City Desk

Cheap Seats Daily: Who’s Got the Longer Suspension, Kornheiser or the Whale?

seaworldThe Tony Kornheiser story gets bigger and bigger.

Kornheiser, in case you live under a rock or haven't gotten my email yet, was suspended for two weeks for calling Hannah Storm's hideous wardrobe hideous.

Last night, Andy Pollin of the "Sports Reporters" on Dan Snyder's sportstalker, WTEM, said that everybody has been asking him why he's not mentioned the Kornheiser debacle. Pollin said that he's avoided talking about the biggest sports media tale going because he worked beside Kornheiser for so long and he's been "good for my career."

"I'm not going to give you a perspective that's objective," Pollin said.

He sounded nice.


I hate to report that outside the Beltway, Tony Kornheiser's only got the second-biggest star-suspension story. Tillikum's got the top spot.

He's the featured killer whale at Sea World of Orlando. He was taken off the job yesterday after drowning one of his trainers.

The D.C.-based Humane Society (HSUS) was way in front of the killer Killer Whale story. The organization has been on the case of Tillikum for years.

Turns out the big fish is not only a triple human murderer, but Tillikum also denudes and brutalizes his victims. Much scarier, HSUS also reports that Tillikum's son tried to follow in dad's fin-steps.

(AFTER THE JUMP: What'd the little whale do? How can a whale keep his job after two murders? You compare Sea World and Michael Vick's backyard? Are Canadians also fans of the Penguins? Alex Ovechkin gets jeered and hurt? The Wiz lose? Did anybody show up?)

From a 2004 report from the Humane Society on the situation, written up after Tillikum's whale of a son, Ty, tried to drown his trainer at Sea World in San Antonio:

In 1991, a 11,000-pound orca named Tillikum, along with two female whales, drowned a young part-time trainer named Keltie Byrne at Sealand of the Pacific in Canada. The incident was hauntingly similar to Ky's attack in San Antonio: The earlier attack occurred in front a horrified audience, which watched helplessly as one of the killer whales grabbed Byrne in its mouth and dragged her around the pool, mostly underwater. The entire incident played out over several long minutes.

"The whales weren't trying to kill Byrne, but Tillikum and his orca companions didn't know that humans can't hold their breath as long as whales," says The HSUS's Rose.

Tillikum was later shipped to Sea World of Orlando where he would be implicated in another human death. A man, who had apparently stayed in the park after closing hours, jumped into Tillikum's tank in July 1999. He was found dead the next morning, naked and draped across the whale. The man's swim trunks were found in the water, and his body was scraped up, a sign that Tillikum had dragged him around the bottom and sides of the tank. (Tillikum, incidentally, is Ky's father.)

"What all these incidents tell us is what marine parks don't want you to know: captive killer whales are dangerous to people, even those who have worked with these animals for years and years," notes The HSUS's Rose. "In both episodes with Tillikum, the whale wasn't necessary trying to hurt the unintended victims, but his very size and behavior makes him a danger to people, even if the whale were just 'playing' with the people. Simply put, these are wild animals. Taming them is only an illusion; their natural behaviors will always pose a threat to the people foolish enough to interact with them."

If there's a way to get sent to the other side sorrier then "found naked and draped across the whale," I've not yet read about it.

The web page for Tillikum's show is still up on the Sea World site:

The sensational Shamu show. At the heart of every being lies a spirit of wonder. Feel it come to life in our most sensational show ever: Believe. A captivating and visually stunning Shamu show that will transport your heart to the edge of wonder.

Believe blends new killer whale behaviors with elaborate set pieces, state-of-the-art multimedia, music, and choreography. This inspirational new show also accentuates the close relationship SeaWorld trainers have with the killer whales, and will amaze you with a series of exciting new behaviours.

We now know that the behavior that ended up amazing Tillikum's fans — homicide — isn't new. Sea World has not announced how long Tillikum will be on the shelf for his third killing.

What's the difference between Sea World and Michael Vick's backyard again?


The Canadians are happy, and Alex Ovechkin's kinda hurt, after the 7-3 walloping the home team put on the Russians in Vancouver. Ovechkin, taunted by Canadian Penguins fans all game, took a puck to the hand and it went numb, reports the Washington Post. No news on how bad Ovechkin's wound is, but his team's out.


The Wizards lost to the Memphis Grizzlies at home. Is the magic over?

The crowd was announced at 11,000, but from the highlights looked like less than half that. The post-gunslinging marketing slogan the team now foists on its fans — "Character. Commitment. Connection." — apparently isn't working.

And why should it? Given the team they're asking folks to pay to see, a couple more honest catchphrases would be: "We Don't Know These Guys Either!" or "James Singleton Who? Al Thornton Who? Quinton Ross Who?"

"Connection?" Please.


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  • MTD

    I'm at a loss to understand why TK got suspended for his mildly tasteless comments, and why it's such a big story. On a scale of 1-to-10, objectively, weren't his comments about a 4?

  • Woodley Parker

    Um, Tillikum is a KILLER whale, emphasis on the word "killer."

  • Woody Hinkle

    I don't know -- maybe wild animals (including whales) weren't put here for our entertainment in shows in the first place . . . ya think?

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  • noodlez



  • Mark

    The whale is better looking and more intelligent than Tony Whineheiser.

  • Doug

    With Kornheiser, maybe it's just the karma. He's an unfunny hack who couldn't analyze football with an expert's script provided. You look on the discussion groups for virtually every NFL team, and he's always one of the least liked announcers. I don't know how he keeps getting jobs.

  • http://CityDesk TONY

    Why did those spineless moguls suspend Kornheiser but not that racist Mike Greenberg for calling Dr. King a Koon? That was a very strong message sent to the black community. Also, those racist moguls dared the likes of Mike Wilbon to write or talk about Greenberg's racist comments. Is Wilbon a closet homo?

  • Doug

    What happened to Dave McKenna? Why no posts for over a month?