by | Nov 21, 2008 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

LILLEHAMMER, Norway — Things are getting crazy here in the emergency ward of the Media Hospital.

“Doctor! Doctor!” a nurse screams. “This man is critical!”

“What’s the problem?” I ask.

“He was shoved by a reporter and swallowed his camera.”

“Mmmph . . . rnhmmph . . . smthtzyrt . . . yreez!”

“What’s he saying?”

“He says whatever you do, save the film. He’s got a shot of Tonya Harding sneezing.”

Before I can react, a man from “Inside Edition” offers me $1,000 for the tape of Tonya sneezing — $1,500 if I wipe it off first.

“Doctor! Doctor! Over here!”

I see a man with tire marks on his face.

“He was hiding under Nancy Kerrigan’s van.”

Before I can react, a reporter from “A Current Affair” offers me $2,000 to photograph the tire mark — $2,500 if I hold the man down while he shoots.

What can I say? It’s been like this from the moment Tonya and Nancy practiced Thursday in — hold your breath now — the SAME PLACE! Breathing the

SAME AIR! Wow! You want to talk about your major news stories, your Middle East peace accords, your moon walks, your Lorena Bobbitt trials? Ha! Get outta here with that baby stuff.

This is the BIG KAHUNA! True, the skaters didn’t actually speak, or even acknowledge each other. But never you mind. Hundreds of hardworking media folk were there, in an area the size of a laundry room, hanging from rafters, their faces turning blue, just in case Tonya did something typical, like light a match on her teeth, or Nancy did something atypical, like utter an original thought.

Nancy and Tonya? Together? In one place?

No wonder the ward is packed.

“Help me, Doctor, help me,” a woman cries, rolling past on a gurney.

A cellular phone is rammed into her ear.

“It’s worse than you think,” she says. “The circuits have been busy for hours!” Reporter desperate for a Harding update

Of course, today is not our first heavy workload. We’ve been packed from Day 1 of the XVII Nancy-Tonya Olympics, and we are running out of essential supplies, such as British tabloid photos. Thank goodness for our funding, which comes from two very generous school photographers, who sold Tonya’s prom

pictures to “Hard Copy” and now own a villa in the Bahamas.

“Doc! Doc! Help me, Doc! I’m hurtin’ . . . “

Hmm. Eyes glazed. Complexion pale. He is suffering from skatus interruptus. This occurs when a reporter goes three and sometimes four whole minutes without a Tonya-Nancy update. He needs a fix.

“Tonya and Jeff . . . ” he mumbles, ” . . . Nancy and Sluggo . . . “

“Nurse, quick. Tell him something.”

She leans over and whispers in his ear: “The rumor is Tonya will skate in her wedding dress and do a striptease for her short program.”

The man perks up, starts breathing normally and races out the door.
“Thanks, Doc!” he yells. “Hey, guys! Wait up!”

Yes, sir, that’s the kind of expert care we administer here. Sometimes, a man’s life — or worse, his deadline — can depend on our quick diagnosis. Naturally, we employ only the most professional staff, each of them trained to recognize symptoms. For example:


Treatment: Adjust lens to “zoom.”


Treatment: See which one matches the media credential, dispose of the other.


Treatment: Nothing. This is clearly a Norwegian, who, quite frankly, has a lot of nerve taking up space in a hospital when we have some really sick people here. Can’t get enough of hot story

“Doctor! Over here!”

Uh-oh. Here come 17 Japanese photographers, their heads bowed. I bow as well, showing respect. When I rise, they are still bent over.

“They’re stuck,” the nurse says. “They’re photographers, and they’ve been walking around with those nine-foot lenses on their necks.”

We distribute 17 Brownie cameras — the kind you can look through from above — and send them on their way. They shuffle out, still looking at their feet, and thank us profusely.

But we are not here for thanks. We are here because we believe that the world can never get enough Nancy-Tonya, at least until the Jackson Family TV Show. And so we heal the black eyes, the bite marks and the gunshot wounds you get when two reporters clash over a hot story, such as the color of Nancy’s leotard.

“Doctor, quick!” the nurse says, pulling in a confused- looking scribe.
“We found this man at a speedskating event, taking notes!”

“Sedate him quickly, and show him six hours of Connie Chung.”

“Yes, sir.”

Oh, the horror! Oh, the humanity! Please. If you have even a shred of human kindness, give what you can to our nearest fund-raising office.

Tonya is having a press conference today.

We expect heavy casualties.


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Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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