Sunday, April 22, 2007

Mr. White Shorts

Last night my flight was canceled so I got stranded at this hotel in Cincinnati. As I was sitting in the stiff chair in the corner of my room I started thinking about the last time I was sitting in a stiff chair in the corner of a hotel room. That was the night I turned on the TV and found a boxing match.

Usually I’m not really one to watch boxing, but that night I thought it might be cool to watch two guys pound each other to a pulp. You know, just for fun.

As they introduced the fighters I was thinking, “Those guys don’t look all that big.” Then they said what division it was: 115-pound class. That’s like a class for my left leg. I decided to watch anyway. It would be like watching a couple of fifth-graders have it out at recess.

So the match begins and this one guy started beating on the other guy right from the opening bell. I have no idea what the names of the two guys are, but they had different colored shorts. That seemed to be an important part of the whole business because the announcers kept reminding us that the guy in the white shorts was winning. So very helpful.

The guy with the blue shorts stuck his hands in front of this face and the guy with the white shorts pummeled him. That was about it, except for the fact that every couple minutes the guy who was getting clobbered would back up and taunt the dude who was thrashing him. Then he’d run away again and the white shorts guy won every round. And frankly, Mr. White Shorts was getting annoyed and so were all the spectators. They started booing and the announcers were trying to keep things interesting by saying stuff like, “It’s part of his strategy. He’s trying to tire Mr. White Shorts out. It’s brilliant. Just wait until the last round!” It reminded me of a baseball game where every batter is missing the ball, everyone just stinking to high heaven, and the announcers try to keep you interested by calling it a ‘no hitter’ (instead of an ‘everyone misser’) and telling the audience how privileged they are to be watching this “great pitchers' duel.”

So the boxing announcers were trying to make it out like the cowardly guy had a secret strategy no other boxer had ever thought of—to let your opponent work you over until he’s too exhausted to beat up you anymore and then, once you’re a piece of hamburger meat, to punch the exhausted guy out. About then this other announcer got on and I liked him right away because he started saying the stuff everyone in the audience was thinking, “It’s a fight! You step into the ring you do it to fight, not to hide in the corner. This fight sucks.” I don’t know if he kept his job after that, but it was cool to hear him say it.

And here’s what I wanted. I wanted the first announcer to be right. I wanted the whole running into the corner to get beat up thing, to be some incredible strategy where he would suddenly explode to life and come out with his fists flying like itty bitty sledgehammers. But he didn’t. Round after round he ran away, got pummeled, and then he lost.

That was it.

But don’t worry. I don’t think he got hurt. Mr. White Shorts landed almost 1000 punches, but remember he was 115 pounds, so that’s pretty much like bumping into people on the subway on the way to work.

I’m sure there’s some profound truth hidden in that story. Maybe about us cheering for the underdog, or how our expectations frame our view of life, or how important it is to keep a positive attitude, but I just liked watching those little men hit each other. It was so darn cute.


Anonymous said...

Hey Steve,
Just to let you know, when I was in ninth grade I got into a fight with a Golden Glover. Puny little kid. About 5'9'' 90 pounds. I had just gotten all of my height (6'4") and wasn't really worried about his boxing reputation....until his first punch landed. One hundred and fifteen pounds of trained fighter is not going to hurt like two hundred and thirty pounds of trained boxer, but it is still going to hurt worse than your elbows on the basketball court.

Steven James said...

Don't worry. I'm starting to work out so my elbows will carry a little more punch when we're fighting for rebounds down in the paint. Maybe I'll lose 110 pounds too. Watch out ;)