Newspaper Archive of
Post-Gazette
Boston, Massachusetts
Lyft
March 11, 2016     Post-Gazette
PAGE 16     (16 of 16 available)        PREVIOUS     NEXT      Full Size Image
 
PAGE 16     (16 of 16 available)        PREVIOUS     NEXT      Full Size Image
March 11, 2016
 

Newspaper Archive of Post-Gazette produced by SmallTownPapers, Inc.
Website © 2017. All content copyrighted. Copyright Information.     Terms Of Use.     Request Content Removal.




PAGE 16 BOSTON POST-GAZE'n'E, MARCH 11, 2016 HOOPS and HOCKEY by Richard Preiss in the HUB What Makes Joe Frazier vs. Ali 1. With the proliferation of choices on cable televi- sion, many of us find ourselves using the remote to surf the channels in search of something worth watching. There seems to be a consensus, at least among people I talk to, that with the increase in choices has come a definite decrease in things worth watching. Most people tell me that, if given the choice, they would settle on roughly a dozen channels in their cable package. It is why so many of us find ourselves endlessly flipping from station to station looking for something good to watch. We all have our lists of favorite films. For many, it is fun comparing top ten choices, and in many cases a certain number of the same classics show up on the different lists, though they may be ranked differently. People have different criteria for making their choices. I settled on one for making my choices of what to add to my list. If I am channel surfing and I come across a certain movie where I feel compelled to watch it no matter how many times I have seen it before, and also where I am going to leave it on even if I am not seeing it from the beginning, that teUs me it is a great film. I may know every line from such a film, but I still can't tear myself away from it. I think of such movies as The Godfather, Casa- blanca, The Third Man, Patton, and The Shaw- shank Redemption. These, and others, contain that combination of great acting, cinematogra- phy, and screenwriting combined with interesting subject matter that make them impossible to turn away from. Also, every time I watch one of these movies, I see something new, something I just hadn't picked up on before. That is a sure sign of a great film. I must have seen The Third Man a hundred times, and it still is fresh to me. Who could ever tire of seeing George C. Scott in the role of Patton, or of the interactions between Rick (Humphrey Bogart) and Captain Renault (Claude Rains) in Casablanca. "Louis, this looks like the beginning of a beautiful friendship". In boxing, fans will argue on end about the greatest fights of all time. As with rating film, each boxing enthusiast has his own standards for what constitutes a great fight. I thought it would be interesting to apply my movie method to decide what makes a great fight. What are those fights that no matter how many times you have watched them, knowing the outcome, you still are compelled to view them? The fight where each time you see it you notice something new. The fight that still stirs an excitement in you even though you first saw it many years ago. A lot of people may immediately offer up the great slugfests such as Ward vs. Gatti or Fore- man vs. Lyle. While those may have been exciting fights, I do not believe they remain interesting over repeated viewings. I have a few thoughts on what makes a boxing fight a classic worth repeated viewings. One criterion would be the drama leading up to the bout coupled with whether or not the fight lived up to the hype. In this category I would place the first Ali vs. Frazier bout. I can watch that fight between two great undefeated champions over and over again and still find new things in it. All these years later, I still feel the tension and excitement when I watch Joe and Muhammad entering the ring. This was much more than a a Fight Great? fight; it was an event. It also turned out to be an extraordinary battle of wills. The second Louis vs. Schmefing fight contains all of the requirements of a truly great fight even though it only lasted slightly more than two minutes. The bout was filled with drama as it took place against the backdrop of the rise of Nazi Germany with the shadow of war beginning to darken our nation. Schmeling had previously stopped Louis and there were many who believed he would do so again. If Schmeling won, it would give Hitler more ammunition for declaring Aryans the master race. Not only did Joe Louis put that myth to rest by destroying Schmeling with his relentless attack, he also fought a brilliant fight. I have watched this bout over and over again, not for the thrill of seeing Schmeling severely beaten, but because Louis executes such amazing boxing moves in doing so. He pivots to the side, lands perfectly planned punches from all angles, and displays laser-type accuracy in his delivery. It is a two-minute master class in great boxing. The second Louis-Schmel/ng bout. A much lesser known fight, but one I have on my list of never-get-tired-of-watching bouts, is the match-up between middleweights George Benton and Johnnie Smith. I can watch this fight over and over and over again because Benton is positively beautiful to watch as he sets up Smith for a second-round knock out. Benton is methodical and calculating. You see him finding the distance by using probing punches while also picking up the rhythm of Smith's punches. When he finally ends the bout, it is with a perfectly timed counter blow to the jaw and you know you have witnessed a pro at work. It is another master class in boxing. First Louis-Conn bout. While my list of fights that can and should be watched over and over again is quite long, I will close by mentioning a fight I have previously devoted a column to. It is one that is often talked about, but I believe has not been actually seen by a lot of boxing fans. That would be the first bout between Joe Louis and Billy Conn. It is one of the greatest fights of all time. It is a much overlooked bout that has been reduced to a simple narrative about a cocky young fighter who was less than two rounds away from winning the title