Why DON’T Owners Require Visors?

Interesting article on the Hockey Visor Debate, written by an anonymous, active NHL’er. Here’s an important quote:

Not once have I been told that the League is pressuring the players for a rule change.  Is that what the League would like the media and the fans to believe? I don’t know. I’ve never heard Gary Bettman suggest that if it weren’t for the players there would be a mandatory visor rule in place. Although in fairness, I do tend to tune out when he starts talking.

The whole thing is interesting and mostly establishes that some players choose visors and others not and that they’re safer with possibly a penalty in performance (limiting vision). The Player comes down marginally in favor of the freedom to choose, I’d say.

But the thing that confuses me is why on earth there ISN’T an owner mandate for visors. If they actually limit injury, they’re protecting an owner investment, right?

If that’s the case, I’d definitely be in favor of visors if I were an owner. I realize there’s a debate about whether helmets and other protection increases injuries because the feeling of safety actually inspires more reckless play. I’m willing to be convinced of this empirical point.

But visors? Surely they don’t make people more reckless. Why DOESN’T Bettman make this a bigger deal?

Canelo?

This is jr. Middleweight Mexican boxing sensation Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez:

That’s right, that guy’s Mexican. A very Northern  European-looking Mexican, isn’t he.

I grew up in a town with a prominent minority of light-skinned, light-haired Mexican people. I have no evidence that Canelo Alvarez is of the same tribe, but the likeness is vivid.

These were a branch of Mennonites (who speak a strange hybrid language*) that originally fled the borderland between the Netherlands and Germany to Russia when they were going to be forced to enter the draft. They redoubled their exodus when Revolutionary Russia’s political climate threatened some of the privileges they negotiated (in exchange for populating farmland) and took off again.

Some, like those that run this awesome awesome restaurant, wound up in colonies in Bolivia. Many went to the Canadian prairie. Many went to Mexico.

And many of those that went to Central/South America wound up moving to my home town in Canada. Always looking for farm work, always looking to be left alone.

They dress a bit funny (yes, they brought and kept this fashion sense with them into Canada)

I mostly went to school in another town so I didn’t have any of these kids in my classes at first. By the time I went to high school back in town I was 16 and many/most of my Mennonite contemporaries had dropped out to, presumably, start on the farms their families moved there to work.

Of those that were left, some were later-generation products whose families had assimilated. The others, though, had more in common with the other small minorities (SE Asians, Middle-Easterners, other Central Americans – a very diverse town of 25,000, Leamington) than they did with the local kids, physical appearances aside (and this is a powerful lesson: race and  discrimination have nothing to do with skin color).

Now, given that Mexicans are huge boxing fans, maybe Canelo IS a mennonite?

So I asked the patrons of the restaurant I linked to above whether they had heard of him. Blank stares. Hm. You sure?  (holding my hands up like an idiot, mimicking a boxer) Boxing? Nope.

So is Canelo a Mexican Mennonite? I doubt it, I suppose, much as I’d relish the coincidence with my past. When you’re a people that keeps apart (and farmers always have this inclination, in my experience) you aren’t about to send your kids to the boxing camps.

* I remember this language from my childhood. I never spoke it, but noticed all these strange-looking people speaking it. My dad mentioned that it was called ‘low German’, which to my young ears meant ‘low-class German’. Not even close. It turns out that ‘low German’ is ‘low’ in the sense of literally lower altitude, as in the ‘Low Countries’ (Netherlands) and this language is from the area between Holland and Germany. During my last trip back home (for Thanksgiving) my more mature and worldly ear overheard a bit of conversation in Low German and I definitely picked up on the German part but also a serious whiff of something that wasn’t German, English, Russian or Polish (and definitely not any Latin-based language). It almos sounded Swedish. Turns out what I was hearing was the Flemish influence.

Review: Pacquiao Marquez 2

Round 1 doesn’t have the fireworks of last time: both look to be bigger fighters, which they are as super featherweights (130). Manny definitely carries the extra weight much better than Marquez, by which I mean that Marquez looks a bit softer than he did as a featherweight. It’s all of four pounds, sure, but Manny’s as ripped as ever at each successive weight level. There’s something peculiar about Manny that way.

Anyway, the first two rounds are the usual close affairs that characterized the last 11 rounds of the first fight. Could go either way. Marquez landing the slightly better shots, but only deterring timing shots carrying little danger.

