While they were going on I was working on the fishing boat in Alaska. Which was interesting because the boat was filled with people from around the world—Mexico, Vietnam, Slovakia, Eritrea, Canada—and they wanted to see how their home countries were doing. But while we were at sea for weeks at a time without seeing land, our entire connection to the rest of the planet was a single 8 1/2” x 11” piece of paper, a news digest received daily via some kind of wireless teletype. And that one sheet of paper had to fit all the news in the world. We passed it around on our breaks. Obviously, individual items were seriously truncated. And only so much was given over to coverage of the Olympics.
The big news story in the Olympics that year actually happened a number of weeks before it started: Figure skater Tonya Harding had hired someone to club fellow skater Nancy Kerrigan in the leg to force her out of the competition. We were already at sea when the attack happened and trying to figure out the details from reading a sentence or two in the daily teletype was surreal. It seemed like a mistake, that a figure skater had contracted a “hit man” to eliminate the competition. And Nancy Kerrigan was at that point already quite famous. You could tell that it was huge news because it was in this report every day, small disconnected details sprinkled in that only made the whole thing more bizarre and mysterious.
And then the Olympics started and at some point we learned that Kerrigan won a medal even after having her leg smashed with what I thought was a pipe. From the earlier tidbits I’d guessed that she had been crippled. I imagined people going crazy over this comeback story. My understanding is that they did.