THE TONYAPHILE FORTNIGHTLY COGITARIUM

By JOE HARAN

COME BACK, LITTLE TARA!
Dear Tara, please, somehow, come back to so-called "amateur" figure skating. Pray. Bribe. Extort. Do something. We miss you. Ever since you got all those medals and sped away into the night, we've had to put up with that boringly-slow non-athletic limp-wrist style of skating championed by the United States Figure Skating Association (USFSA) via its icon Michelle Kwan. I'm sorry--but she's got all the charisma and presence of that previous princess of the above-mentioned style, Nancy Kerrigan. You, Tara, were a breath of fresh air--like Tonya Harding was and still would be. Since the power-elite in "amateur" figure skating won't forgive Tonya the crime of having known a guy who financed an assault on a figure skater, you're our only hope for personality and presence on "amateur" ice. But you're not there. Of course, there's Sarah Hughes. She is far and away the best talent in "amateur" figure skating today. She's one of the very few in figure skating with an athlete's body--an actual figure, which is still considered a sin by the "pre-pubescent or at least skinny" school that dominates the USFSA. So as long as Kwan is being relentlessly pushed down our throats, Sarah doesn't stand a chance of getting the kind of preferential skid-greasing necessary for total success under the present system--the kind of treatment accorded skaters we could name (and have). You know what I mean, because you got that big-shot treatment yourself. Tonya was never so lucky, but I'm glad at least you benefited from a red-carpet maximum effort by the USFSA and its clone the United States Olympic Committee. After all, you went out and Skated! You didn't just swan around putting everyone to sleep. Now, you don't skate as good as Tonya. Nobody does. But you're terminally cute in that little-girl way the dirty old men in sports-governing bodies like. Since you haven't found a grown-up social life yet, the advertisers want you. And when they want you, there's nothing the "amateur" skating czars won't do to lavish high marks and non-competitive tournaments on you. Nicole Bobek was the obvious personality-and-presence heir to Tonya's real-life-gal title. But it turns out Nicole didn't lead the nun-like life skating bosses require, so now they're punishing her big-time. This whole business of not granting Nicole a bye to Nationals as she's injured too badly to give a maximum effort in Sectionals, was another blatant example of the mean-spirited mentality at the top of figure-skating power politics. The same bunch of dolts who gave a figure skater a bye to the Olympics, in spite of the fact she didn't so much as set a skate-blade on ice at the qualifying event, won't let Nicole go from Regionals to Nationals! (Say, maybe Nicole was injured by someone who worked for someone who knew someone who knew a figure skater! If so, maybe she can get a free ride to the Olympics or the Worlds or whatever by citing precedent.) Tara, I don't blame you for taking the money and running. The head guy here at PuppetLand--you know, the guy behind the curtain pulling the levers and turning the handles--has already pointed out the fact that turn-about is fair play: like the rest of the skaters, you weren't a real person as far as the big bosses were concerned; you were just another lowly athlete-commodity who was supposed to kiss their asses and have no life. So, I can understand why you've ridden off into the "amateur" sunset and left the high-and-mighty skating big-shots stuck with--Michelle Kwan, again. Are you stifling a yawn at the mere mention of that name, too, Tara? You've the potential for having a lot of "life" and personality when you get a bit older. So, had you stuck with "amateur" skating, you might have eventually forced a systemic return to actual three-dimensional real-world adults skating in "senior ladies" figure skating. That's what Tonya was doing. And, boy, were the big-shots glad to get rid of her before that idea caught on! So hang in there. Don't pay any attention to all those idiots who want to criticize you for understanding the system and beating it at its own game. The big-money gate-keepers won't let us see Tonya or Nicole skate--they're still being punished for thinking they had civil rights. So we're depending on you, Tara, to maintain a high-profile skating presence. With you we can stay awake. Comeback, please!
Sincerely, Joe