Then Marquez goes down in the third from a great (Marquez-like) counter-left hook. Then he almost goes down again. Manny’s quietly dominating now, actually, if there is such a thing.

Through the 5th, Marquez is looking a bit less sharp than Manny. He’s certainly not got the snap he had in their last meting. Age? Weight? Who knows, but he’s not as effective through the middle of this fight.

Then Lederman gives JMM the fifth. Shows what I know.

The big problem, of course, is that it’s difficult to generalize from these circumstances. I don’t know whether Manny just landed a good shot early in some round keep JMM off balance for a bit and then he comes right back hard like he is in the 6th. The fight is super close.

The differences between the two in each round is narrower than in the last fight, and that’s saying something. Manny is definitely a more complete fighter than he was, but now lacks the element of surprise that put JMM on his butt three times in ’04. Emmanuel Steward agrees with me, noting Manny’s better awareness of JMM’s punches and of his own position. He blocks and counters now.

Wow, Manny’s cut now beneath his right eye. He’s getting touched up a quite a bit in the 8th, almost like he’s taking the bigger shots. Deceiving, of course, since you can’t see power the way you feel power.

Flicking on the commentators, now, they seem to agree that that 8th was a big Marquez round. The 9th is much more even, now. Judges seem to be split but Pac is slightly stronger.

Wow, Pac catches JMM in the 10th on an action-hero-like duck-and-swing, rudely interrupting Lederman’s little monologue. Lots and lots of action.

JMM is blazing away with straight rights, southpaw kryptonite, in the 11th. Undaunted, Pacquaio returns fire. God, how do you score this? 12th also a toss-up, with maybe an edge to Marquez.

Overall, Manny scores knockdowns and lands bigger, better punches whereas Marquez lands perhaps more punches. A question of taste, then. Pacquiao by split decision this night.

Can’t wait for Saturday.

Review: Pacquiao Marquez 1

Watching the old fights on HBO (love HBO).

The first round was predictable and has been analyzed ad nauseum. Pac knocked JMM down three times, but didn’t really seem to hurt him much.

Following that JMM looked a lot more comfortable. I’ve since heard that he started figuring out Manny’s speed and was able to blunt and avoid the hard shots. Nobody seems to expect Manny’s power. Round two looked pretty close to me.

Rounds three and four also looked close. I could see any of these rounds going to JMM, who is settling in nicely. He is clearly the better boxer. He’s clearly a better boxer than just about anyone.

JMM’s face shows that he’s definitely taking shots. At the same time, he’s definitely timing Manny’s advances now. Pac can’t seem to get in there without getting hit clean. Even though JMM doesn’t have anything like Manny’s power, nobody likes getting punched in the face and Manny’s easing off on the offense.

This is what I’m expecting: Marquez to chill things out with defensive countering. Slow things down. Fight his fight. Since nobody ever talks about anything other than the first round, I imagine the rest of this thing is going to go this way.

Not easy coming back to draw things after getting put down three times, but grinding is the way you’d do it if you didn’t have knockout power.

What’s most intriguing about the upcoming fight is that, unlike with Floyd, neither of these two guys’ strengths are really going to fade quickly with age. JMM has an incredible, Hopkins-esque boxing IQ. He counters and moves and anticipates. Manny has supernatural power and balance.

I’m starting to appreciate Manny’s genius, actually. For most fighters, power and quickness cruelly trade off: you need to plant your feet and coordinate quads, hips, abs and shoulders to summon KO strength. It’s both slow and incredibly obvious when you do it: like sounding an air raid siren.

Not so for Manny. He punches with power from what are called ‘angles’, which means he doesn’t hunker down and telegraph cruel intentions, surprising opponents with real sizzle on shots that from most would be cheap patter. Once JMM figured this out, he could deal with this, while others either don’t or can’t. And even an all-time great boxer like Marquez is vulnerable until he gets used to Manny’s style: you can’t pull Mannys off the street to spar against, after all.

Back to the fight. The later rounds aren’t dominant in any fashion, really, but not boring either. Lots of action, which would be really exciting if I didn’t know the outcome: these are two guys that come to play. Without knockdowns, I’d say that Marquez wins 2 of every 3 rounds he and Manny square off. And all rounds are close, so who can really say?

Onto 2.

David Haye Retires

Let’s put aside the question of whether this is a real retirement or not. Let’s take him at his word.

Professional athletes have a strange fate. The most successful are the most tough mentally: they train harder, smarter and longer than their equally (or more highly) talented peers.

