Coach's Corner

The perfect boxing match for the peace n' love generation.

'Twas prevailing hippie dogma of the late Sixties that everybody over the age of 50 should be dragged from their suburban homes and shot. This was certainly my position as I seized the podium on a sunny, pleasant, revolutionary spring afternoon back in ... uh ... well, I can't remember when that was ... and shouted an assortment of trendy radical slogans over the microphone. This impressed my stoned friends on the quadrangle at the University of Missouri out in front of the chancellor's house... I can't remember his name anymore either. Indeed, it was exactly forgetful, doddering old fools like myself we wanted to shoot. I doubt Mao would've been impressed, but we caused enough turmoil to get spring finals canceled, not an unworthy accomplishment. In those days it was common to see -- through the blue haze of marijuana and gently floating Frisbees -- Bob Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel, the Moody Blues, and Jethro Tull play rock shows as we sat in the dirt (splendidly marketed as "festival seating") at the college gym. The thought of my parents going to a rock & roll concert was flat-out repulsive. Old people, for God's sake, did not go to rock & roll shows. Old people were supposed to be dead!

In my wildest hallucinations, it never occurred to me that 30 years later these same strung-out hippies and poets -- all pushing 60 -- would still be singing the same tunes in front of the same aging audiences. It's a good thing they didn't take us out to be shot. Judging from the mass of gray ponytails, pot bellies, and wedding rings, without us over-50 folk, Dylan, Simon, and Tom Petty would be selling real estate. My 16-year-old daughter, for example, associates Bob Dylan with the rock-bottom-worst music of her parents' generation.

Yes, I'm pleased they didn't take us out to the wall. Looking back, maybe I was a bit carried away with youthful exuberance back on the quadrangle of Old Mizzou. Had I faced the firing squad, I wouldn't have been banned from the UT press box. And if that injustice hadn't occurred, I couldn't tell you about the biggest waste of $50 since my friend Dunn sold me hash that was, in fact, righteous dirt culled from the front yard of the fraternity house so he could go to the Allman Brothers concert. Instead of watching UT struggle past Rice, I, hunting for a column, plopped down $50 to watch the "Fight of the Millennium," this one featuring Oscar (Golden Boy) De La Hoya against undefeated challenger Felix Trinidad. My mother-in-law, Kelly, and I took turns waking each other up in one of the century's dullest fights. De La Hoya fancies himself a multi-faceted fighter, and in truth he is. Tonight he was out to demonstrate what a fine ballet dancer he might've been. To that I shout Olé!, or whatever it is people shout out at ballet dances.

After the first two rounds, when both fighters prowled and circled the ring glaring menacingly at one another, the fight took on a predictable quality. Oscar danced, tossed out the odd left jab, and waited until the 10-second bell, when he made a gallant show of throwing some punches. It was the lot of Mr. Trinidad to gamely make a fight of it. But the erstwhile Golden Boy would have none of this violence nonsense. Jim Lampley, doing the pay-per-view commentary, continually mocked his audience, who hopefully plopped down 50 bucks thinking they might see guys hitting each other, cretins that we all are.

Lampley repeatedly alluded to the "outstanding boxing exhibition" displayed by De La Hoya. The sweet-science-of-boxing stuff culminated in the final three rounds when Oscar decided he was going to be the first champion to win a decision without throwing any punches for nine minutes. So for three rounds he bobbed and weaved, ducked and crouched, circled and ran. He threw no punches. In one of the rare just decisions in boxing history, a challenger beat a champion on his home turf. It was a terrible fight. Maybe the worst since the second Patterson/Liston fight, when Floyd, after whom I named my boxer, became paralyzed with fear on his stool at the prospect of being pounded upon by the glowering Liston. At least that one had some theatre and a little action... not to add it was on the radio for free. Did I mention this one cost $50?

Mr. Lampley and later Mr. De La Hoya took the judges and the rest of us to task for not fully appreciating the wonderful boxing exhibition to which we'd just been privy. Had this been the Olympics, where they count coup for every touch of the headgear, Mr. Lampley's views certainly would've prevailed. Regrettably, the Mandalay Bay Hotel on the Strip is about as far from the Olympics as it gets. In a singular occurrence, boxing judges got it right -- though I might add (as a parenthetical observation) that it's fortuitous Mr. Don King was in Mr. Trinidad's corner or the result might have been different.

Upon reflection, perhaps this was the perfect boxing match for the Peace and Love generation. The only players missing from the gentle play were a platoon of National Guard soldiers surrounding the ring. Then Oscar could have put flowers in the barrels of their rifles while humming a tune from The Strawberry Statement.

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