Grant “Rocky” Rhodes is America’s oldest living sportswriter. He first rose to prominence in 1917, when he thumbwrestled Ty Cobb into submission to settle a bet between Babe Ruth and Al Capone. In 1958, for reasons that remain murky, he stole Paul Hornung’s Heisman Trophy and dared the quarterback to retrieve it; Hornung did not accept the challenge. His weekly sports column, “The Cat’s Pajamas”, appears in 7000 newspapers nationwide when not bumped for “Hints from Heloise” or “Funky Winkerbean”. Today, he graces Scratchbomb with his nine decades of sports wisdom to comment on an exciting weekend of athletic action.
May 5 will be the best damn day in sports in a long, tired time. Both The Sport of Kings and The Sweet Science will hit the town in their Sunday best, even though it’s a Saturday. We’ve got the Kentucky Derby and the Floyd Mayweather/Oscar de la Hoya fight. Nothing could keep me away from either event, except that I’m not allowed away from the assisted living facility for more than six hours at a time.
Plus, I can’t fly to either event because my doctor says a pressurized airplane cabin just might crush my hips to a fine powder. So I’ll have to park myself in front of the TV in the common room and hope no one wants to watch “Touched By An Angel”.
Of course, you snot-nosed punks out there won’t watch either of these epic battles. You’ll tune in to the NBA playoffs or the NHL playoffs or some damn baseball game or something. Fine, go ahead. We don’t need you. You wouldn’t know a real sport if it spit in your eye.
I know what you’re gonna say: I know plenty about football…, and I’m gonna tell you to shut your ugly girly mouth. If you think football’s a real sport, I’ll eat my fedora, and that damn thing hasn’t left my scalp since LBJ was sworn in.
Football players wear pads. You know who else wears pads? Women. And I know this isn’t a politically correct thing to say nowadays, but women are no good at nothing. Except for one thing, and you red-blooded fellas know what I’m talking about.
That’s right–making pot roast.
My judgment of a Man’s Sport is this: Can I smoke a cigar while watching it live? By that definition, only two sports qualify. Boxing and horse racing, end of story.
You kids raised on ESPN wouldn’t know this, but boxing and horse racing were once among America’s most popular spectator sports. A 1937 poll in Collier’s ranked them second only to baseball, and way ahead of golf, hoop-hitting and stick-retrieving. It was a more innocent time, when people didn’t need video games or fancy coffees to entertain themselves. No, they were fine with the simple spectacle of two grown men smashing each other’s faces to a bloody pulp.
Boxers used to be enormously influential. Back in my day, the biggest show on the air was Chesterfield Presents Joe Louis! Radios all across the nation tuned in every Wednesday night to hear Joe punch stuff for 90 minutes.
Horse racing was even more important. Why, Tennessee sent a horse to Congress in 1942. I think Senator Hot-to-Trot could’ve run for president, too, if he hadn’t broken a leg climbing the Capitol steps.
So what happened? Everything happened. Television. Dope. Hippies. Jane Fonda. Designer jeans. Boy George. Pasteurization. Godzilla. Ralph Nader. President’s Weekend. Lawnmower races. The concept of flight. Bran muffins. Eve Arden…
Christ, I lost my train of thought.
My point is, boxing and horse racing aren’t just sports for old men. After all, auto racing’s more popular than ever, and there’s no damn difference between NASCAR and a horse race. Except the horses are made of metal and have internal combustion engines and run on gas instead of oats and synthetic hormones. But in both sports, the “vehicles” are driven by tiny, angry men with enormous egos.
As for boxing, since when did punching go out of style? Look at all this crazy ultimate fighting that’s on TV all the time. Hell, if it wasn’t for UFC, Spike TV would just be a Pros vs. Joes marathon followed by a Deep Space Nine marathon. If young folks today will watch two tattooed freaks kick each other on basic cable, why won’t they watch a non-title
welterweight boxing match on pay-per-view for only $60?
If getting old has taught me anything, it’s that everything gets worse every god damn day. And yet, I still hold out hope that boxing and horse racing will return to their heydays as the premier sports in this country. Tastes ebb and flow. Things once consigned to obscurity can hit the big time once again.
They once said that newspapers would die, thanks to the fax machine. Now, the fax machine is deader than vaudeville and the newspaper is bigger than ever! Records were supposed to disappear once “blank tapes” were invented, but last time I checked, people were still dropping their hard-earned cash on LPs. There’s no reason boxing and horse racing can’t follow the same glorious road back to the top!
And if boxing and horse racing don’t make a comeback, you can bite my wrinkly ass, America