I actually believe success in any walk of life depends on experience and sustained mental strength. Sports, business, science, family life, friendship: it all takes work and intelligence and effort.

I say this because in all things except sports, you get to use your experience and knowledge and constantly improve for as long as you choose. If success grants you one thing it’s the ability to control your fate. The most successful keep at it right up until and beyond where social norms tell you you should stop.

In sports, though, you work at something from childhood and, just as you’re beginning to reach true mental and intellectual maturity, your physical abilities begin their decline. As an athlete, you have dedicated your LIFE to this activity and just as start to get it, you have to stop it.

They probably feel the same as they did when they were 20. How could those feelings be wrong?! This must be unimaginably frustrating.

Maybe you become a coach. Maybe you go get an MBA. Who knows. But the allure of un-retirement is immense. In contact sports like boxing there is a powerful disincentive, though. Here’s David Haye:

I didn’t want my speech to become any more slurred than it was when I first entered the ring, and was keen not to one day look like an extra from Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ video.

This happens to a lot of boxers. This happens to even more football and hockey players, because those sports employ more people. Concussions destroy lives.

I think that boxers should retire before 30. I think that guys like Floyd Mayweather Jr. got into their 30s with relatively little physical punishment because of technique built on talent. Talent fades, though, and Floyd’s going to start getting hit.

These people train their minds to push their bodies beyond where the limits ‘should be’. This is a skill that begets extraordinary success and wealth.

A more valuable skill, for the sake of their lives, is turning it off.

Don’t Want To Choke? Practice Not Choking

Great one by Barker today. Question: “How to not choke under pressure:”

Distraction (counting backwards from 100) or having adapted to self-awareness (being videotaped in prior attempts) both prevented choking:

At some level of achievement, this breaks down. Tiger Woods has more experience not choking than anybody and he does nothing but these days…

Guess even the strongest of mental fortresses crumble under the siege of domestic unrest.

Fight Review: Mayweather vs. Ortiz

Watching HBO’s reply (love having HBO). Here’s Bad Left Hook’s extensive coverage.

My notes:

Mayweather really can land those lead straight rights. Man he’s fast.

My enduring view of Mayweahter is that he’s one of these athletes that makes it look easy. One of the reasons he looks so good is that his opponents get discouraged and can’t figure out how to continue.

Defense/counter-attack is probably the most consistently successful strategy in all of sports. This bodes well for Mayweather’s chances against anyone.

On the other hand, Mayweather’s style of defense will wear down more quickly than others’ offensive powers. Speed kills, sure, but speed dies, too.

You know when a fighter reacts to getting hit they feel it.. Floyd did that whole smile and “Come on, that didn’t hurt!” routine. The power got to him. Hm…

Saw Floyd’s two hands go up right before the headbutt. My god, Ortiz actually had a chance. What an idiot. An idiot inexperienced kid. A kidiot.

The knockout was pretty unsportsmanlike but not against the rules as many have said. I think Floyd went into that bro hug thinking, what in the hell is this? Fuck it, I’m going to hit him.

Now, knockouts are concussions and sometimes they don’t go away. When you get KO’d  you lose some ability to endure blows to the head forever. Arthur Abraham’s despicable foul against Andre Dirrell comes to mind. That guy will never be the same.

So let’s speculate about Pacquiao. Floyd chose his opponent well, here: Ortiz is a less-skilled version of Manny: probably not as quick and not as awkward and not as powerful. But a southpaw and close enough on everything else.

I suspect Manny won’t get frustrated with Mayweather who clearly isn’t going to knock a ready fighter out. With each passing day, Floyd’s abilities erode more quickly than Manny’s.

Five years ago, Floyd by a comfortable UD, I think.

Today? Or in two years when they actually meet? I think Manny hurts Floyd like Mosley did and like Ortiz did. But Manny won’t screw up the finish.

Manny Pacquiao by KO.

Mayweather vs. Ortiz: Hope For Boxing

Here’s the NYT on Money Mayweahter:

Mayweather, regarded as one of the best boxers in history, fights under a highly unusual financial structure, exchanging upfront risk for back-end profit while retaining total control. He is even responsible for paying his opponent, in this case a business expense of at least $2 million…

In his previous four fights, Mayweather earned $115 million. For Saturday night’s event, he is expected to make about $40 million, and the checks will come for years, determined by the results of many things beyond the fight itself, like the gate and the pay-per-view television numbers.

