By Ivan G. Goldman
Reporter to Manny Pacquiao at a pre-fight media forum: Are you the toughest public servant on the planet?
Trainer Freddie Roach’s response: That’s a stupid question.
Poor Freddie. After all these years in the limelight he should know that every question at one of these circuses is stupid. It’s a rule. This one was a telephone conference, which allows everyone to attend in pajamas. When it’s a full-fledged media conference with TV cameras, questioners are in the room. First the media people chow down like savages on whatever fare the promoter has set out for them (It’s usually pretty darn good, and yes, that makes the media somewhat beholden to the promoter, but no, no one ever mentions it). Then between belches the stupid questions begin, followed by stupid answers.
Photo: Chris Farina/ Top Rank
After that, radio, TV, and Internet podcast people line up to conduct exclusive interviews with the lead characters so they can ask pretty much the same stupid questions all over again. This is to let their audiences know they have special access to these important people.
Occasionally one fighter slaps or bites another fighter and of course that will become the big story, because anything particularly revolting always takes precedence over civilized acts. But most prizefighters, Pacquiao and his opponent Timothy Bradley included, are pretty decent guys and usually everyone just goes through the same old motions – same questions with pretty much the same answers.
Freddie, a pretty decent guy himself, has clearly done one too many of these events. Because how many dumb questions can a celebrity trainer field in a lifetime? I give him one, maybe two more pre-fight carnivals before he runs out into the forest tearing off his clothes and screaming obscenities, though I expect he will hang on to his smart phone. After he calms down he can use its GPS feature to lead him back to the conference, where someone will throw a towel over him and he will be asked how the training camp is going. Been any problems? It’s enough to make you weep.
Here’s another query that was directed at testy Freddie that same day: Could you elaborate on Manny’s focus for this fight?
Now just what did the person who posed the question expect to hear? That his focus is lousy? That he’s been oversleeping every morning and drinking to excess every night? If there were a negative reality to his focus, does anyone expect his team would blab about it to everybody beforehand? Excuses come after, not before the contest. That’s another rule.
Just once I’d like to hear a fighter blurt out something from his gut: I’m pretty sure my wife’s seeing my ex-girlfriend, if you know what I mean, and it’s been keeping me up nights. I can’t feel two fingers in my right hand, I’ve got this bad rib that keeps acting up on me, and to tell you the truth, my sparring partners have had to take it really easy on me because I just can’t get my timing back. Oh, one more thing. I think I’m coming down with the flu.
We go through these charades for a reason. Every extra moment on the tube, every inch of copy on the Net or in the paper brings up attendance and viewing numbers a little more, so it has to be done. If we’re very, very lucky, something inspired will get said, such as Joe Louis’ brilliant assessment of mover Billy Conn: “He can run, but he can’t hide.”
In some ways the situation has improved. In the old days if you tried to depart from the script you might end up being reassigned to the high school golf beat. Years ago I covered a card in Nashville where without trying very hard I secured eyewitnesses accounts from credible individuals that one of the fighters, whose wife was divorcing him, was down in the cocktail lounge every night sponging free drinks from fans. All that was expunged from my story because, I guess, it didn’t fit the pattern. Incidentally, the fighter got knocked out.
Nowadays, with all the increased Internet coverage, there are legions of bozos ready to report anything they hear, fact or fiction. So the rules are breaking down. It’s also opened up new possibilities for legitimate inquiry, and if you come up with some interesting angle you have a better chance of finding an audience. Sometimes the world really does change for the better.
Ivan G. Goldman’s latest novel Isaac: A Modern Fable came out in April 2012 from Permanent Press. Information HERE