nth-Degree of Shame


My state of Kentucky is a marvelous place, notwithstanding all the crude criticisms of it by the intellectually elite (self appointed, of course). As a youngster in boot camp all those many years ago, I discovered that there was indeed a strange curiosity about the hillbillies, and when I later taught school in Ohio, students' jaws actually dropped when I told them I didn't wear shoes until entering first grade, as if I were telling them the truth.

Kentucky has its flaws, however, as do all states. For instance, in Louisville later this week there will be a prizefight between Mike Tyson and Danny Williams. It's being hyped as the greatest thing since sliced bread, even though it represents a coarseness among some in the population that defies comprehension. This is so because the "sport" of boxing is not a sport at all. It is a sort of organized mayhem in which the objective is for two people to maim each other until one over-maims the other and is declared not just the winner but a hero of some sort, the more blood that can be spread around the ring, the better. The tip-off as to the crudity of boxing lies in the fact that if one of the participants dies from his wounds, the fight-victor walks free - no arrest, no grand jury appearance - nothing. If the same thing happened in an alley, the victor could wind up doing 20-to-life, or relaxing in the electric chair.

The big deal is that the event will bring mega-dollars to the city of Louisville, not to mention a brand new type of notoriety, that which glorifies evil, sort of like most rap music. The city will finally become sophisticated, since not even Nevada would allow Tyson to fight there. Of course, the city will actually become pseudo-sophisticated, trading its soul for a bowl of oatmeal (or a pound of flesh in this case), as did the Biblical Esau concerning his birthright. The name of the game is money, and the bloodshed vital to the acquisition of that money - to mix metaphors - is the mother of venality, sometimes known as intense greed.

And then there is the Tyson thing. What hasn't Tyson done in order to suggest that man actually may have evolved from some sort of animal? He is in the news occasionally because of some new rape/assault charge that he has to face in court. He was even convicted once of rape and spent three years in the Big House; ironically, he may not have been guilty that time since the victim willingly went with him to HIS room in the middle of the night. It seems apparent that she didn't go there for a casual conversation about world events, but a jury spoke. And then there's the episode in which he chewed on an opponent's ears during a bout, not exactly the kind of mayhem that even the promoters of this evil have in mind. With his face permanently tattooed and that ear-chewing occurrence in mind, one wonders if he's a throwback to the cannibals, who painted themselves up for a good fight with some other cannibals and then had a feast on same. Disgusting!

Yeah, even though people like George Rogers Clark and the doctors who have pioneered in heart- and limb-attachment surgery were/are connected with Louisville, the city accounts as its greatest gift to mankind former heavyweight champion Cassius Clay, aka Muhammed Ali, the proof being a main street named for him and the current grandiose installation of some kind in his honor, the squandering of multi-millions, much of it from the state treasury, which comprises a sad commentary on the movers and shakers in the state, who, if they had put it to a vote, certainly would have discovered that most Kentuckians couldn't care less about Ali and deeply resent their hard-earned tax money being used for a memorial to mediocrity, if not outright malevolence. Earlier on the fight card, Ali's daughter will perform against another woman, a sad indicator of the depths to which people sink when they pay huge prices to see two women pummel each other. Disgusting!

Added to the obvious ludicrousness of the whole thing is the fact that the outcome of the fight may already have been decided, thus remarking the palpable dishonesty that has always been connected with boxing. Tyson is fighting to repay long overdue taxes, so money is actually no issue with him. He won't keep it. Williams is fighting to stay in the game, which, even with the temporary pain (though much sadly becomes permanent) that goes with it, is bound to beat working for a living. So, it could be that the big boys who produce these shams and/or the big boys who arrange the odds have already fixed things…in their favor, of course, just as in the case of the house, with respect to the casinos. It's the suckers who pay, while the operators laugh all the way to the bank, perhaps located on one of the Cayman Islands.

And so it goes. Kentucky is still a marvelous place, warts and all, but sometimes the warts are more noticeable than they need to be. This so-called fight is one of the examples of this. Anyone criticizing Louisville's elite sportsmen has every right to do so. They are…disgusting.

PUNK

A red-deep pool slowly
Engulfing the dingy tile; the
Nearly lifeless form bestirring
Itself...but barely; Father
Arriving...the beginning
Of the unintelligible chant.

The crowd streaming from
The smoke-stenched arena,
Heading for the bars and
Flesh markets of both
High and low esteem...the
Kid had fought gamely.

In the adjacent stall
A victor gazing at his
Red-smeared gloves; for
An instant, the trace of a
Tear?...then a shrug...
Finally, the swishing shower.

Chant now done, the
Glassy, pleading eyes looking
For something more; a
Red-drenched hand feebly
Reaching out for...for...
Something; a siren-sound
Growing louder.

The small knot of cigarred,
Sweaty, flabby, Flesh
Merchants holding a Board
Meeting, pronouncing the
Managerial consensus...a great kid,
But why that punky right lead?

Arena now deserted...save for
The usual popcorn-and-peanut-eating
Rats, the other rats having gone to
Form Sheet and Odds-Maker.

Only thing left...
A grave to be dug.