Saturday, April 25, 2020

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

from The Sweet Science by A. J. Liebling:

At eight o’clock I took a taxi to within a third of a mile of the Stadium, and dismounted when my vehicle could no longer advance. The first preliminary bout was to go on at eight-thirty, as it usually does in big shows, but the main bout was to begin at nine instead of ten, because it would have to be on the air at ten in the Eastern time zone. One result was that the hordes of people who customarily stream in between nine and ten were for once hurrying to get to their seats early. To extract the maximum amount of fun from this situation, the Stadium management had decided to admit ticket holders at my gate only in single file, like candidates for a crap game, each one squeezing by the belly of a large special policeman, who half blocked the interstice through which we were eventually admitted. Now and again, he would stop the whole line to permit the egress of someone governed by a premonition; I can think of no other reason why so many people would want to come away from a fight before it started. When we had finally been allowed to proceed to the point where a guard was waiting to snatch our tickets, we were turned onto the first of six flights of concrete stairs and at length run down a ramp to our seats. The layout had evidently been designed by the same chap who built the stockyards, but fight followers have been a hardy lot since egan’s day. I arrived at my perch, which was as exiguous as a racing saddle but harder, full of that exhilaration that always precedes what old Pierce would call a contest of heroes. I could not sit back. The customers adjoining me had already arrived, and both of them overlapped their thirty dollars’ worth of space by several inches. But by adopting a forward crouch, which I modeled after my recollection of how Eddie Arcaro rides a finish, I was able to maintain a kind of equilibrium and enjoy a good view of the ring. While we were thus wedged in, venders of binoculars and hot dogs, who merely block your vision as they walk down the aisles in other cities, walked over our feet and crawled over our laps.

I took to reading the biographical notes in the official program. The one I liked best was about Walcott. It began, “If public support was the decisive yardstick in Jersey Joe Walcott’s bid to become the first boxer ever to regain the heavyweight championship, the popular 39-year-old Negro would be assured of the distinction when he encounters Rocky Marciano tonight. Few fighters have won the heart of the public as has this wholesome, deeply religious father of six children.”

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