On April 10 the U.S. Figure Skating Association (USFSA) sent a letter to Post sports editor George Solomon informing him that "Christine Brennan will no longer be afforded the media services normally offered to members of the media at USFSA events." The letter, which was signed by USFSA president Morry Stillwell and federation director Jerry Lace, charged that Brennan "no longer is reporting...on an impartial basis and has interjected her personal opinions into her coverage of the sport." It went on to say that the ban was "in the best interest of figure skating."
Brennan, who has covered skating and other Olympic sports for the Post since 1985 and whose recent book, Inside Edge, chronicles a season on the skating circuit, says no one from the federation ever warned her of an impending freeze-out. "I spent a year in their sport, in their world," she says. "I was in constant contact with Jerry and Morry and the rest of the federation, and there was never the hint of a problem." As for impartiality, says Brennan, "skating is a subjective sport. Anyone who writes about it expresses opinion."
What has the federation so riled up, however, may have less to do with opinion than with hard reporting. Brennan's book addresses such troubling issues in figure skating as AIDS, abusive parents and, of course, Tonya Harding, matters that the skating establishment would prefer to sweep under the ice. Yet with the sport exploding in popularity—last month's world championships drew higher TV ratings than every game of the NCAA men's basketball tournament except the final—it may no longer be possible for the powers-that-be to maintain skating's fairy-tale image. "This is a big-time sport now," says Brennan. "The federation has to realize that it's going to get big-time attention."
The Post has appealed the ban, but whether the USFSA relents or not, Brennan won't go away. "I'm going to cover next year's nationals in Nashville," she says, "even if I have to buy a ticket."
Birnam Wood to Dunsinane
Red Sox fans have suffered plenty of disappointment since 1975, but the sting of that year's World Series will never go away. Boston lost a seven-game heartwrencher to the Cincinnati Reds, the hometown team of current Red Sox third baseman Tim Naehring, who was eight at the time and rooted for the Reds. These days Naehring is helping to finance the construction of a scaled-down (to about 90%) replica of Fenway Park that will be used by high schools and youth leagues. Forgive the Boston faithful if they find Naehring's generous gesture somewhat traitorous: The mock Fenway is being built in Cincinnati.
How's My Driving?
Michael Andretti driving school for the blind, reads the latest T-shirt on the IndyCar circuit, IF YOU CAN'T PASS 'EM, HIT 'EM. Considering the slam-bang backgrounds of the most prominent drivers seen wearing the shirt, Robby Gordon and Paul Tracy, one might wonder whether they're dissing Andretti or celebrating their own alma mater. In any case, their message was vindicated last week when, for the second straight season, the IndyCar governing body, CART, put Andretti on probation for rough driving.
Gordon and Tracy debuted the T-shirts during the weekend of the most recent IndyCar race, the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 14. At that event Andretti was cited by CART for bumping the cars of Teo Fabi and Mauricio Gugelmin. Andretti has now, by one unofficial account, made contact with the cars of eight different competitors in four races this season. And while several of his shunts have been minor, his running into the back of Gugelmin's Reynard-Ford in the season-opening Grand Prix of Miami on March 3 and skidding into Tracy's Penske-Mercedes broadside at the IndyCar Australia in Surfers Paradise on March 17 were anything but. During his season-long probation, Andretti will be under even greater scrutiny by CART, which will likely suspend or fine him if he is deemed to have driven recklessly.
"I am not a bull in a china shop," Andretti said last week. Indeed, he's a talented racer driving overaggressively to compensate for his car, a 1996 Lola Ford, which is no longer competitive with the Honda-powered cars that have won all four races this season.
Andretti isn't the only one feeling frustrated. Other non-Honda drivers accustomed to being among the front-runners are now finishing back in the pack too, and they're growing irritable. After the Long Beach race Andretti's teammate, Christian Fittipaldi, grabbed rookie driver Greg Moore, whom he accused of crowding him, and was fined $5,000. Members of the Andretti-Fittipaldi team also got into a raucous postrace shouting match with guys from the Fabi-Gugelmin team, for which both teams were fined. And like all of those drivers, the testy T-shirt wearers Gordon and Tracy, powered by Ford and Mercedes, respectively, can't catch the Hondas.