Monday, April 9, 2007

Hey, watch the hair!

On ESPN 2 the other day, they were showing classic boxing matches. The one I caught was the epic second battle between Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini and Livingstone Bramble for the World Lightweight Championship. It brought to mind a flood of memories and observations.

Ray was probably the last of the great Italian American boxers. The great Italian American boxers all shared three common traits:

1. They had memorable nicknames (come on “Boom Boom” has got to be top 5 great monikers of all time).

2. Their mothers always sat ringside (and if they had passed, a photo of them would be placed ringside because “Mama is always watching.”)

3. Their defense was based on blocking punches with the brim of their nose.

Livingstone Bramble on the other hand was a bit of an oddity. He was a world champion boxer from Saint Kitts and Nevis, I think the first and last one. He was reportedly a practitioner of witchcraft, claimed he cut the head off a chicken to help prepare for fights, and carried a live snake with him into the ring..although I think he found Don King to be quite heavy.

The other unusual thing about Livingstone was his hair. He sported small, tightly wound braids all over his head. This might have been common for voodoo priests in the Caribbean, but not common in the world of pugilists.

His hair always stuck in my memory because of the controversy it caused in the Mancini fight. Mancini’s corner claimed after the first fight that Bramble’s hair was cutting Mancini. (I am not making this up) I am sure it was not the 300 or so punches that Livingstone administered to Mancini’s mug but the prickliness of his “do” that did Boom Boom in.

Never mind, that paper mache was thicker that Mancini's skin. He would start bleeding as soon as he crouched to enter the ring. The ding of the bell would open a cut over his left eye.

But I always wondered if there was some validity to this claim. So I decided I’d try an experiment to prove once and for all if Bramble’s hair shredded Mancini’s face like a grater to a block of mozzarella.

Since I am of Italian ancestry, I nominated myself to be the “guinea pig”. Of course, I offended myself when I called me a “guinea pig” because of the whole derogatory use of the word “guinea” to describe Italian Americans. After I calmed down and accepted my apology, I proceeded.

Next, I had to find someone with similar hair to Bramble’s. I searched high and low until I stumbled on the perfect hair. It turned out the sample hair belonged to Leticia, an 8-year-old girl that lives down the street. Not the perfect choice for my little experiment, but after I promised to teach her how to drive, she agreed to help.

To make things as accurate as possible, I rented out a boxing ring at the downtown gym. The owner was a bit concerned when I said I wanted to spar with an 8-year-old girl, but after I explained it fully, he was REALLY concerned and ran to call the cops. I knew the knots I used to tie him up would not last long (I was a lousy boy scout), so we wouldn’t have much time for the experiment. We put on the gloves and I urged her to come right at me, leading with her head.

I don’t remember much after that. When I came to in the squad car, I had several cuts all over my face, and both eyes we nearly swollen shut. The police officers were laughing so hard they nearly wrecked three times on the way to the station. One said, “That was the worse beating I’ve seen since Livingstone Bramble pummeled Ray Mancini.”

Through a nearly shut jaw, I uttered “So it wasn’t the hair. I knew it.”

I was vindicated. I suffered the same fate as “Boom Boom” and not because of any spiky hair. Granted his beating was at the hands of a professional boxer while mine was from an eight year old who is currently borrowing my car to go buy some “Hello Kitty” jewelry.

Next week ESPN classic is going to show the infamous Tyson- Holyfield ear-biting bout. You know, I was always skeptical that a man could bite off another man’s ear….

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Baseball Begins!

Baseball begins. Did you hear me? The baseball season is starting, aren’t you excited?

What’s that? Yes. It starts every year in April.

No it didn’t “just” end, it’s been something like 5 months since the last real games were played.

Well, you should care.

Because it’s “America’s pastime” that’s why.

No, surfing the web for porn is not America’s pastime. I am talking about sports okay.

No. Football should not be considered America’s pastime.

Because, they are just a bunch of steroid bloated Neanderthals.

Well, baseball players are not Neanderthals.

Hey, they do that all the time because they have to adjust their cup.

I don’t know why they don’t get form-fitting cups. I am not about to ask a guy how he protects his manhood. That’s a personal matter unique to every man.

Why, yes. I happen to be wearing a cup right now, what business is it of yours?

Yes, I had it molded to fit the particular contour of my groin.

Let's just say it's unusual and leave it at that, okay! Satisfied. But I am not going to agree that football should be “America’s pastime!”

Yes football is more “popular” if you consider being the most talked about, most covered, and highest rated programming on TV as popular. Sure football is more popular but that doesn’t make it “America’s pastime.”

Yes, more people follow Nascar.
And basketball.
And golf.
And poker.
But it’s more popular that hockey so there.

Baseball is our national pastime because it is a link to our past, as James Earl Jones put it in Field of Dreams, “It reminds us of all that once was good and it could be again..”

No, not like how Rev. Sharpton is linked to Strom Thurmond?!

Jeez, can’t you understand, baseball is a beautiful game. It combines extraordinary physical skill with mental aptitude to produce a game that explodes with thrilling action at every crack of the bat!

Yes, this happens once every 10 minutes in a typical game.

No, watching paint dry is not nearly as much fun as watching baseball.

Neither is watching grass grow.

Okay, I’ll make you a deal, the next time we go to a baseball game, I’ll watch the players and you watch the grass grow and we’ll see who has more fun. Let’s go next week okay?

You can’t because you are having root canal?

Ouch. Okay how about the following week?

Root canal again? And the week after that?

Oh my god, did you gargle with coke and chocolate syrup as a kid? How many root canals can you have?

How many games in a baseball season? Ummm lets see.. I think it’s 162.

You are going to have 162 root canals!

All right, I guess we’ll never get to share in the splendor that is America’s pastime.

Oh, I’m still going to surf the web for…hey come on, I was talking about baseball!