More here.

The Superstar Phenomenon means the brightest stars will be ‘bigger than the sport’. This is a tired phrase, but I think it has real meaning in boxing, where an athlete can supplant the entire organizational power structure and, effectively, ply his trade independently. Mayweather can and does regularly.

‘Bigger than the sport’ does not describe, say, LeBron James or Roger Federer or Tiger Woods (ok, these examples are all from 2008 but stay with me). They cannot quit dealing with the NBA or the ATP or PGA and remain relevant. There’s a powerful force that keeps these superstars in the fold: Monopoly.

Fans want the best to compete with each other in an unbridled athletic competition; ironically, financial and organizational competition (i.e. capitalism) prevents this. Multiple organizational bodies (‘leagues’) compete by holding their athletes hostage. They say to each other: together we can give the fans what they want: superfights, superbowls and world-super-grand-mega-intercontinental undisputed championships. Apart the pie is smaller. So let’s cooperate!

But these aren’t your grandfather’s competing organizational bodies. The AFL and ABA deliberately pursued a strategy of selling their Pepsi recipe to Coke. They wanted to cash out.

But because there is no dominant player in boxing, nobody blinks. The economic model is a classic prisoner’s dilemma where nobody plays nice.

I wish I could measure it, but my feeling is that casual fans’ interest in boxing is weak for smaller fight and increasing for personality-driven superstar bouts. This means that promoting bodies are banking concentrating their resources on those superstar bouts. They need these fights bad and Floyd’s nicking their lunch.

A potential way around this is the UFC (monopoly) model. You know what I notice most about the UFC ? Small records and young athletes.

Guys don’t have 30-something fights before they hit the big time. And once you hit the big time, the lights shine on you until someone knocks them out.

Boxing promoters have this tendency to milk a superstar cash cow by setting up weak fights with plausible contenders insiders know can never live up. This cements the superstar as The Best ($ka-ching-ching$), while the real contenders languish. A lesser sport (and SMALLER PIE, I shout from the rooftops) is the result.

There are signs that the other superduperstar in boxing is getting his (business) act together. If Paquiao can duplicate Mayweather Promotions and the next superstar after that follows suit, my hope is that the promoters (the sanctioning bodies are laughably irrelevant) will collude to destroy the superstar model.

Tournaments. Younger stars. More stars.

Starve the beast.

Khan vs Judah Review

Wife went to bed early so I thought I’d rewatch Khan Judah. Forthwith, some observations:

Key point early on: the ref clearly (like, clearly) points to the TOP of each fighter’s belt and says any punches below that will be called off.

There’s a lot of talk about handspeed and Lampley said Judah claims to have never been in the ring with a fighter with faster hands. He (Judah) said that he was faster than Mayweather over the first four rounds. Kellerman (during the third round I think) said that he hasn’t seen a Khan speed advantage yet.

Yet.

That’s a key Zab qualification from K and Zab himself. I agree that Zab looked to be Khan’s equal early, actually, but he slowed down at a much faster rate than Khan. He became hesitant.

From what I’ve read, the observation that Zab cedes the psychological game too easily isn’t a controversial one.

And that Khan reach! They look like they should be in different divisions.

As the fight progresses, Khan looks faster.  He’s also got this ridiculous left hook (my favorite punch, generally) that is great as a third crack in a combination or a surprise lead.

Then there’s the 5th round body-blow KO. Incredibly, it might have been a Judah give-up; it didn’t look that bad. Mentally weak.

Here’s BLH and Dan Rafael. Generally, the commentariat seem to agree that the KO shot wasn’t a low blow and I suppose they’re probably right.

Still. The ref said that that exact shot would be disallowed. Probably means the refs should explain the rules a bit better if that wasn’t actually against the rules.

here’s a video

This is finally a fight where the old vet isn’t totally mailing it, KO controversy notwithstanding. And that’s probably because he’s fighting a hungry young fighter. I predict that Mayweather/Ortiz will be an excellent fight for this same reason. Ballsy of Floyd to take on a youngster.

They don’t mess around.

Watergun Fight

Apparently they happen here in Boston all the time:

I saw one go down today in the oldest city park in the US. It was pretty lame.

There were two kinds of people there: little kids and 20s-30s guys who put way too much time into their shields, costumes and bags of waterbombs.

As a friend of mine with me put it: a virgins-only event.