as long as he makes the cut, it will be a chance to check out his pre-Masters form. NCAA tournament regional finals are at 1:30 and 4 on Channel 2. And if you're awake at dawn, it might be fun to check out a soccer World Cup qualifying match between Iran and Saudi Arabia on FSC at 7:30 a.m..

Good to watch Sunday

It's repetitious but it can't be helped. Two more NCAA men's regional finals beginning at 11 a.m. on Channel 2. And at 9 a.m. on ESPN, California will play Connecticut in an NCAA women's regional game. Connecticut is undefeated.

And the CBS show "60 Minutes" has a profile of LeBron James narrated by Steve Kroft between 7 and 8 p.m.

--

diane.pucin@latimes.com

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