OTHER than their common Portland, Ore., base, figure skater Tonya Harding and Nike Inc. might seem an odd couple. Certainly, many people may wonder why the shoe and apparel giant would suddenly offer to contribute $25,000 to help Harding fight the US Olympic Committee, should it attempt to remove her from the US team before a possible day in court.
Jeff Gillooly has implicated Harding, his ex-wife, in a plot to injure Harding's chief American skating rival, Nancy Kerrigan. Nike's interest may simply be to see justice served. But it wouldn't be surprising to see questions raised about other possible motivations. After all, Kerrigan is a Reebok client, and Reebok is a major competitor of Nike's. Could a corporate battle be brewing here?
Nike and the US Olympic team were at odds two years ago in Barcelona, when Nike clients Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, and others balked at wearing the official US team Reebok warm-ups during the basketball medal award ceremonies. The disagreement was resolved when the Nike-affiliated players rolled back their collars to obscure the Reebok logo. `Double' award winners
RUNNING back Emmitt Smith, who sat out the first two games of the season because of a contract dispute, scored an unprecedented ``double'' as the Most Valuable Player in Sunday's Super Bowl as well as the National Football League's regular season.
Less than 24 hours after leaving the field following Dallas's 30 to 13 victory over Buffalo in Atlanta, and after only one hour of sleep, Smith visited Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom in his native Florida for what has become a post-Super Bowl commercial tradition. ``I always wanted to be the one to say, `I want to go to Disney World,' '' says Smith, who grew up in Pensacola and played at the University of Florida.
Smith wasn't the only Dallas runner to complete a ``double'' during Super Bowl week. Tony Dorsett, a Cowboys star from 1977 to 1987, also gained a second honor with the announcement that he had been elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, only two weeks after his selection to the College Football Hall of Fame in Kings Mill, Ohio. Interestingly, Dorsett, who attended the University of Pittsburgh, will enter both shrines along with former Cowboy defensive lineman Randy White, whose college career was spent at the University of Maryland.
Pat Harmon, the historian of the college hall and a voter in both elections, says he thinks this is the first time anyone has been named to the college and professional halls simultaneously. Ten years must pass since a player's last college season to be eligible for the college hall, five years for the professional hall.
Dorsett's belated election to the college shrine has occurred nearly a decade after he became eligible, an inexplicable development, Harmon acknowledges, given that Dorsett was a three-time All-American, a Heisman Trophy winner, and still holds the record for career rushing yards (6,082). Touching other bases
* One of drawbacks to being a sports legend is the fawning way people treat you and their willingness to ignore serious behavioral flaws. This, apparently, is a factor in Mickey Mantle's drinking problem, which columnist George Vecsey so insightfully addressed in last Sunday's New York Times. Mantle has checked himself into the Betty Ford Center, a rehabilitation clinic, after what Vecsey describes as four decades in which people let Mantle know he could get away with anything ``because he was the Mick.''
* Making roster cuts is a distasteful task for any coach, and it certainly must have been an especially wrenching one for United States Olympic hockey coach Tim Taylor this week. To pare the squad down to the required size before the Feb. 11 deadline, Taylor has dropped forward Chris Ferraro, whose twin brother Peter, a defenseman, is on the team.
The decision was also tough because Chris had played in 48 games for Team USA in the run-up to the Olympics. Darby Hendrickson, who is four inches taller and 20 pounds heavier than Ferraro, parlayed his scoring and penalty-killing abilities into a place on the team.