So Tonya Joins the Club 2/14/94


Personal Assistant
So, Tonya Joins the Club

By Tony Kornheiser
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, February 14, 1994; Page C1

LILLEHAMMER, Norway — Folding up like some cheap poncho-in-a-bag, the USOC surrendered the authority on The Tonya Harding Case in the middle of a chilled Norwegian night. Tonya's lawsuit scared them away like starlings scrambling off a telephone wire at the sound of a train whistle.
So, Tonya will skate.

And be a teammate of Nancy. And share the same ice at practice with Nancy. And be backstage with Nancy. (And by her very presence always remind Nancy of that day in Detroit when crumbums kneecapped her on orders from Tonya's ex-husband.) Oh, what a cozy little circle it is now.

Even if you've defended Tonya's right to skate, even if you've thought she was being denied due process, surely you can see how Nancy Kerrigan faces an unnerving double jeopardy.

First, she gets whacked by Tonya's crew, and later hears Tonya confess that she'd learned about the attack and kept mute — a crime large enough to get her booted off the team on moral grounds. The USOC postured about having the legal right to boot her, but did not. Then, within mere days of Tonya filing her $20 million lawsuit, they backed down. You have to go to Luray Caverns to find a comparable cave.

So now Kerrigan has to be confronted daily by her worst nightmare. Tonya is coming! Tonya is skating! Tonya is in the tunnel! Is there no sanctuary from Tonya? Kerrigan has had that frozen deer-in-the-headlights look all week; she already seemed emotionally brittle. Have we forgotten who the victim was in Detroit?

The USOC announced its deal with Tonya about 12:30 a.m. Sunday morning, Lillehammer time. Uh, good morning, Nancy. We didn't want to call last night because we were afraid to wake you. We've got great news: We're done with our long national nightmare — and, uh, oh yeah, Tonya's coming.

And why? Well, in the words of the USOC, all this Tonya Stuff caused "distractions to our athletes." Now the Games could be "distraction-free." Can you believe this? Who did they go to for that angle, the Football Coaches Association? (Excuse me, the threat of losing a $20 million lawsuit had nothing to with it?) You think the distractions are over? Where are you living, the moon? The Distraction is due to arrive here Wednesday.

Tonya's lawyers, picking canary feathers out of their teeth, concluded their victory statement with the classic: "It's time to put this matter behind all of us and focus on the Olympic Games."

Who says it's time?

You can't file a $20 million lawsuit on behalf of a client who has suddenly become so notorious that her face has been on the cover of every magazine from here to Uranus and then yell, "Cut! Print! That's a wrap!" Life doesn't stand still for lawyers.

We're all together and focused now?

All one big, happy family. All spins and grins on the ice.

So when does the hugging start?

On Friday, the first day Kerrigan practiced in Hamar, she drew a crowd of 200 reporters. On Saturday, she packed 2,000 into Lillehammer for a news conference. You think they jam sardines in tight in Norway? If they ever get Kerrigan and Harding together, they'll need Carnegie Hall.

Some partial scores:

Winner — CBS. They now have almost two weeks to promote the ladies figure skating final on Feb. 25. They're looking at the first 100 share in history. What are you going to watch, "Cooking With Nigel"?

Winner — Tonya Harding. She backed 'em all down. Talk about a tough cookie. She didn't hide under the bed. She went to the public skating rink in Oregon every day and practiced. You might not want her in your home, but you'd trade for her nerve.

Loser — USOC.

Loser — Nancy Kerrigan. On Saturday, when she declared, "I'm fine emotionally," she sounded like she was reciting the line from memory. At successive media opportunities, each time the name "Tonya" was mentioned, Kerrigan's lips pulled back involuntarily, almost in fright.

Loser — Every other Olympic athlete. Tommy Moe needed the gold medal in the downhill to get a headline. Tonya and Nancy are bigfooting the Games. The rest of the athletes may as well be invisible; they're fading into the gray-white Norwegian winter like ghosts.

Yes, I hear you say you are sick of this story already, but I don't believe you. I believe you feel that's the proper thing to say — but privately you are lapping it up like pudding.

Because it has everything that sells in America: It has a conflict of manners, a trash queen against a debutante. It has greed. It has violence. It has snarling lawyers. It has marital betrayal. It has scandal.

And here's the kicker: It's about chicks!

Oh, it's so '90s.

Tonya and Nancy are the most famous antagonists in the WHOLE WORLD now.

Forget Lincoln-Douglas. Forget Richard Kimble and Lt. Girard. Forget Sonny-Billy.

(Debbie-Liz? Yeah — boy am I dating myself.)

We're all part of the great hype machine now. Everything we write is headed for the supermarket checkout shelf. You can get on the bus, pal — or get under it.

In the next few days you will read more chapters from "The Golden Book Of Tonya And Nancy" (soon to be a major motion picture).

Chapter One — Weeping as she says goodbye to Connie Chung, Tonya departs the United States (going through a series of metal detectors) and boards a flight for Oslo. She sits in first class, and cries to Barbara Walters all across the Atlantic.

Chapter Two — Tonya arrives in Oslo (going through a series of metal detectors), where she is whisked away by limousine, and cries to Katie Couric all the way to Lillehammer.

Chapter Three — Citing "distractions," the USOC denies Tonya an opportunity to hold a news conference in which she had planned to call for peace in Bosnia. Tonya cries to Oprah all the way to Hamar.

Chapter Four — Tonya practices on the ice in Hamar (going through a series of metal detectors), and rushes over to give Nancy a big hug. Nancy recoils, and Tonya cries to Phyllis George all the way to her hotel.

Chapter Five — The American Family of Skaters (AFS) seeks assurances from the USOC to provide a food-taster, a car-starter and a series of metal detectors whenever Tonya is in their proximity. The USOC is unavailable, as they have their heads in herring holes, looking for vetter, the underground Norwegian folk people.

And on. And on. And on ...

© Copyright 1994 The Washington Post Company