Saturday, February 1, 2014

Documentary - The Price of Gold

Well, that really took me back.


I recently got a chance to view “The Price of Gold” on ESPN’s 30 for 30 film series. It documents the drama that took place during the Nancy Kerrigan-Tonya Harding scandal. Kerrigan declined to be interviewed (I think she interviewed for the NBC doc, which will be out later), but Harding was interviewed at length. The jist is that Harding still claims she’s innocent, but most people think she probably had something to do with Kerrigan’s injury.


This piece is less about the documentary itself, and more about transporting me back in time. This was the first 30 for 30 that I watched where I remembered a lot of the information from when I was a kid. Bo Jackson’s career? Nope. The Fab Five? Unfortunately, back then I just knew the nickname and that it was about Michigan basketball, not who they were (until the Chris Webber timeout) and that they almost won the national championship twice. Miami football? No. Ben Johnson? Wasn’t even born yet!


As a matter of fact, the Kerrigan/Harding story was one of the first sports stories that I can recall from my childhood. I was eight years old and wasn’t half as obsessed with the Olympics as I am now. (That obsession didn’t begin until 1996.) The knee-bonking took place in Detroit, which was about an hour away from where I lived. Therefore, the local news was just as obsessed about it as the national news was - at least, at the beginning.


I remember being very persuaded by the media’s portrayals of Kerrigan and Harding: Nancy Kerrigan was an ice princess who was very graceful and smiled a lot. Tonya Harding was the evil witch who would stop at nothing to get her way. I’m a little ashamed that I let myself be so persuaded. Of course, I was eight.


I also remember countless comedies and sketch shows using Kerrigan’s “WHYYYYYYYY?!?!” in their shows for years following the incident.


The documentary showed me that Harding’s life was very flawed at the beginning. She was a Daddy’s girl, and her mother was hard and not pleased with anything Tonya did. Her family was poor, and it was hard for her to raise the money to train and compete in figure skating. Her difficult early life led her to make poor choices later on - like marrying Jeff Gillooly and allowing his friends to manipulate her.


It made me sympathize with Harding a lot more, and reinforce my indignance of the media’s overhype of certain cultural events.

When NBC brings up the controversy and scandal surrounding Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding, remember that there’s always more to the story than we know.