Mike Tyson, Instant Replay and MLB Crimes – Essay on sports by James Campion

Aquarian Weekly 1/30/02 REALITY CHECK


I am no longer officially counted among the sporting press. It’s been almost a calendar year since my credentials in the sports world elapsed with the sudden halt of a Westchester radio gig, and aside from the occasional perusal of sports pages, rabid gambling on pro football and an impromptu sports trivia fest on New Year’s Eve, I have been woefully out of the loop. So in the interest of not allowing certain chickens to fly the proverbial coop, I shall use this week’s space to vent the foul odors emanating from the toy department.

Firstly, Mike Tyson should be shackled to a spinning platform in the middle of some designated town square like Hugo’s Hunchback. He is a freak of nature, a grunting slum ogre, whom the citizens of this nation apparently cannot get enough of; so the money boys keep parading his pathetic savagery out of moth balls every quarter for a taste.

Meanwhile, his raping and pillaging zooms merrily along under the radar. This is the same radar that saw fit to strip the great Muhammad Ali of his title for protesting an abomination halfway across the globe. Military fiascos over women’s rights; sounds about right for the boxing elite.

Boxing needs Tyson. Otherwise, it is a dead sport. The financial gluttony of pay-per-farce has rendered its faceless participants to fringe characters that only insiders and diseased gamblers have any use for. But Tyson is different. However tired his “angry street punk” act becomes, people still pay to see the madman implode under the weight of his own transparent sanity, or perhaps, there is the hope he might test the limits of an already sadistic exhibition.

Mike Tyson should be shackled to a spinning platform in the middle of some designated town square like Hugo’s Hunchback.

Every time Tyson turns a press conference into a prison riot, he titillates our darker side. Certainly, it is human nature to coddle a warped fascination of the villain. Tyson exploits this social malady quite well. We marvel at his anti-social, violent nature, and choose to blame it all on the brutality of his profession. All the while, Tyson serves our primal need for the grotesque, the sports version of the Elephant Man.

And it warms my heart to see the “boxing people”, the snuff pimps of sport, become self-righteous every time Tyson explodes, as evidenced earlier this week at another of their meaningless media events. Even though they know full well that as long as Tyson is the fire-breathing dragon to whatever dupe in shining armor they put in front of him, he will take the lowest road possible.

But mayhem makes good headlines and highlights, two things the realm of big-time sports must rely on for readers and ratings and sexy stories for smart-ass commentators and grizzled scribes to paint into instant calamity.

This makes it all the more curious that many of the same sensationalists who fill the quota of sports journalism do not spend more time carving up the evil empire known as Major League Baseball.

It seems defacto, commissioner, Bud Selig, architect of the assassination of the 1994 baseball season, with its convenient alliances, backroom payoffs and empty promises, has been at it again.

This glorified con man wants baseball fans to buy the idea that the contracting of teams from this miserably bloated league is some kind of charity solution to the drunken spree of spending that has gone on under the guise of an atavistic anti-trust exemption for a quarter century.

Who is swallowing this incredible sack of horseshit?

The owners expanded a league they claimed was careening toward bankruptcy time and again for two decades, diluting the talent and screwing up the competitive nature of a gorgeous game to pay for their self-inflicted wounds. Now entire franchises are being shifted around like plastic hotels on a monopoly board, while cities and politicians and judges and fans clamor and sue and lobby to save baseball from leaving their respective towns.

As a result, the 2002 season will begin with lame-duck teams, franchises with no ownership, glaring conflicts of interest and no concrete bargaining agreement. Only about six to ten teams have the funds to compete under the current structure, no one wants to play in Canada, Disney couldn’t turn a fucking profit in Hollywood and I could swear I heard some sick bastard suggest they put another team in the District of Columbia.

Finally, I need to get something straight about the National Football League’s stance on the arbitrary nature of this Instant Replay stuff.

Wasn’t this supposed remove controversy from the game?

CBS analyst, Phil Simms told me last year that he thought the whole thing was too ambiguous for its own good, that there are too many instances where no one understands its parameters; not the coaches, the fans, the media, or most importantly, the officials.

The league challenged the officials by ramming technology down their throats as a glaring second-guess machine, and then placated them with loopholes to circumvent its authority by coming up with new and exciting ways to void its use.

Despite the fact that this abomination saved me cash last week, what happened to the Oakland Raiders in New England last Saturday night is a tragic. The officials compromised the entire structure of the play-off system, and not a soul had a clue why, least of all my pal, Simms, who was standing in the frozen booth extolling the victorious Raiders while the anonymous Replay Official was changing the outcome.

The truth is the league is buoyed by the gambling culture; although anyone with any power would be loath to admit it. Hey, the league was tired of hearing that slow and incompetent officials were deciding the “integrity” of the game. There are photo finishes in horse racing, right? Instant Replay was supposed cure all of that.

Instead it has ground the game to a halt at key moments, put the already overwhelmed officials on the hot seat and sucked the life out of fairness by silly explanations, archaic rule interpretations and the always popular “inadvertent whistle”.

Makes you wish Vince Lombardi could be standing in the snow to listen to that dog crap. Now that would be worth the wait.

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