Harding adds spice to the ice

February 11, 1994|By Kevin Cowherd

It's a shame to see what has happened to poor Tonya Harding, now that she's been linked with Saddam Hussein.

Apparently, the CIA claims to have taped a phone conversation in which Ms. Harding says to the Iraqi leader: "Look, you do what you want. Me, I wouldn't move those Scud missiles one inch."

As the tape continues, Saddam is heard to ask how her workout at Skate-o-Rama went.

He then mentions his reluctance to pull Iraqi troops out of Kuwait.

"Well, I'd torch the wells before you go," Ms. Harding says, "but that's just me. And I tend to be a little hard-line about these things."

Let me say this: Even if the tape does exist, I don't think Tonya Harding meant anything by this.

In the first place, this was a few years ago, when she was a lot wilder than she is today.

Secondly, I think she was just having a little fun, blowing off a little steam.

Besides, she has enough problems being associated with this whole Nancy Kerrigan knee-bashing business.

If we're going to link her to every single little thing that's gone wrong in the last 10 years, the woman is never going to get any skating done.

The fact is, along with millions of other Americans, I'm looking forward to seeing her perform in Lillehammer, Norway.

Without Tonya Harding going up against Nancy Kerrigan, the Winter Olympics are nothing more than a lot of pale people named Sven and Grete running around in the snow and ice.

In other words, it's one big yawn. Let's face it, you see one luger, you've seen them all.

It's one nerdy-looking competitor in Spandex after another sledding down a hill on his or her back.

It's the same thing with most of the other so-called sports at these Games.

Cross-country skiing -- I'm sorry, but it doesn't do anything for me. It's like watching someone exercise on a Nordic Trac for 45 minutes, only it's outdoors.

You want to liven up the bobsled competition? Instead of sending one bobsled at a time down the run, send five of them.

One team pushes off real quick, then four more push off right behind them. Then we'll see what happens.

These German bobsledders, they talk a good game.

But let's see how they react midway through their run, when they happen to glance around and see the American No. 2 sled right on their tail at 90 mph.

I don't know . . . what kind of a sport is ice-dancing?

What kind of a sport calls for the competitors to not only hold hands, but to (I'm quoting here from a Winter Olympic rule book) "function as one intertwined unit"?

The biathlon has possibilities -- any time you have a weapon involved, there's a chance things could get interesting.

But as it stands now, competitors merely shoot at targets while they ski. When the start trying to pick people off rooftops or behind parked cars, that's when I'll get into it.

But figure skating -- now there's a sport.

Figure skating has what all great sports must have: the element of danger.

In figure skating, if you don't like your opponent, you don't sit there brooding about it.

You get on the phone and do something about it.

All it takes is one quick call -- "Uh, yeah, this is Jennifer. I'm, uh, not getting along with Danielle -- if you catch my drift."

And pretty soon some beefy character in a shabby raincoat with a tire iron in one pocket is following your opponent around from one rink to the next.

In fact, compared with figure skating, hockey is for sissies.

When things get rough in hockey, a player might ram his opponent into the boards or get in a fistfight.

Big deal. If you're a figure skater and the competition is heating up, you might actually put out a contract on your opponent.

Even if the job is bungled, the worst-case scenario is this: Someone whacks her on the knee, and she can't skate for a month.

Then there's this: If Tonya Harding is allowed to skate in Lillehammer, she'll be required to practice at the same sessions as Nancy Kerrigan.

This means the two of them will be skating side by side twice a day for 45 minutes even before the actual competition starts.

It's sort of like having Ali and Joe Frazier working out on the same speed bag.

I might skip the luge.

But I'm not missing that.

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