USFSA doesn't want the buck to stop there

February 07, 1994|By Phil Jackman

Reading Time: Two Minutes.

You gotta love those wowsers over at the U.S. Figure Skating Association. This Tonya Harding business has been raging for what, two years, and the USFSA still doesn't feel it has enough testimony, information or whatever to make a decision despite the fact everyone but Lt. Columbo has investigated.

Instead, citing "reasonable grounds," it has called a disciplinary hearing against Harding, and the later the better.

What it all comes down to is this: The USFSA wants the U.S. Olympic Committee to play the heavy and ban her from competing in Lillehammer. Nobody has the guts to point out that through her complicity (not coming clean) in the wrongdoing, she is guilty enough to be zapped. A sure way to get a decision out of the association would have been to deny them the trip to Lillehammer unless they came up with a judgment.

Swimmer Eleanor Holm has to be laughing at this whole made-for-TV affair. She took a slug of champagne while aboard ship on the way to the Summer Olympics of 1936 in Berlin and the old despot Avery Brundage tossed her off the team without so much as a how-do-you-do.

* It certainly promises to be a banner year for the Miracle Mets of 1969 as the ballplayers from that club attempt to cash in on their exploits of that summer. Miracle of 1969 Enterprise Inc., was formed last fall and, in no time at all, signed up 21 firms to handle licensed products from key chains to clothing to diaper covers.

Already, however, the ex-players have found it necessary to file suit against a T-shirt firm, Garan Inc., arguing the company stole their idea to have a picture of the Mets on a shirt commemorating the 25th anniversary of the team's World Series victory over the Orioles. A commemorative T-shirt is a patentable idea?

* The world, at least that portion watching college hoops on the tube yesterday, learned just how important a professionally trained announcer is to a telecast. Billy Packer and Al McGuire, commentators, attempted to wing the Purdue-Iowa game without regular CBS play-by-play man Jim Nantz and it was a disaster. Packer introduced a commercial break by saying, "And Purdue is in the lead, 13-16."

* In the first 360 decisions rendered during the 20-year history of baseball arbitration, the owners "won" 200 times and the players and agents 160 times. But these figures are no more reliable than the following day's weather forecast given by your favorite meteorologist on the 11 o'clock news.

First off, management never gives the arbiter the figure it would really like to sign the player at, adding significantly to it in hopes of winning the case. So, in effect, the player always wins; it's just a matter of degree.

Then there's the situation where a player files and the team sweetens the pot sufficiently so that he signs and the case never gets to a hearing. Guys who filed for arbitration last year walked away with an average pay increase of 110 percent.

Back in the early days of arbitration, Bruce Sutter and the Cubs were at loggerheads when the man making the decision came down on the side of the relief pitcher. The man then thrust a pen and paper before Sutter and, in typical fan exuberation, requested an autograph.

* The Washington Capitals have been playing well since Jim Schoenfeld took the coaching spot behind the bench 12 days ago, winning four of six outings while playing improved defense. Still, against Montreal the other night, they looked like lambs being led to the abattoir.

One of the truest tests of how a team is performing in the NHL comes in a game against Les Canadiens, who always play solid, no-nonsense hockey even if they don't have great personnel. The Caps outshot the Habs, 12-3, in the first period, but trailed by a goal as Rick Tabaracci let in a soft goal. But the 4-0 blanking was predictable by mid-game as Washington slipped back into sloppy habits in its own end, giving Montreal far too many excellent opportunities to score.

Peter Bondra's five goals Saturday in the 6-3 win over Tampa Bay not only saved the weekend, the effort proved unique in that he scored four of them on successive shots over a period of four minutes and 12 seconds. Even Bill Mosienko never did that, although he did score a hat trick in 21 seconds.

* As former Olympian John Nabor said the other day, "All the commotion surrounding the Tonya Harding affair will probably cause us [TNT] to overlook some athletes we shouldn't at the Games, and that's unfortunate." But maybe not.

There hasn't been much publicity surrounding Brian Boitano's return to figure skating after winning gold in 1988 and turning pro a year later. But, lately at least, he's been skating flawlessly and, although not the favorite, it's hard to imagine defending champion Viktor Petrenko standing up to a Boitano on his feed.

The women skaters close out the Games on the last weekend and once the competition is under way, it doesn't seem likely that there will be daily dispatches out of Lillehammer concerning what Tonya knew and when she knew it.

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