Friday, May 31, 2002

Celebrity Boxing: So, What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?

I don’t watch much TV;
none, in fact; except when I’m on the road and boredom
sets in. Then, I’ll turn on the box and watch, almost
always to be disappointed.

Last week was not
different . . .

The new, hot "reality" program I
tuned to -- Celebrity Boxing -- pitted the likes of 7
foot 7 inch stick, Manute Bol, against a morbidly obese
and toothless, Refrigerator Perry.

Another fight
saw a 250 pound former body shop repairman and (some
say) statutory rapist, Joey Buttafuoco, fling a 170
pound former female wrestler around the ring.

only thing I could see these folks once had in common
was that, at one brief moment in their lives, they were
famous -- for good reasons, bad reasons, and in some
cases, no reasons at all.

Perhaps the most
bizarre match pitted Darva Conger, who became famous by
marrying someone she had never seen before on national
TV, against Olga Korbut, the former Russian gymnast,
who, in 1972, was the Olympic darling of the world.
There could be no two people more different. One had
talent, had won gold medals, and was the pride of her
country. The other was a bleach blonde who was willing
to marry a total stranger for 15 minutes of fame, and,
she hoped, a few million dollars.

Yet, as
different as Conger and Korbut were and are, they
somehow both found themselves in a freak side show,
boxing gloves strapped on, and beating each other like
mules in front of 10 million people.

“Why,” is
the obvious question, and my guess is that neither
Darva, nor Olga, ever had much of a self-image, but
rather, always relied on others to tell them who they
were and are, and so judged their net worths. After Olga
got back to Russia in the early 70’s, she wasn’t a
world-class gymnast much longer, but disappeared into
the far less glamorous vocation of teaching. Conger
never did anything worth mentioning and so her fame fled
even faster.

For both women, Celebrity Boxing was
their chance to have someone, anyone, tell them that
they were still somebody, apparently not realizing, or
not caring, that they had become laughing stocks, freak
sideshow entertainment for the bored and restless. For
me, it was especially sad in the case of Korbut, who
once deserved the fame she had attained. For Conger, it
was just more of the same -- Laughing Stock, Part

The entire spectacle reminded me of a
statistic I read recently: When children today are asked
today what they want to be when they grow up, a high
percentage answer, “I want to be famous.” It never
occurs to them that being famous is the natural result
of doing something important or meaningful, not an end
in itself.

Yet, fame has, in fact, become an end
in itself, as evidenced by Celebrity Boxing, one of many
“reality” TV shows that are, regrettably, real, and
monuments to fame as the endgame, even if it means
strapping on gloves and beating someone senseless to the
whoops and hollers of a General Public who has nothing
better to do with their time than to lean back in their
Lazy-Boys with a six pack of Bud and whoop it up to the

Some might say Celebrity Boxing is
strong evidence that our society has hit rock bottom,
that the best we can hope for is a faceless public to
tell us that we’re OK, and their case is looking
stronger all the time. But, like the stock market, I
fear the bottom may be a lot further below us than we
might think, or believe, or care to imagine.


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