You wonder if she ever really knew the name of the school. Or were the initials, UCLA, more than enough? Did she get confused sometimes with the initials of that other school on the other side of town, USC? Did she ever say, "I love playing for USC," by mistake? Easy enough to do for an out-of-towner. Maybe she just took the easy route, using the nickname, Bruins. "I love playing for the Bruins." Easy enough.
(This is the strange case of softball star Tanya Harding, not to be confused with the strange case of ice skating star Tonya Harding. Tanya—not Tonya—is the 23-year-old pitcher who led the Lady Bruins to the NCAA championship at the end of May. She was overpowering in the tournament, pitching and winning all four of UCLA's games, with an 0.75 ERA. She also batted .500 with six RBIs and won the MVP award.)
You wonder if she knew the names of her teammates. Not the nicknames, the real names. Did she know their hometowns and favorite colors and pet peeves and secret ambitions? Did she refer to teammates with phrases like "the second baseman" or "the one with the ponytail" or "the funny one"?
(Tanya—not Tonya—did not arrive at UCLA until March 22. She came from Australia, where she had been a sensation on the national team. The Bruins already had played 20 games in a 56-game regular season, but she jumped directly into a starring role. She finished with a 17-1 record, including the four tournament wins. Two days after the final game she dropped out of school, registering incompletes in her three classes. She returned to Australia with no college credits but with one trophy.)
You wonder if she ever went to the library. Just once. You wonder if she ever saw the library. How about the bookstore? Did she ever buy a book? Just one? Did she ever buy a notebook? Did she ever take a note? Did she ever take a test? If so...why?
(The total stay at UCLA for Tanya—not Tonya—was 10 weeks. Her whirlwind athletic/academic career has created a large buzz in women's intercollegiate sports. Are women heading down the same trail of overemphasis that men have followed for so long? To those who answer that question in the affirmative, Tanya is portrayed as an athletic Hessian, a mercenary brought to UCLA to secure a championship, no matter what.)
You wonder if she thought about joining a sorority. You wonder if she followed the travails of the student government. Was she excited when the UCLA men won the NCAA basketball tournament? She was there for that. Barely. Did she ever learn her way around Westwood?
( UCLA director of women's athletics Judith Holland insists that the Bruins did nothing wrong. She says that Tanya—not Tonya—was eligible under NCAA rules, which she was. Holland says that Harding will be allowed to take final exams when she returns to the U.S. in the summer with the Australian national team. UCLA officials even say they are petitioning to have her granted one more year of eligibility. No one seems to mention moral right or moral wrong or academic hypocrisy.)
Ten weeks. You wonder if she even brought more than one suitcase with her. Did she simply buy her clothes here? You wonder if she bothered to decorate her apartment. A poster of Australia on the wall, perhaps? Mel Gibson? You wonder if she had dates, time to establish relationships. You wonder if she had conversations that went any deeper than "Hey, batter, hey, batter" and "Let's get two."
The jurors in the O.J. Simpson trial have been sequestered for almost twice as long as she was a student. The movies in the theaters haven't even changed much. She was a one-season phenom in more ways than one. She never even saw a football game. Ten weeks. She had just about enough time to order a telephone or sign up for a credit card. She surely didn't have time to learn the UCLA fight song. Or did she even know there was a fight song? Ten weeks.