In voyeuristic cases, the trend is that there is no trend

January 14, 1994|By MIKE LITTWIN

You have heard the latest on Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan. These days, the news is not enough. Now we must discover the trend that drives the news. A Newsweek cover awaits.

Let's see. Tonya Harding's ex-husband and bodyguard hired a hit man, as alleged, to whack rival figure-skating queen Nancy Kerrigan's knee because:

* Greed, supposedly dead in the '80s, is making a comeback, starting with winter sports.

* There's something about skating on ice, as professional hockey surely proves, that provokes violent behavior.

* The world of figure skating has become so super-heated that the introduction of hit men to the sport was inevitable, meaning you may soon see big guys named Freddy the Weasel in a leotard.

You think I'm kidding, right? I'm not. A Reuters news service story yesterday included this observation:

"With the stakes so high -- one sports marketer put the potential value of a Kerrigan victory in the Olympics as high as $10 million in the first year -- some say such incidents were bound to surface.

" 'When you are talking about those kinds of numbers . . . [and] the very nature of sports competition as an all encompassing lifestyle, it can lead to these kinds of abuses,' said Robert Reich, a New York sports attorney."

These kinds of abuses? Bound to happen?

We were bound to read an alleged transcript of an alleged tape recording made by the alleged hit man who so botched the job that all he allegedly did was put Kerrigan in the hospital for three hours? (Heck, in the old days, when a guy broke somebody's leg, it stayed broke.)

Anyway, the transcript:

Q: "Why don't we just kill her?"

A: "We don't need to kill her. Let's just hit her in the knee."

This is not a trend story. This happened once. It won't happen again in the wide, wide world of sports. If the Houston Oilers try to "hit" Joe Montana, it's going to be on a football field, and the hitting will be done by a linebacker.

Why does everything have to be a trend story, from the Menendez brothers (child abuse) to the Cheerleader Mom (stage mothers)? I guess it's a way of justifying our interest in what are basically freak shows -- for instance, the Bobbitt case. They've tried a few spins on that one when the truth is the Bobbitts have nothing important to say about the relationship between men and women.

This is all about penises.

If Lorena Bobbitt had sliced off John Wayne's thumb, we'd have never heard of her.

The story is so big because it gives people license to the say the p-word. I was watching CNN the other night, and they said it seven times in 15 minutes. You could almost hear the giggling in the background.

The media have been covering the Bobbitt trial as if it were the Clarence Thomas hearings (which were about something). If you want a trend, try voyeurism. Of course, that's about as new as greed.

If the cops have it right, it appears that greed is the driving force in the Kerrigan-Harding story.

(I'm still trying to picture Harding skating in the Winter Olympics next month. Has anyone ever been booed at the Winter Olympics? How about knee-capped? One bit of advice. I don't think they should be roommates. Just my opinion.)

They've been trying to make this a trend story from the beginning.

First, it was about escalation of violence and the lack of a haven even for famous figure skaters. Then it was about celebrity fixation, in the Monica Seles tradition. One columnist even proposed that the attack suggested the all-too-familiar violent reaction of men toward successful and assertive women.

Actually, if the charges prove to be correct, there is a trend here. It's the old story of how pathological behavior leads inevitably to a movie of the week.

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