Sunday, April 20, 2008

Tonya Harding: Capitalist Hero

Tonya Harding had a problem, and the problem was named Nancy Kerrigan. Harding probably believed that she was a better skater than Kerrigan, and it's hard to come up with an objective way to judge the matter, except to note that in the sport of figure skating, it's the judges' opinions on the matter that set the standards. And the judges loved Kerrigan.

Well, sure. Kerrigan was tall, pretty, with high cheekbones and a toothy smile. She gave off the aura of aristocracy that the hard-scrabble Harding so obviously lacked. It was the Ice Queen vs Trailer Trash, and, really, who was going to win that deal?

Harding could have concentrated on improving the product. She could, perhaps, have spent even more time practicing (perhaps by inventing the 28 hour day). She'd already increased the difficulty of her routines, by adding the triple axle to her skills, a risky procedure, of course, and a bad enough injury could have ended her career. Or she could have worked on her looks, taken charm lessons, and so forth. But really, nothing short of cosmetic surgery was going to raise her cheekbones, and wouldn't the press have gotten a lot of mileage out of that?

So Harding did what any proper CEO would have done with a difficult competitor. She conspired to have Nancy Kerrigan kneecapped. I mean, after all, when Microsoft was competing with Word Perfect, you don't think they put all their efforts into making Word better, do you? Sometimes corporations buy their competitors instead, but that option is not available to Olympic athletes.

But she got caught, so morality carried the day, right? Harding appeared on the covers of both Time and Newsweek, but that was because she'd been bad, bad, and the 400 members of the press who were jammed into the practice rink in Lillehammer, Norway were there to insure that everyone got the proper moral lesson. Besides, she placed 8th, while Kerrigan placed second, and it was Kerrigan who later benefited the most from the figure skating boom that the sensationalism kicked off.

Still, once a celebrity, always a celebrity, and Harding had an internet sex tape released (with stills appearing in Penthouse), then later turned to boxing, first on the Fox TV network Celebrity Boxing event against Clinton accuser, Paula Jones, then later professionally in a short career. She should probably have gone for pro wrestling, where the villains make more money.

A cautionary tale? Perhaps. But a lot of people made a lot of money off of Tonya Harding, and she herself had more notoriety and more of a career than 99% of Olympic athletes. That she never managed to rise far enough to transcend her origins is unsurprising. Few do.


black dog barking said...

You've got to be lucky, very very very good, and lucky again to challenge the Gods of Double Entry Accounting -- see the boy from Hope AR. Seems reasonable, if a tad unfair, that the faceless system has a bias towards inertia.

But is seems like failure should be equally easy for all to achieve. What force or aura protects the completely uninspired, unimaginative, unproductive (actually awesomely counterproductive) scion of the manor that is our current prez? I'd much rather have a beer with Tonya Harding. Probably a shot too.

James Killus said...

What force or aura protects the completely uninspired, unimaginative, unproductive (actually awesomely counterproductive) scion of the manor that is our current prez?

I've been guessing some form of necromancy, plus what you said in a previous post about sociopaths needing to manipulate other people's reality in order to make up for having no real center of their own.

black dog barking said...

plus what you said in a previous post about sociopaths…

More precisely, what I said *you* said about etc. I rifled through the archives a bit to find the source with no luck. What I remember is not much, just the gist and the nut -- the sociopath's disability renders him incapable of self evaluation, therefore reliant on the opinions of others. I'm pretty sure the remark was made in comments. I even went over to waagnfpn for a little archive sifting. Not much to go on.

Since I j'accused first I believe Internet Conflict Resolution Hierarchies relieve me of any further burden of proof or citation. I *know* the observation didn't originate with me. Can you prove you didn't write/say it? Next you'll be claiming you never called memory a liar and a thief.

James Killus said...

I'm entirely willing to claim the observation as my own, or, more accurately, "that guy" who so often puts words into my mouth, or onto my keyboard, and who is so much smarter and perceptive than I am, despite somehow sharing some part of my brain with me.

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