Sunday, April 26, 2020

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

from The Sweet Science by A. J. Liebling:

It wasn’t a crashing knockdown, the kind that leaves the recipient limp, like a wet hat, or jerky, like a new-caught flatfish. This appeared to be a sit-down-and-think-it-over knockdown, such as you might see in any barroom on a night of full moon. Jersey Joe must have begun the process of ratiocination right away. But the conclusion at which he was arriving was not instantly apparent. Like the drowning men in stories, he may have been reviewing his whole life, with a long pause on what had happened to him in Philadelphia. The dramatic significance of the fleeting seconds was lost upon the crowd, because everybody present, with the possible exception of Mr. Walcott himself, took it for granted that he would get up within ten seconds. And maybe he thought so, too, for a while, but if he did, he dismissed the thought. Sprawled on the canvas floor covering, his right arm hooked over the middle strand of the ropes, he waited for the referee to count ten, and arose. Even then it was not clear to us in the balcony that the fight was over. Unable to hear the count, we assumed that he had risen on nine. But when the referee, a slight man named Frank Sikora, spread his arms wide to indicate that all was ended, Walcott walked calmly over to the ropes on our side of the ring, evincing a commendable independence of public opinion. If he had maintained this attitude, I would have admired him. The spectators were resentful, and their resentment was based on the suspicion that he had not been hit hard enough. This is a decision every man must make for himself, and of all the sixteen thousand persons under the big shed, Walcott was in the best position to make it. But as he heard the boos, he changed his mind. He mimed outrage, batting his gloved hands together and stamping like a wrestler. Wrestling is classed as a species of exhibition by the New Yotk State Athletic Commission, and the acting is part of the show. Jersey Joe made it plain that he had not been knocked out at all. The crowd, with a forlorn hope that the fight might be resumed—after all, it had got precious little action for its money—increased its booing, but it was now booing for Walcott. Jersey Joe had stolen the scene from the man who had knocked him out. (And yet no man possesses a higher character for a deserving well-behaved man than ROCKY MARCIANO.) The whole fight had lasted two minutes and twenty-five seconds. The Kentucky Derby this year lasted two minutes and two seconds, and nobody cried, “Stop thief!” But fight fans are accustomed to more protracted pleasures.

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