Boxing and the Meaning of a Life

This is a stale-dated story by now, but it’s a good one. (And what do you care about being chronologically cutting-edge? You wouldn’t be here if you craved punctuality or pragmatism.) I I saw a headline, while sport-snorting  in mid-October, something about a 52-year-old guy making his pro boxing debut. I harrumphed and muttered about the latest athletic idiocy and hit Next. The headliner on that card was 46, for crying out loud! Grumble grumble.

I’m no boxing fan, though my limited exposures to the so-called “mixed martial arts” craze have made me a little sad about boxing losing to that sordid circus, and I have irritated sons and nephews with what they consider boxing chauvinism. I revered Muhammad Ali as a kid, and stubbornly and patriotically paid attention to George Chuvalo’s implacable shuffling and incredible chin. I was jazzed by Rocky I.

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Rome: Replaced in a Day?

I tuned in for a while today to the Jungle, the Jim Rome Show, which occasionally rants from my radio between noon and three. Rome is off this week, and Jim Lampley faces the wrath of Rome’s faithful clones for part of it. (And it’s oddly touching how encouraging they are of Mr. Lampley, and how they miss the sarcasm in his voice as he thanks them for their support. After all, he’s only been a national sports voice, and a remarkably articulate one, since the ‘70s.)

For me, Lampley is to Rome as the gifted and accomplished athlete is to the undertalented plugger. I admire Rome’s preparation, how writerly his stuff is, which partly accounts for those famous pauses and repetitions. He never says um, but he also doesn’t compose elegant rants on the fly like Lampley can. (Who does?) As a word freak and former High School Creature, I get a small thrill when Professor Lampley points out a sentence fragment in reading a listener’s email, or insists prolifically that “unique” is a word that cannot be qualified. (Must point out, Jimmer, that a word needlessly and senselessly modifying “unique” would be an adverb, not an adjective. But carry on.)

But man, does he pontificate! What has built Rome, at least in part, is that callers who “don’t suck” can get paragraphs, sometimes entire smack-filled essays, in edgewise. All Dr. Lampley needs is a reference – ABC College Football? Yes, when I was there, Keith Jackson had just been turfed from Monday Night Football… — and away he goes! Since his youthful sideline ventures for ABC, I’ve lost track of Lampley a bit, mainly because I don’t pay much attention to boxing, and apparently he’s the Guru of Pugilism. (How does such a bright and voluble guy put up for so long with such a primitive sport? I’ve had my moments, especially during Ali’s career, where I could begin to feel the attraction of the intelligentsia for boxing. But I still can’t quite get with a sport whose purpose is brain damage.) I don’t know if I could stand him in heavy rotation, as he does get rather Cosellian, rather Dennis Millerite, I dare say, in his loquacity. Still, it’s fun to hear eloquence on sports radio. Sentences.