Hermann Hates SPORTS
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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Wed, 28 Jan 98 00:46:18 -0800
Subject: Hermann Hates SPORTS
Forwarded-by: "Keith E. Sullivan" <KSullivan@worldnet.att.net>
Serious sport has nothing to do with fair play. It is bound up with
hatred, jealousy, boastfulness, and disregard of all the rules.
Hermann Hates SPORTS
--this oughta get me suspended for at least three columns--
Copyright 1997 by Andrew Hermann
Well, it's official. Mike Tyson is paying the price for biting off a man's
ear, threatening a police officer, and gyping Pay-Per-View customers for
what seems like the umpteenth time. He's coughing up 3 million big ones
AND will not be allowed to box for at least a year and MAYBE (yeah, right)
not EVER AGAIN. Plus I hear his trainer's forcing him to watch 200 hours
of Jay Leno making ear jokes.
Poor Mikey. All he gets is 27 million and a piece of Evander Holyfield's
ear as a keepsake (they still haven't found it, right? Tyson and Don King
have got it floating in a jar of formaldehyde somewhere).
Now I am the first to acknowledge the hypocrisy of a sport that expresses
such outrage and revulsion over a bitten-off ear when the whole point is to
throw two guys in a ring and watch them beat the living shit out of each
other. When you're talking broken noses, chipped teeth, smashed corneas
and battered brainpans, what's a stray piece of lost cartilage, more or
But however gross, disgusting, and incomprehensible I may personally find
boxing to be, I do acknowledge that it's still a sport. There are rules,
conventions, a choreography to the entire event. It is, like all sports,
more about show business than about reality. When two drunk guys square
off in a bar they don't usually stop first to strap on mouthguards and big
goofy mittens and then spend the next five minutes dancing around feinting
punches. Likewise boxers don't generally wade in and start munching lobes.
So I've got no beef with boxing per se. And I understand and approve of
their condemnation of Tyson's behavior during Saturday Night at the Bites.
Unfortunately, punishment in the boxing world is apparently as divorced from
bar-brawl reality as the sport itself. What can you say about a system that
not only doesn't treat Mike Tyson's actions as criminal, but actually
rewards him for committing them? Take away the boxing ring and the hoopla
and the two-second pause in which Tyson had to actually stop and take out
his mouthguard in order to really sink his teeth in, and Iron Mikey's back
in jail right now, facing parole violations, assault charges, and one heck
of a lawsuit from Evander Holyfield. Instead he's walking away with a cool
27 million. What's wrong with this picture?
Like most double standards in our society, the flea-bite "punishments" doled
out to athletes for outrageously inappropriate and/or criminal behavior on
the playing field are, in the end, about money. The tacit understanding,
whenever Dennis Rodman kicks a photographer in the balls or Mike Tyson's
psychopathic alter-ego rears his ugly head, is that this is what the fans
want to see. Officials may slap fines or suspensions on the wrong-doers to
distance themselves from the event, but they never level a penance severe
enough to discourage the players from pulling the same stunts again.
Unsportsmanlike conduct is way too lucrative.
It may seem like the Nevada Athletic Commission is the exception to this
unwritten rule, but I don't think so. I think in a year, or more likely
two or three, Tyson will be back again, and this comeback will be even
bigger than the last one. After all, this one will attract not just boxing
fans, but thrillseekers of every stripe, looking to see if maybe this time,
he'll bite off a nostril. And Tyson's purse will undoubtedly be even
bigger, and the Nevada Athletic Commission will be able to squeeze him for
more money when they fine him again.
This is also why you won't catch Evander Holyfield suing Tyson or pressing
any kind of charges. I'm sure his agents and lawyers have explained to him
very carefully that a rematch will make him far richer than any civil suit
for ear-biting. For the kind of money he'll be making he could afford to
let Tyson bite off his whole face. There'll be a whole raft of well-paid
master surgeons waiting to stitch it back on again, and plenty of dough left
over for the victory celebration afterwards.
Maybe it's just sour grapes because my fantasy league baseball team is in
the cellar or because I always got picked last for kickball, but I'm getting
increasingly fed up with the rampant greed that has infiltrated every aspect
of professional sports. It's bad enough that Roger Clemens is earning
something like $8,000 per pitch and even mediocre players are drawing bigger
salaries than I and most of my fellow bleacher creatures will ever see.
It's sufficiently irritating when these Pharaoh-like team owners threaten
to pull up stakes unless their "home" (for lack of a better term) cities
cough up a new stadium. But when I see 40-foot Coke bottles on top of the
Green Monster at Fenway or read that Pete Sampras is getting paid by
corporate sponsors for every on-court accoutrement from his racquet to his
sweat-rag, then I really start to get pissed. Like those people actually
need more money. Why can't Nike pay ME to wear their cross-trainers every
time I do a poetry reading?
Watching sports on TV is even worse. Sometimes the advertisers and product
placements fly so fast and furious it looks like a pick-up game at a trade
show. Announcers say things like, "Now here are today's Prudential starting
line-ups." Are they the Dallas Cowboys or insurance salesmen? The answer,
in a manner of speaking, is both. They're also spokesmodels, as you'll
notice by the Converse and Starter and Reebok logos covering their uniforms
like stickers on a stock car. Come to think of it, I believe it was
professional auto racing that started the whole on-the-field advertising
craze. One more reason to hate auto racing. Unfortunately, as much as
broke fans like myself complain about the outrageous salaries, rising ticket
prices, and fat, arrogant owners, the situation isn't likely to change any
time soon. Why? Because we, the fans, encourage it.
Like it or not, big bucks are now part of the mystique of professional
sports. Big bucks raise the stakes. Admit it, all you Pay-Per-View
suckers--would you have really forked over that $49.95 if you knew Tyson
and Holyfield were only fighting for a paltry couple of mil and free tickets
to Disneyland? Would anyone care half as much about the Stanley Cup if
that's really all it was--a big silver cup?
Deep down, sports fans love seeing all that money getting tossed around.
They may grouse about shelling out ten bucks for bleacher seats, but the
catch phrase from "Jerry McGuire" wasn't "Show me some heart," now was it?
Because money, in our society, is still the ultimate benchmark. Which is
why most sports fans still jeer or yawn at Major League Soccer and those
jokers on the stunt bikes and water skis on ESPN2, because they get paid
like accountants. Michael Jordan, Randy Johnson, and Deion Sanders get paid
Who are you gonna root for?
© 1998 Peter Langston