Friday, April 17, 2009

The Wrestler (actually, boxer)

Last night, I went to The Golden Gloves Tournament at Madison Square Gardens. It’s an amateur boxing championship where men and women of all weight classes try to out-punch each other in the face. Actually, it’s not just the face, it’s the chest too. But not the top of the head, or the back, or below the belt, of course. And fighters can’t hit with just any part of their gloves, only this little part around the knuckles that they’ve marked with tape. There are so many rules to boxing and if I start listing the ones I learned last night I will get bogged down. The point is, whoever scores the most points, (as determined by the 20 or so spectator judges) gets to wear home a pimped out gold chain with a boxing glove pendant as big as my kidney at the end of it.

Does that description sound glib? It shouldn’t. Boxing is fucking awesome.

I was tired and grumpy and hungry when I got to Madison Square Gardens. Then all the sudden I was watching a scrappy 112 lb girl kick the crap out of her opponent! It was like the fights I used to watch in front of my high school after lunch break, (East High alumni know what I’m talking about.) And when Shemuel Pagan of the Bronx took on Vassilliy Zherebnenko of Kasakhstan it was the Cold War all over again! Pods of Russians throughout the crowd chanted “Russia! Russia! Russia!” while my boyfriend tried to goad his friend and me into a “USA! USA! USA!” counter-scream.

But it’s so obvious to say that bloodlust was what yanked me out of my end-of-a-long-week fog. I’ve got all this testosterone in my bloodstream these days. I have this vivid mental picture of a bunch of tattooed testosterone particles in wifebeaters teaming up to try and chase the frail estrogen out of my system by way of my monthly cycles. I work and play sports with all these dudes. I like books about war, I’m learning the rules of baseball. Getting revved up over people trying to knock each other unconscious is just one more wrinkle in a journey that ends with me growing a full moustache.

What I didn’t expect to see was the tenderness between fighters. You rest in the middle of a round by wrapping your arms around your opponent, by leaning yourself against them so that they carry your weight for a few seconds. It sort of looks like they’re calling a truce, like they’re wondering, “What were we fighting about? I’m so tired I can’t even remember anymore.” At the end of each match, the boxers would hug each other, hug the opponent’s trainer. And that they had just been kicking ass made their embraces seem that much more tender.

If only we could cut our emotional wheels that quickly in real life. After the punches thrown, it takes so long to find our way back to each other. We return to the center of the ring by way of ginger inches. But most of the time, fighting doesn’t seem to amount to much more than a sport. Would it be great if forgiving could be done as jauntily as those boxers’ embraces? To me, anyone who can let go of shit that easily deserves to make off with some golden glove bling.

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