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April 11, 2014

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Page 16 BOSTON POST-GAZETTE, APRIL 11,2014 V Boxing: Why Do We Watch It? "Nobody suffers in solitude as a prizefighter does in the moment of disappointment and defeat" -- Gay Talese A couple of weeks ago I wrote a column entitled "Boxing, Is It Worth It?" That piece got a lot of response. Going forward I thought I would explore just what it is that attracts us to the sport. In my research I came across a video taken during the exhibition of the Terme Boxer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City in 2013. In it, the legendary writer Gay Talese reflects on both the statue and boxing. I was going to use excerpts and make comments, but I believe Mr. Talese's words should stand on their own for now. I will continue writing on this topic in the future. In the video, which can be found on YouTube, Gay Talese is standing next to this magnificent work of art, even addressing at times. Ther is'a lot to reflect upon in what he says. GAY TALESE: "This magnificent and ancient " statue, The Boxer, is a representation of mankind's lasting con- cern with fear. In the times here, centuries before the birth of Christ, and just yesterday in some arena in some country in" this part of the world, a boxer, not looking unlike this has confronted fear. There's nothing like boxing among all the en- deavors which confronts singularly the fear of being beaten, and not only being beaten, but being beaten in public in front of a large audience of spectators. In order to do that you have to have both a sense of humility and. a sense of courage that sur- passes the endeavors of most men, even powerful men. This statue still bears the scars that the artist afflicted to it from way back before the era of Christ, but it is a contem- porary picture. This is a man I have spoken to myself in my own life as a sportswriter with the New York Times, and I talked to every prizefighter ranked, probably in the last half century. I would suspect much of what I heard from the fighters of my time was also represented by the expression, and maybe even verbally, by the fighters of his time. Reflecting in my memory of many, many nights on the side of the ring when I watched such bat- tiers as this try to do in front of a large crowd at the proper moment the very best they Could do to reap havoc on their opponent and if the reverse happened, if they were the recipi- ent of this kind of physical punishment that only boxers know, then they had to deal with accepting, in a solitary moment, all the blame. Nobody suf- fers in solitudeas a prizefighter does in the moment of disap- pointment and defeat. Eventually they will drift into obscurity and unknowingness. My- self, of dourse, and oth- ers would go into the locker room with the towels on the floor and the trainers all around and I am asking the questions: What Happened, what happened? Did you see the punch, did you see it coming? They don't really try to evade questions, I guess because they realize that soon they will not be called upon to explain themselves .because in- evitably they will drift into obscurity. And so, when we look at a boxer we have to think of the vulnerability, this is the human condition. with which we can all identify because we are all in peril, we all die, and we all know what it is like to have the final round of our life ahead of us, so all of us have a sense of termi- nation. So, I guess when we look for questions to a man, for the boxer, what happened? We could ask that question for our own life as we sit for our final hour, what happened, what happened? And we don't know. So, it's the unknowingness that really has the symbolic appeal of this life first, of concentration, and then the life of confrontation, and finally the conscious- ness that it is all in the past tense as your life ends as a performer and will soon end as an occupant of space. So, we learn about tragedy from people whose experiences we cannot share, nor do we want to share. No one wants to share the solitary life of losses and wins and losses that a fighter represents for all time." They left the arena in silence and shame, a sea- son reaching its low point with a few games remaining on the schedule. If winning the regular season series against the powerful Miami Heat was the high point and it certainly was then this certainly qualified as the nadir, for it was the direct opposite of that. It was a time for players to hang their heads and not look up for the scoreboard told a'dreadful story. The Celtics had just been defeated by the lowly Phila- delphia 76ers. The final was 111-102, a result logged against a 76ers team that had just snapped an NBA record-tying 26-game losing streak a week earlier. And not only was it a loss against the second worst team in the league, it was a setback that gave the down- in-the-depths 76ers the sea- son series over the Celtics by a 2-1 margin. When the 76ers left the parquet that night, it was with only their 17 th win of the season -- compared to 59 losses. Years from now, that may well be a trivia question that will live on in NBA lore. What team in the 2013-2014 NBA regular season won its series over Miami but lost its season series with Phila- delphia? The answer will always be the Boston Celtics. The Celtics postgame press conference area was envel- oped in a what-can-you- say atmosphere as first-year Head Coach Brad Stevens approached the microphone. Just as there have been cheerful nights in the Cel- tics past, as there assuredly will be in the future, this was an evening of solemn reflection. Asked if the team was "seeing the end" of the sea- son before it actually occurs, Stevens did not duck. "That may be the case," he ob- served. "But I hope that's not the case. I said in there (locker room) that I was going to swing hard until 10:30 pm on April 16 th (date of the last Celtics game). He added that he urged the players to "let's play, let's get after it." It certainly has been a dif- ferent season foi- the former coach of Butler University, who led his team to two Final Fours. Similar success may well occur for the Celtics under his reign. But it certainly won't be this year -- one that has been classi- fied from its inception as the first season-in a multi-year rebuilding process. "You know, it has been a long year," opined Stevens. "But sometimes you need to dial yourself back to 'it's a game you really enjoy.' You need to take the outside pressure off, the bow-you- played-in-the-last-game pressure off and just play with a clear mind and with freedom. Sometimes that's hard to do. But we need to do that with the last few games. We need to play better than we've played." Stevens revealed that he keeps all the setbacks in mind, a habit he developed as a college head coach. So how long does he dwell on the losses? "That's a good question," he said. "Some- where around forever. I don't have a 24-hour rule. I prob- ably should. I can tell you about every single one of my losses at Btler and I could probably go through every single one this year." The Celtics conclude the season on the aforemen- tioned April 16 th date with a home game against the Washington- Wizards. The C's, who had only amassed 23 victories as 04 April 8 th, will end with their worst record since the 1996-1997 season when Boston fin- ished with a 15-67 mark. Back then, that result gave the C's the best chance to win the first overall pick in the draft. Things didn't work out that way since San Antonio won the draft lottery. They chose Tim Duncan and the rest is history. This year, however, things will be different since the Celtics have two guaranteed first round picks. The order of one of those will be deter- mined by how things work out for the Celtics in the upcoming draft lottery. The other is the first round pick of the Brooklyn Nets which one draft blog indicated could well be the 17  or 18 a pick. It will be a long offseason for the Celtics -- almost six months -- but it will be a half year filled with activity. One thing is for certain: the 2014-2015 Boston Celtics will look very different from the team that exits the Garden late on the evening of April 16 th. Someone once said that darkness comes before the light. Even the brightest days begin in total darkness. With the upcoming draft lottery, the draft itself, plus (Continued on Page 12) lero "Our Family Serving our Immiiy th Professionalism, Dign tyi &.Respect " (price does not include cash advances) Nonsectarian for Ving Hours