when he decided to go toe to toe with the champion and ended up getting knocked out. There was much more to that fight, and I urge fight fans to take the time to study it. It was a match-up of two incredible boxers, both of whom had brilliant strategies for winning the fight. You will see some of the greatest displays of boxing ever in this fight. You will also realize there was much more going on in the ring that night than the rather simplistic tale that has been attached to it would have you believe. Take a few moments to think about both those movies you cannot pull yourself away from and those great fights that still stir up excitement in you no matter how many times you watch them. Those are the classics. NOT REALLY A LOSS FOR THE GREAT ART ROSS -- Sometimes achievements need to be placed in perspective, es- pecially when compared across eras, decades and other vast expanses of time. Such is the case with Bruins coach Claude Julien recently advancing to the head of the fine to become the all-time coach- ing wins leader for the Black and Gold. When the Bruins came away with a 5-4 victory over the Florida Panthers down in the Sunshine State on March 7th, Julien advanced past Art Ross to take over the top spot as re- lates to coaching victories. Ross finished an outstanding coach- ing career with the B's with 387 triumphs logged in while Julien began the rest of his coaching career on Causeway Street on March 8th with the meter show- ing 388 and counting. But just who was that man Art Ross? And is it fair to com- pare the achievements of the two? Arthur Howey "Art" Ross was born in another century -- and it wasn't the 20th. It was the 19th. There weren't any cars. There weren't any telephones. The vast majority of appliances, devices and comforts we as- sociate with modern living in the second decade of the 21st century didn't exist on January 13, 1885, when Ross was born near Hamilton, Ontario. Except for a brief appear- ance at the end of his career, Ross didn't play in the National Hockey League. That's be- cause it didn't exist during his career on the ice. His total NHL stats: three games played with one goal scored way back in 1918. So he became a referee for several seasons, coached a team near his hometown for a year, and then was named the head coach and general manager of the Brulns in 1924 -- the year the B's were created and some four years before the Black and Gold moved into their newly constructed Boston Garden home on November 20, 1928. Except for a couple of breaks (1934-1936 and 1939-1941), Ross would coach the team through the 1944-1945 sea- son. Under his direction, the franchise won the Stanley Cup in 1929 and 1939 and made the Stanley Cup Final on three other occasions (1927, 1930 and 1943). He would stay on as general manager until he retired in October of 1954. He died on August 5, 1964, in Medford at the age of 79. So what really differentiates Art Ross from Julien concern- ing their respective coaching records? A close look gives an indication. When Art Ross stepped behind the bench for his first season with the Bruins back in 1924-1925, the NHL regular season was only 30 games long. That increased to 36 for 1925-1926 and then to 44 for the next five seasons. It was increased to 48 from 1931-1932 to 1941-1942. The last three years that Ross spent behind the bench, it was 50. In the modern era, the regular season consists of 82 games. So coach Julien is now in his ninth 82-game regular season with the Bruins. Now let's go back to Art Ross. In his first season, he only had 30 regular season games. Then he had one at 36 and the next five at 44. Thus, for the first sev- en years of his coaching career with Boston, Ross worked with regular seasons below or just over half of what constitutes a regular season today. But here's the point, ha every single one of Art Ross' 17 sea- sons behind the Bruins bench, he had far fewer opportunities to win games than coach Julien does. Every single year (exr~pt in the reduced schedule lockout year), coach Julien has had 82 opportunities to win a regular season game. Art Ross never had more than 50 in a season (and, for much of his career, less than that}. Just think how many more victories Art Ross would have added to his win column if every s'mgle one of his I 7 regular sea- sons consisted of 82 games. It's easy to envision him winning at least 100 more games, perhaps 150 with an outside chance at 200 or more wins. Thinking of it in z~verse, what would coach Julien's win total be if every one of his seasons had consisted of 50 games or less? He would still be a great coach -- but one with far fewer victories. So, there really is no com- parison because the eras are different, the lengths of the regular seasons are different and the number of teams in the league is different -- six in the time of Art Ross, 30 in coach Julien's era. In addition to winning games, Ross made a lasting imprint on the game of hockey. He reconfigured the hockey goal net, molding it into a B shape -- a design that was used in the NHL from 1927 to 1984, when the league adopted a modified version. He also improved the puck using synthetic rubber and, along with New Yorker Rangers coach Frank Boucher, helped create the red line. Another lasting legacy came in 1947 when he donated the trophy that bears his name -- the Art Ross Trophy-- awarded to the leading scorer in the NHL's regular season. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1949. That's why, in a way, we don't feel his being surpassed by Ju- lien is really a loss for Art Ross today. Sure, there may be some in a'wins are everything" sports culture who will now relegate Ross to some sort of secondary standing based solely upon be- ing surpassed in the category that focuses on the number of career victories. But that's more than bal- anced by the fact that whenever one goes to a rink, the legacies of Art Ross will be there -- the goal, the puck, the red line and, yes, the banners in the rafters at the Garden. Indeed, Bruins history and in- deed the history of the NHL will never be at a loss, in many ways thanks to the great Art Ross.