Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Figure Skating in Perspective: It's Money, Money, Money

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Figure Skating in Perspective: It's Money, Money, Money

Article excerpt

Figure skating is like a dream, grace and beauty in slow motion, what the body could be if released from the everyday burdens of gravity. "Everything was beautiful at the ballet," three dancers with fractured childhoods sing in "A Chorus Line" of their refuge in toe shoes and tutus. That's what skating evokes, when the ice is silver-bright, the blades swift, the skater accomplished - a beautiful momentary release from the tatters of real life.

That is somewhat illusory, as any girl-child who has risen before dawn to practice compulsory figures day after day, year after year, can testify. Behind the glorious line of leg and upraised arm, behind double axels and triple-toe combinations, lie sweat, tears and pain. Behind it all, at the highest levels, lies that golden thing that has become all that glitters in much professional sport today. In the words of another musical number, this one from "Cabaret": money, money, money.

So why so shocked, sports fans, to find how far and how low the love of lucre can take competitive athletics? Why so shocked to discover that those allied with Tonya Harding's brilliant, bumpy skating career - and, some say, Tonya herself - were allegedly willing to do violence to her rival, Nancy Kerrigan, for a pot of gold at the end of the Olympic rainbow?

Get real. The statistics about top football, basketball and baseball players today are as often the sum total of their commercial endorsements and contract negotiations as they are batting averages or pass completions. Watch Wimbledon and it is like watching a collection of tiny moving billboards, corporate logos plastered on sleeves, wristbands, shorts. It has gotten so bad that Chris Evert, the champ who always knew the difference between competitive and cutthroat, said she was glad she was not playing tennis professionally today. "Wherever there's more money, there's going to be more downfall," she told New York Times reporter Robin Finn.

Jennifer Capriati, tennis whiz and teen-ager, didn't sell her adolescence for the thrill of that percussive sound of ball meeting racket. She spent the years between 13 and 17 in child labor on the pro circuit, earning more than $1 million. …

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