Boxing


Big Guys Always Seem To Get The Shaft

10.16.04 - By Wray Edwards: Most big people end up as targets. The average Joe or Jane who looks at someone with a bigger bank account, house, car, intellect, talent, philosophy or body, often feels inferior. I used to be embarrassed when peers played musical instruments because I wanted to have some ability which made me the center of attention. Finally, when I was able to make the world a better place each day, my envy of others fell away and I was free to fully enjoy what they had to offer. Once able to do that, one must be careful not to go overboard in the other direction and become a hapless groupie.

Boxing fans adopt their favorites and often make of them, sacred cows. Conversely, the fans also tend to settle on those they will ridicule and dislike. When I first saw the Klitschkos my mind quickly went to Baby Huey, and Primo Carnera/Plodder clichés. When one has limited information, fair and accurate judgments are all but impossible.

It even affects self in the obverse. The Napoleonic complex is a famous example of overreaction to small physical stature. “I many be small, but I can lick any man in the house.” That pathology is a direct reaction to one’s own sense of intimidation from feeling small in comparison to others.

There are many personal and social reasons why certain sports figures elicit such polarized attitudes. When one of these hunks is about to fight YOUR favorite guy, it’s hard for some to be fair. Trash talk, poor social behavior outside the ring, bad sportsmanship in the ring, and downright arrogance are some of the other reasons one might dislike this or that boxer. Wlad and Vitali do not exhibit any of these negative behaviors. Quite the opposite; they are well-educated, respectful,
hard-working athletes with enviable records in and out of the ring.

Why is some fan animosity towards the K-Boys seemingly way out of proportion to any real reason for such negative expressions? When I was a little boy my father would drag out an 8mm projector and we would watch home movies. As a treat he would always show a scratchy, old cartoon or two. My favorite was “Jack and the Beanstalk”. This is the familiar tale of David and Goliath told in bucolic metaphor. About a month ago when I started to write this article we brought the film out and watched it. The stereotypic little guy versus big guy drama concluded with the giant falling to his death. Humans fear great size in many forms. Big government, big business, big buildings, big crowds etc.

You may have noticed that some fans are cold-hearted about the subject. There reactions are due in part (I think) to the general lack of an emotional back door when facing really big people. It’s actually easier to talk to famous or powerful people of average size than regular guys who weigh three-fifty at six nine. The average person would be amazed to walk into any NFL locker room and experience the sheer, intimidating size of these guys. It’s really hard to be nonchalant and relaxed around an 800 pound Gorilla even when he’s being nice to you.

The brothers K are very unique in many ways. The animosity evident in the words of some boxing fans is possibly based on their inability to see the Vitali and Wlad as human. They are, rather, viewed as icons because of their size, education and accomplishments. Many people show evidence of envy and jealousy, as if they are somehow intimately exposed to the personal auras of these two big guys. It may sound strange, but the iconic nature of Wlad and Vitali brings out the iconoclast in them. “The bigger they are the harder they fall” is just one example of the social stigma attached to personal size. As passionate as some of these fans are about their boxing opinions, it's almost at the level of a religious debate.

After all..."my god is better than your god" is getting a lot of people killed these days. So it's not impossible that those who "worship" (a term which is used a lot in discussing celebrity) sports figures will have very passionate reactions to larger than life guys like the Klitschkos. It's an archetypal cliché which has been portrayed in the Bible (David and Goliath, Jonah and the Whale, Moses and God), and all throughout popular culture for thousands of years, witness: “King Kong””, Godzilla”, Gulliver, Jesus, “Moby Dick”, “Jaws” and many others. The theme is always that though larger than life, is better (unless the big thing attacks), some will envy, to an unacceptable and dangerous degree, the abilities and accomplishments of others. John Lennon’s murder is just one example of this lightening rod effect.

Just think if the Giant in Jack and the Beanstalk had been glib and humorous like Schreck, the story could have had an even happier ending. Actually the K-Boys are pretty funny, laid back guys. It's just that the sports media is so serious about communicating with them that their natural selves, which are quite appealing, are not portrayed fairly to the boxing public. There is always such huge and super-serious pressure brought on by the interviewers after a fight, that everybody is unable
to lighten up and enjoy the moment. After hopping around the ring in victorious glee, the poor boxer must face questions “el serioso” from some supercilious tuxedo-wearing dower like Larry Merchant. Talk about a wet blanket on the festivities. If more boxing fans had seen them on Dennis Miller, the unfair cloud of ridicule and condemnation which hovers over them might have thinned a bit.

Great size and strength place an extra burden which is often hard to carry. Unconscious of their effect, characters like Lenny in “Of Mice and Men” may actually destroy that which they love. The Klitschkos are just the opposite; carrying their big selves with gentleness and respect.

There is always a sub-text when these people are present or are talked about. Andrew Golota, Valuev, Wlad and Vitali are sometimes just convenient scapegoats for our being intimidated by physical stature. Often their sporting accomplishments are overshadowed by what some feel is freakish, which clouds their appreciation to the point that they miss the fun. Often, when quantum leaps in physical size occur in a sport, the first few have little else going for them. Then, as more really big people enter the ranks with greater levels of ability, they get some respect for their talent, but never seem to be able to escape the main issue.

Like any other difference (race, color, ethnicity, origin, etc.), being in the presence of a big guy or gal, whether in conversation or person, might be a caution signal for us to more carefully measure our words and deeds. After all, look what they can do. Man, that’s pretty impressive. I’m just glad I was there to see it happen.

Article posted on 16.10.2004



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