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November 6, 2015

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Page 16 BOSTON POST-GAZETTE, NOVEMBER 6, 2015 HOOPS and HO EV in the HUB by Richard Preiss The Lies of Boxing Humphrey Bogart in The Harder They Fail I once read that to be a good boxer you have to be a good liar. The reasoning behind this comment was that a boxer has to hide his fear when getting into the ring, that he must not show he is hurt when he is feel- ing pain, and must show confidence when he is filled with self-doubt. All of this re- quires fooling people into believing some- thing, other than what they see, The fighter lies to the fans when he enters into the ring looking cocky and defiant, while inside he is wondering ff he did enough road work, sparred enough rounds, if he is really ready to face battle. He lies to his opponent when he is hit by a shot that causes him to see stars, but shakes his head as ff to say he didn't feel a thing. He lies to the referee when he is asked if he is okay and wants to continue after being floored by a power shot to the chin. There is a part of him saying it might be a good time to go home, but that is outweighed by the shame he will feel if he quits. A boxer could not survive the sport if he didn't become skillful at deception. It is a key survival skill that is embedded in us. To show fear is to show weakness, and showing weakness gives predators a signal that they have an easy prey. It is a lesson learned by the earliest of cavemen. The lies I have described are those good lies that are said in order to save the fighter from harm. Just ask any married man how he responds when his wife asks him if she looks fat in a cer- tain dress. I think you will get what I mean. But what happens when a fighter starts to lie to himself?. I think of the pug that has seen his best days pass him by tells himself he still has that one good fight left in him, that chance to make it big. How many times does he step back into the ring only to take more punishment? When I think about the fighters who have done this, who have con- tinued on only to end up damaged for life. I am reminded of the lyrics from the Simon and Garfunkel song: "In the clearing stands a boxer, and a fighter by his trade, and he carries the re- minders of ev'ry glove that laid him down and cut him till he cried out in his anger and his shame, 'I am leaving, I am leaving,' but the fighter still remains." In many sports, older athletes lie to them- selves about Father Time somehow pass- ing them by as if they are immortal only to be embarrassed on the field or the court. They miss that easy catch or are unable to beat the throw. I am certain they feel shame, but the boxer suffers much more. Mike Lane and Humphrey Bogart. Boxers who convince themselves, or are convinced by others, that they still have the ability to go on are almost certainly assured of risking serious injury. Boxing is the most unforgiving of sports, and those who don't walk away in time are destined to live life in the "boxer's fog." The game demands a high price from those who try to beat it. A few weeks ago, I wrote a column about why I believe Rocky Marciano retired. Some people thought I was trying to tarnish Rocky's reputation. On the contrary, I feel the fact that he walked away while on top, and with his brain intact, adds to his great- ness. And his ability to resist the offers to come out of retirement show how he exhib- ited the same resolve about his own well- being that he had in the ring. Read Budd Schulberg's great book The Harder they Fall, or watch the movie of the same name, and you will see the reality of the dark side of boxing. It is the story of the fighter who believes the lies that are told to build him up. The people, the promoters, the managers, and the publicity agents con- vince him he is great and can be a super- man. It is easy to lie to a boxer as he is already lying to himself. That story is not far from the truth, and it is one that is repeated over and over again: Men who are treated as commodities and worse. It is a side of boxing I despise. Sure, it happens in all professions and is a part of life; the difference is, in boxing it is so bla- tant and cruel. As I said, boxing is a sport where it is easy to lie to the people who practice it because they are already conditioned to believe un- truths from what they tell themselves. It is also easy because when you question a man's desire to get into the ring, you are questioning his very manhood. His honor and courage are called into question. Even in this touchy feely politically correct world we live in, there is still no greater insult to a man than to question his courage. The unscrupulous promoters and managers know this and they know it is a powerful tool they have at their disposal that can be used to manipulate fighters into making decisions that will cause them harm. I hope the day comes when the well-being of the boxer is put ahead of the profit made off of them. It would be nice if the time came when promoters and managers told them when it was time to quit and get out while the getting is good. I doubt that day will come, but until it does we are all part of the trag- edy that befalls so many who take part in this very tough game. Rod Steiger and Humphrey Bogart. When Bruins center Chris Kelly went down on the ice dur- ing his first shift in the recent game against