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Tuesday, February 12, 2002
Entering the Mo' Cry Zone

By Jim Caple
Page 2

Editor's Note: Page 2 has sent columnist Jim Caple to Salt Lake City to uncover the wild and wacky side of the Winter Olympic Games. For his first report, he came back a little wet.

SALT LAKE CITY -- There may not be crying in baseball, but there is so much crying in figure skating that it's practically a required element.

Skaters cry when they lose. They cry when the win. And, of course, they really cry when they're hit on the knee with a tire iron.

They cry so much and so often that there is even an official area for it at the skating rink. It's called the Kiss and Cry Zone. No, really. That's the actual name. You can find signs pointing the direction to the Kiss and Cry Zone in every ice arena at the major championships, and it's what you see all the time on television. It's called the Kiss and Cry Zone because that's where the skaters go after a routine to sit with their coach and, well, kiss and cry, while awaiting their marks on TV.

Actually, the Kiss and Cry Zone isn't quite right. A more accurate name would be the Kiss and Cry and Squirm and Have an Anxiety Attack in Full View of the Entire World During the Most Stressful Moment of Your Entire Life and God, Oh God, Oh, Please God, Let My Marks Be Good and Please Don't Let the Fat Cow Ukrainian Judge Be a Complete Communist Hag AND WILL YOU GET THAT FRIGGIN' CAMERA OUT OF MY FACE AND LEAVE ME IN PEACE, YOU DAMN VULTURES!!! Zone.

"You just try not to do anything stupid in front of the camera," U.S. skater John Zimmerman said, during the Olympic pairs finals Monday night. "And you make sure your hair looks good."

Jamie Sale and David Pelletier
As Canadian skaters Jamie Sale and David Pelletier demonstrate, no emotion is banned from the Kiss and Cry Zone.
The Kiss and Cry Zone has been part of figure skating as long as sequins and the music from "Swan Lake," but it really became an institution with TV coverage. TV loves the Kiss and Cry Zone, because it can capture all the most basic human emotions -- joy, sorrow, anger, jealousy and hatred -- without paying all that money to strand seven wretched, dysfunctional humans on an island in the South Pacific.

It's awful for the skaters, though. They sit there holding bouquets of flowers and clutching pink stuffed bunnies tossed by their adoring fans, squinting at the results board and delicately waving their fingers and blowing kisses to their families back home. Win or lose, when the marks finally appear on the board, tears stream down their faces, leaving behind dark streaks of mascara like a Goth girl begging for spare change on the street.

And if anything, the women are more emotional.

Anton Sikharulidze and Elena Berezhnaya
Russia's Anton Sikharulidze and Elena Berezhnaya pray that the judges will be kind.
Pennsylvania's South Fork Dam was said to be the world's largest earthen dam in 1889, holding 480 billion cubic feet of water. When it burst after torrential rains that May, it instantly released 4.5 billion cubic feet of water in the Great Johnstown Flood that wiped the city from the map and washed more than 2,200 people to their deaths.

The greatest single release of water, however, took place in the Kiss and Cry Zone, after Oksana Baiul won the gold medal at the 1994 Olympics.

Baiul sobbed so long and so loud that when the medals ceremony was delayed because Olympic officials couldn't find a recording of the Ukranian anthem, silver medalist Nancy (Why Me?) Kerrigan bitched that the holdup probably was Baiul reapplying her makeup, even though "I don't know why because she'll only start crying again."

I always thought Kerrigan was a bit of a whiner, but that was a classic, cutting remark.

The Kiss and Cry Zone is unique to figure skating. In no other sport are people instructed to sit in a chair where they can be put through an excruciating emotional and humiliating wringer. Other than when Bud Selig testifies before Congress, that is.

No, hockey has its penalty box, football has its sideline and baseball has its dugout, which would be more accurately described as a Scratch and Spit Zone. But no other sport has a Kiss and Cry Zone (though a night in Mike Tyson's hotel room might qualify).

Oksana Baiul
Oksana Baiul is a KACZ Hall of Famer.
That's a shame. Think about the extra drama more conventional sports could deliver if only they added Kiss and Cry Zones.

Imagine Bobby Knight, dressed in red sequins, leaving the bench to sit under the basket and hold the hand of a trembling Texas Tech player in emotional support, while a teammate steps to the line for a winning free throw.

Picture Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling walking off the mound and sitting behind the dugout together, waving to their parents, blowing kisses to their fans and holding hands, as they wait to see if Jay Bell can score on Luis Gonzalez's single.

Try to visualize Roger Clemens applying makeup and clutching a stuffed Winnie the Pooh, slowly plucking the bear's eyes out and tearing its head off while awaiting his pitching line in Game 4.

No, wait a minute. On second thought, I think we did see Clemens do that.

Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.