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Bad blood on the boil (cont'd)

Posted: Tuesday February 21, 2006 7:14PM; Updated: Wednesday February 22, 2006 11:44AM
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A minute later, Davis added, "It would have been nice if after the 1,000 Chad would have hugged me and shook my hand and congratulated me after I had hugged him and congratulated him after he won the 5,000."

At that, Davis walked out, but mumbled loud enough for those within earshot to hear, "I'm done. I've got nothing else to say. He shakes my hand when I lose. That's typical Chad."

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Left to fend for himself at the table, Hedrick repeated his displeasure about the way Davis handled the team pursuit event. "I felt betrayed in a way," he said. "Not only did he not participate, but he didn't even discuss it with me. I felt we blew a real chance for a gold medal."

Out in the hallway reporters circled Cherie Davis, Shani's outspoken mother who has become a lightning rod of sorts for anything to do with Shani. She wrote nasty e-mails to skaters, federation officials and reporters in his defense, even at times when perhaps there was nothing that needed defending.

She arrived incognito, wearing Dutch attire: a cap and jacket that said "Holland" on it. Reporters were blocked from speaking to her by larger men wearing Dutch curling shirts, one of whom had gained access to the press conference and had started razzing Hedrick before the moderator told him to leave.

Cherie invited one reporter, Bryan Burwell, a veteran journalist who writes for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, to speak with her solo. Afterward, Burwell shared one of her comments that she made in response to a question about the conflict between her and the U.S. Speedskating federation. Said Cherie Davis via Burwell, "I'm supposed to be crazy? It's my son. What's their motivation? If it wasn't for me, my son would be in the streets selling drugs."

Nearby, Bob Fenn, Davis' primary coach, struck up a conversation with a reporter while a woman who was with Fenn started mouthing the words "no reporters."

"You crazy?" she told Fenn later. "Don't give that story to the press."

How does one begin to digest this circus, at speedskating of all places? Remember Bonnie Blair talking about the docile crowds at skating 14 years ago? "Everybody knows everybody," she'd tell us. "We're all family. We're normal. Maybe that's why some people think we're boring."

Well, the tragicomedy has broken through normality's clouds. Really, NBC need not worry about reality shows on rival networks. They just need to follow the speedskaters.

Maybe time makes people forget. Maybe the pressure of training in monotony for so many years to do something so dynamic in so few minutes brings people to snap judgments and forces them to snap at one another. Maybe it's us, the Internet-blogging pot-stirrers who will gladly relay that Shani said this and Chad said that until we can blog anew.

Sadly, yes, this will help the sport regain some of the attention it has lost. War is on Page One of your local paper. Détente is on page 47.

This nonsense aside, there really is something to like about Davis, especially when the street-smart kid gets to be a kid. People around his old rink in the Chicago area rave about how other kids flock to him when he mentors them and plays with them at the rink, which is often.

Almost anyone who knows Hedrick says it's impossible to dislike him and his Texas charm. Hedrick insists now that "Shani and I never really talked. People were speculating we were great friends. We're competitors."

But someone should remind him about his comments to SI in November. Someone should put these two in a room and let them talk this out; not for us -- we feed off catfights like sharks on deadline -- but for themselves. If they would step back, they might see the quirks and guts that brought two neon lights into the colorless world of speedskating and they might be OK with each other.

But -- you crazy? -- don't give that story to the press.


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