the Dallas Stars at the Garden, one could pic- ture the Bruins chances of hav- ing a memorable season also diminishing as he lay in pain upon the frozen surface. There is a saying in all pro sports that it's not who starts the long regular seasons, but who is standing in good health at the end of them. As the play- offs approach that really mat- ters. With Kelly, who fractured his femur and is expected to be out anywhere from six to eight months, that means he will not be in the lineup when the regular season concludes in April. Kelly was a player of multiple dimensions for the Bruins. He could play all three positions on the lines, he possessed a leadership presence in the locke room and he could moni- tor and tutor the several young players that the B's have brought aboard this season. He was also a good interview in postgame situations, ex- plaining with candor and detail what either went right or wrong in the contest that had just concluded on a particular evening. Quite often, when a player is injured in pro sports, the coach will often seek to keep a stiff upper lip, ff you will, saying the team will come together to get through the crisis. To his credit, Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien did not really do that. From the mo- ment he entered the press con- ference area and assumed his position on the podium, it was obvious that he realized his team would be deeply affected by the loss of Kelly. "You hope you can somehow compensate for his loss, but I think people are going to real- ize how important he is to our hockey club, not just on the ice but also in the dressing room and around the team," said Julien as he addressed the members of the media. "He's a guy that is extremely respected by his teammates. On the ice he's given us everything we've asked for. He's been moved around in all different posi- tions, never says a word, but just thrives on the opportunity to play in those spots that we've put him. He was a versa- tile player that we really counted on." The coach added that while Kelly was "an important part" of the team, it was not just about stepping up and setting the tone, but how much the B's relied on him for the crucial part he played on the penalty killing unit -- one that was ranked one of the worst in the NHL at the time of Kelly's injury. "He's blocked so many shots," stated Julien. "He's ex- tremely good. He was one of those guys that was offering us some hope in those (penalty killing) solutions. We will defi- nitely miss him there and we'll definitely miss his leadership." The Bruins now must play the remaining 72 games of the regular season without Kelly, a reality that may go on to cost them come April. While no one skater is responsible for all the victories or all the losses, one can agree that a player can be the deciding factor in a few of them. Thus, it seems reasonable to assume that Kelly, who will turn 35 on Novembex 1 I, eas- ily could have been the deci- sive player in three or four games between now and April, perhaps even a couple of more. If the Bruins just miss the play- offs (as they did last season) the absence of a player like Kelly could be the deciding fac- tor. Think back to last season when Captain Zdeno Chara missed 19 games in with a leg injury in the first half of the season. When the Bruins were eliminated from a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs on the last day of the season on April 12, it wasn't a stretch of the imagination to believe that Chara could easily have been a factor in converting some of the losses into victories the B's sustained while he recuperated. The 96 points the B's amassed last season were the most accumulated in NHL his- tory by a team that did not ad- vance to the playoffs. It's not hard to believe that Chara's presence would have been worth another few points (and thus a playoff berth) ff he could have played in the stretch of games he missed while be was recuperating. Similarly, wouldn't Kelly's presence for the entire 2015- 2016 season have been worth a few points for the B's. Of course it would have. And thus his absence may turn out to be a decisive factor in not only whether the B's make the play- offs, but if they do, how high a berth they earn as the postseason begins. Kelly's season-ending injury overshadowed the 5-3 loss to the Stars, a game that saw former Bnun Sequin lead DaUas to ctory by sco g ms seventh career hat tridL It was the familiar scenar the NHL of The Traded One coming lmck to haunt his former teauL The other scenario that played out was the continued disappointing performance (at least in home games) of goalie Tuukka Rask. Several of Dal- las' goals drew boos from the crowd while a number of easy saves by Rask drew rounds of derisive applause from fans. Where all this will lead no one knows but things haven't been going well during home games on Causeway Street thus far. The drama and specu- lation continues. We Hope it Isn't All Downhill from Here -- Tyler Randell scored his first two career goals in his first two games on his first two shots -- October 14th at Colorado and October 17~ at Arizona. That made him the first Bruin to score in his NHL de- but since Blake Wheeler accom- plished the feat back on Octo- ber 9; 2008 against Colorado. Randell is the first Bruins player to score in his first two games since Dmitri Kvartalnov started his career with a five- game goal streak way back in 1992.