In the late 1980s and into the early 1990s, Doug Mattis was a staple at the U.S. Championships, winning the junior men’s title in 1985, and skating in the final flight of the senior men’s free skate several times. An artistic sort, Mattis’s kryptonite was the triple Axel, which was fast becoming a required move to have any hope of standing on the podium.
“My triple axel was horrible,” Mattis said with a laugh. “I was training with Frank Carroll at the end of my eligible career, and his school of thought is that you have to have the numbers to put an element into your program. I was hitting one in about every 18 or 19, so I never put it in my programs.”
What Mattis did have was the ability to pull the crowd into his programs, as well as a one-footed back flip.
“At nationals in 1991, I skated last in the short program, and I skated a relatively clean program,” he recalled. “I did have a little issue with my combination spin, but I landed all of my jumps. I was used to being in the medal hunt after the short program, and then all of the sudden I was completely out of it. In the competition, there were only four clean short programs, and most of the other skaters missed two jumps. For example, (the 8th place finisher) fell on his triple Axel and popped his Lutz. I landed all of my jumps, got a standing ovation, and was in 14th place.
The next 24 hours gave Mattis time to think, and after a chance meeting on the concourse in the arena, he knew that it was time to move on from amateur skating.
“A man and his wife came up to me and said that they didn’t understand why I was placed so low, and how can an entire arena of people have a different opinion than the judges,” he remembered. “It was then that I knew it was time to move on, but it had nothing to do with the judges. I realized that the game had changed, and I realized that I just wanted to entertain.”
Mattis told himself that if he skated a clean program that day, he would throw in a back flip at the end of his program.
“I don’t know that I was being a rebel,” he said. “It was more about giving something to the audience.”
Mattis did skate clean, threw in the back flip, and earned one of the only standing ovations of the night. He finished in 13th place.
Throughout his career Mattis never kept his sexuality a secret, but was thrust into the gay spotlight in 1994 when he was invited to skate an exhibition at the Gay Games in New York City, which he considers to be one of the biggest honors of his career. A 1996 article in The Advocate solidified Mattis’s status as one of a handful of openly gay athletes.
“At the time (golfer) Muffin Spencer-Devlin and I were the only athletes who were willing to talk with the media about our sexuality,” Mattis recalled.
Mattis believes that being out never hindered his career as an athlete, but instead he believes that everything increased with his coming out.
“When I was younger, I thought about keeping my sexuality under my hat, but I didn’t want to disappoint my market,” Mattis said. “I was invited to skate in the Gay Games, be the Grand Marshall in Gay Pride parades, and was still getting work professionally. Being gay never adversely affected my career.”
Mattis is disappointed with the notion that figure skating being a gay sport has contributed to the decline of the popularity of the sport.
“If people think that viewers are going to turn the TV off because they think that the skaters are gay, they are crazy,” he said. “Most people assume that the male skaters are gay, and they still watch. It hasn’t hurt the sport one bit. If people think that figure skating being known as a gay sport is a bad thing, that’s just homophobic. There is nothing wrong with having lots of gays in the sport.”
When asked how he has celebrated Gay Pride month, Mattis jokingly responded with ‘leather pants’, but quickly corrected himself.
“My time on the dance floor is done. My partner, Terrence and I are inching closer to a decision to become parents,” he shared. “We are members of the Human Rights Campaign, and I have been keeping an eye on the New York decision. We have hosted some gay pride celebrations, but I prefer to keep my pride on the grassroots level at this point and work on the interpersonal level.”
|Doug Mattis shares a revealing while entertaining and touching, peek into his personal life. At the same time providing a glimpse of what is an online phenomenon, the blog. An easy read which will amuse to the point of out loud laughter. Doug weaves common points of emotional connection with most readers. (A sort of, the common sense of it, approach.) Mattis hits the highs and lows of several life experiences. Happily, most are of an enlightening and more entertaining value. However, the author does offer a personal side which brings some bite to the complete product. Oh and that "bite" is most enjoyed by the reader. Believe me, Mattis has the demonstrated literary skills to walk you up and down all paths dark and light.|