Every year, it seems like there's one weekend around this time of year where the sports gods decide to remind us that we are heading to that abyss section of the sports calendar, where trying to find actual sports topics to carry blog posts and five hours of radio a day is somewhat daunting.
For sports year 2012, this weekend was that weekend. Sure there was Game 7 of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals, but the window dressing surrounding it? Belmont Stakes, a big boxing pay-per-view, French Open, Euro Cup...and no LeBron free agency or college football realignment talk to save us like in summers past.
So let's get the week started with a few nuggets from the weekend, shall we?
PACQUIAO SCREW JOB: I am not a big boxing fan. I'm not anti-boxing, it's just that in the ever-evolving and growing competition for my attention, boxing doesn't really do it for me. No harm, no foul. Pay-per-view buys and general buzz seem to favor my contention that boxing's place in my world is fairly indicative of the sports-viewing public at large. Most of my sports-watching buddies are "big fight" watchers with a casual knowledge of the rest of the sport.
So when the internet exploded on Saturday night after the controversial split decision for heavy underdog Timothy Bradley over Manny Pacquiao, I was far more interested in that fight than I was before it started. To say the decision was controversial is a bit of an understatement. In live wagering, during the period between the end of the fight and announcement of the decision, the odds on Bradley winning were at an astronomical 200 to 1. 200 to 1! To give you an idea of how futile a Bradley bet at that time was, the Astros are currently 100 to 1 to win the NL Central (which is led as I type by the Pittsburgh Pirates). So Bradley winning was twice as unlikely as the 26-34 Astros taking the NL Central.
And as you probably know by now, Bradley won a split decision.
As you can probably deduce, I didn't spend the $60 charge for the pay-per-view. I know many of you did, because I saw dozens of you complaining on Twitter about wanting your money back. To which I ask -- WHY?!?
You see, you're confusing the micro event of "buying a pay-per-view" with the macro argument of whether or not the outcome of the fight is "bad for the sport." The two, in my opinion, are separate things. Pacquiao was a heavy favorite going into the bout, so the lopsided nature of the fight was not unexpected going in. If I'm paying for a fight, I want to know that I just saw something compelling and relevant, and if you were putting a timeline of the last twenty years of boxing together for an annoying slideshow, Saturday night easily makes the "compelling and relevant" cut. It makes the timeline for reasons boxing purists may not like, but there's no arguing the night was highly relevant to setting up the near (and possibly long-term) future of boxing, on many levels -- future matchups, possible scandal, clamor for rules and process changes.
From that standpoint, you got your money's worth. Saturday mattered, you boxing purists just don't like why it mattered.
(By the way, this is a different flavor of the same argument I have with my co-host John Granato all the time -- that the Tyson-Holyfield Ear Bite '97 fight was worth every penny I paid for it on pay-per-view. I mean, we saw a boxer bite a chunk out of another man's ear during a match and then spit it on the mat! I'd have paid twice whatever I paid that night to see that! Granato heartily disagrees and hasn't bought a fight since then. To each his own.)
That brings me to the "bad for the sport" part. I absolutely agree that an outcome that reeks of impropriety or, at the very least, incompetence is bad for the future of the sport. Saturday's ridiculous decision plants a seed that the outcomes of future fights (that don't end in knockouts) are somehow thrown to the whim of a bunch of morons no more reliable than a coin toss. Or worse, that what happens in the ring doesn't even matter because the judges' scorecards are essentially completed before the participants even hit the ring.
(For the record, I'm going with incompetence over impropriety on Saturday's fight.)
In a weird way, if an event like Saturday is the beginning of some sort of death blow for boxing, then the Pacquiao-Bradley fight becomes that much more relevant. And it's why early Sunday morning, as the "Earl Hebner" and "2012 Jim Rome Smackoff" FIX jokes covered my Twitter timeline, I was a little bummed that I didn't purchase the fight, or even take the time to see it.
HUMBERTO QUINTERO'S "CHINESE EYES:" I know that back when we were kids, there were certain gestures that we may have playfully done that once we passed the age of, say, ten years old, they would be considered insensitive or childish. I wasn't big into making the mocking "Chinese eyes" when I was a kid, but I know from having spent six years of my life in grade school, it wasn't uncommon to see it happen -- the same way it wasn't uncommon to see wedgies, spitballs, or kids making armpit fart noises. None of these things were acceptable, but they were considered part of the deal with young kids. Royals catcher (and former Astro) Humberto Quintero, however, is not a young kid, so I'm not sure what his excuse is for basically photo bombing Royals pitcher Bruce Chen's appearance on the Fox broadcast this weekend with the "Chinese eyes:"
Well, I know his excuse -- Chen is part Chinese -- but that doesn't mean it's a good excuse. I'm guessing there's probably an apology from Quintero coming somewhere along the way, but admittedly it makes me wonder if this is a joke Quintero has been saving up since his days with Kaz Matsui in Houston.
Of course, there would have had to have been a reason to interview Kaz Matsui sometime during his three years here for Quintero to fire off his special brand of physical comedy. That never happened.
FINAL NOTE: My favorite visual sequence on television this weekend? Former jockey Gary Stevens on NBC's Belmont Stakes coverage talking about eventual winner Union Rags before the race saying that he wasn't so much concerned about Union Rags' physical recovery from the Kentucky Derby after five weeks off, but moreso whether Rags has recovered mentally from the race, as if the horse somehow internalized, processed, and thought about his performance over a five-week period. You know, like a human being, which a lot of racing people seem to think these horses are.
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Creepy shit, made funny by the fact that while Stevens was spouting his rhetoric, Union Rags was licking the side of his stall's door. Yeah, I'm sure this horse has been stewing over the Derby for five weeks, waiting to exact his revenge on the field -- when he's not crapping on the floor and licking the walls of his one-room home.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. weekdays, and watch the simulcast on Comcast 129 from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.