Friday, April 24, 2020

the last book I ever read (The Sweet Science by A. J. Liebling, excerpt five)

from The Sweet Science by A. J. Liebling:

The fight itself, as you have probably read, was memorable, but chiefly for meteorological reasons. It was postponed from the night of Monday, June twenty-third to that of Wednesday, June twenty-fifth, because of rain. Wednesday was the hottest June twenty-fifth in the history of the New York City Weather Bureau. I rode the subway up to the Yankee Stadium, where the fight was to be held, and the men slumped in the seats and hanging to the straps weren’t talking excitedly or making jokes, as fight fans generally do. They were just gasping gently, like fish that had been caught two hours earlier. Most of those who had been wearing neckties had removed them, but rings of red and gree remained around collars and throats to show the color of the ties that had been there. Shirts stuck to the folds of bellies, and even the floor was wet with sweat.

My seat was in a mezzanine box on the first-base line, and I felt a mountain climber’s exhaustion by the time I had ascended the three gentle inclines that lead to the top of the grandstand, from which I had to descend to my seat. A fellow in a party behind me, trying to cheer his companions, said, “And you can tell your grandsons about this fight and how hot it was.” The preliminaries were on when I arrived, and two wretched forms were hacking away at each other under the lights that could beat down on the ring. I could see the high shine on the wringing-wet bodies, and iimagined that each man must be praying to be knocked out as speedily as possible. They were too inept; the bout went the full distance of six rounds, and then both men collapsed in their corners, indifferent to the decision. A miasma of cigarette smoke hung over the “ringside” on the baseball diamond, producing something of the effect you get when you fly over a cloud bank. There was no breeze to dispel it, and the American flags on the four posts at the corners of the ring drooped straight down. It was a hundred and four degrees Farenheit in there, we were to learn from the newspapers next morning.

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