When I was interviewed for ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentary The Price of Gold, the memories of the events at the 1994 U.S. Figure Skating Championships quickly came back to life. It was my first “Nationals” as an accredited journalist for the magazine I recently launched. Little did I know that a plan was in the works that would forever change the sport of figure skating. That plan resulted in the attack on Nancy Kerrigan. For those who want to get a solid unbiased perspective on what happened during that time, I strongly suggest you watch the documentary. Director Nanette Burstein did a brilliant job presenting the story.
As I read the industry trades regularly I heard about a movie in development that was presenting the story as a black comedy. How do you make a black comedy around a planned attack? Why do you center it on the skater that was banned from the sport of figure skating due to either her knowledge of, actions, or some other involvement in this vicious attack on another skater?
The entertainment industry is littered with hypocrisy. I’m sure some producer was well aware of the tens of millions that were captivated then and how successful the ESPN documentary was. But just because there is a perceived market for something, doesn’t mean that it should be produced. This isn’t a story of fiction, this is one of fact. But the film that just came out two days ago not only makes a laughing stock of the sport, but elevates the perpetrator to the sympathy vote. Let me be clear, anyone who is anyone who follows the sport or works in it, has zero sympathy for her. There’s a reason why she was banned from the sport. I don’t care how many accolades, awards or positive reviews this film receives, it never should have been made.
Nancy Kerrigan is a friend. In addition to skating with her a bit on the same ice many years ago, I interviewed her many times. We really got to know each other when we were on Skating with Celebrities and flew back and forth between Los Angeles and Boston. She is probably not only one of the hardest working skaters I know, but one of the bravest.
Here is someone who was horribly attacked just because she was pursuing her dream to be the best. That’s what sport is all about. To be the best and to be honest in that pursuit. There are no shortcuts. There is no easy path. You attack the ice, not your competitor. You beat them on the podium, not on a knee.
When I think of what Nancy had to go through mentally and physically after that tragedy it still defies any sort of explanation. It was bravery bar none. It’s one thing to overcome a physical setback, it happens all time in sports. But to have it compounded with a planned attack on you so your adversary has a better chance to win, that person should never be allowed to shine again—particularly in a film that presents her sympathetically.
There are so many interesting true stories that could be told in figure skating. One has to ask, is this the only story the sport has to offer? I’ll confess I only watched the first hour of this “non-skating” film and clicked off the screener. Enough was enough.
The real story is about Nancy Kerrigan. How she steadfastly pulled herself together after the tragedy and went on to enjoy a successful skating career. At the end of the day she took to the ice in the rink, not in in the glass.
On Friday The Skating Club of Boston hosted Celebrating an Icon about “the life and extraordinary achievements” of Thomas J. McGinnis. Indeed, it was a night to remember.
When my friend, business partner and mentor passed away in July, many of us in the skating world and beyond were mourning in our own way. While I knew Tom’s life was filled with decades of accomplishments, he was relatively humble in what he achieved for himself while steadfastly promoting others. As the consummate coach, Tom was always imparting his knowledge and insight to those of us in his world.
Shortly after the invitation to attend the event, I was asked to announce and commentate. Of course, I was happy to oblige. I heard during the weeks leading up to the event who would be attending and generally what the evening would entail. There was going to be an on-ice tribute followed by a video presentation.
When I was practicing the script during the day, it was impossible to not be filled with emotion. I took a break and went into some of my archives and looked at old issues of the magazine that we used to publish. Seeing Tom’s name on the masthead and looking at select pictures of us at events I remember stopping to reflect on what those years were like. Tom loved the glamour of the sport, the stars that it created. Throughout our years of publication, I always strived to create a sense of glamour, particularly with the events we produced. He loved the reception we had in New York City when the magazine named The 25 Most Influential Names in Figure Skating.
But it was Friday night that brought us all home to celebrate Tom’s life and to share our memories. The skating world is like a family of many relatives, close and distant. But Friday marked a family reunion, one that Tom would have loved.
I know it was hard for many of us to keep our emotions in check on Friday. For me, there was a moment during the commentary when I almost lost it. The final performance was by coach Stephanie Cooke who was once a student of Tom’s. Before her performance she asked that I read her tribute to Tom. I didn’t make eye contact with her until the passage, “I hope to make him very proud.” When we looked at each other the emotion of the moment caught us both. I said to myself OMG she has to skate and I need to talk…get it together! I swear in that moment, I heard Tom say “breathe.” Of course I took his direction!
After the on-ice tribute we retreated upstairs to a video presentation (click this link to watch on YouTube). After the video many offered their personal stories of Tom throughout the years. They were all different, interesting and came from the heart. They painted a picture of someone who was larger than life. We were all proud to be part of his canvas.
The takeaway from the evening was obvious. All of us are now imparting Tom’s coaching and words of wisdom to others, as it should be. Tom left this world a better place, and we are all better off for knowing him.
My thanks to The Skating Club of Boston for producing Celebrating an Icon.
Thomas J. McGinnis