Tuesday, December 28, 2010



Yes ladies and gentleman, this is yet another in what has been a very irregular series of ‘Sports… As Life’ posts. Being from Big Ten country, I tend to favor teams from that conference over almost any other. It still is going to be a bit strange with Nebraska playing against the Buckeyes, State and the Wolverines and those being the hoodies that I wear regularly. There is very little non-Husker merchandise available as far as I can tell. A big difference from shopping in the Metro, but then again, I haven’t really checked out what’s what regarding shopping in these parts just yet.

Because of some big game embarrassments with my Buckeyes and Michigan, but when you go beyond the top teams, the Big Ten has done quite well. And since their top tier teams play against the SEC in bowls, I am miffed that people don’t mention this when discussing how tough the SEC is. Iowa, Michigan State and Penn State  have had success against the supposed big boys from Dixie and hey, Michigan has beaten a SEC team a time or two as well. This year in the Rose Bowl, the big red of Wisconsin will be playing for something more than conference pride. I think that the 2011 Rose Bowl will be the tipping point of the big time college football teams against the non-qualifiers in the BCS bowl system.

TCU is a very good team, very fast and athletic. In fact, they seem to be a team that could have competed in the supposed superior SEC, Saturday after Saturday, which is the common complaint about teams like TCU, Boise State and Utah. Even with their success in the past few years in big bowl games against teams from one of the power six (I wonder if the powe six conferences are anything like Six Sigma??) football conferences, the line goes that they could not line up week after week and match up against schools like they have beaten regularly in big time games.

But if there was a team that I thought really personified ‘big boy football’, it is the Wisconsin Badgers. Like the cat in my Face Book photo, what you see is what the hell you are going to get with Wisconsin. They are bigger and stronger than you and will run the damn ball right at you. We DARE you to stop us!!

There is nothing fancy in their arsenal. Two tight ends and a lead full back… they let you know by personnel what they are about. For sure, you have to ‘man up’ and get ready to knock slobber and rattle some cages. So for the Horned Frogs to be able to beat a team who is nationally known to be a physical football team, representative of a region that prides itself on being tough and enduring, in a signature bowl game (even though in its early years, it was the Pacific Coast Conference v. anyone, it is mostly seen as the Big Ten v. Pac – 10 game) for the Badgers, it would be a coup like none of the other previous bowl wins. Not the mention how damaging it would be for the Big Ten’s rep. You never hear about the game that got Urban Meyer the Florida job, when he took his non-automatic qualifier Utah team and beat the snot out of Alabama, do you? Yeah, those days have been overshadowed by the Crimson Tide winning a national title but still, they are the ones who got beat up by the ‘little guys’ when they were the cats meow (this just in… but with his long hair and scruff of a beard and moustache, Rickey Stanzi of Iowa is quite a freakin’ catch !!).


At some point I will put a picture of yours truly for my Facebook profile again, but the Dread Destroyer and my man Sonny the Elf will be in the rotation, according to how I am feeling. They are significant characters in my mind because they are the characterizations of the kind of single-mindedness I strive for and for sheer badassery; they are in my mind, the baddest.

Let me repeat that. THE baddest.

Not only do I have fuzzy memories of a young Mike Tyson, when I came home from the service and would read no-nothing sports writers who were pulled from covering local girls’ high school volleyball to do articles on boxing that featured Tyson, they often would make the comparison with Mike and Sonny. I assure you there is NO freakin’ comparison. The only person that ever came to mind that would compare with the kind of attitude Sonny had was the cat Denzel Washington played in the movie ‘Glory’ and the scene when Matthew Broderick goes to whip him and orders Denzel’s shirt to be removed. Anyone who saw the movie should remember all the scars on his back from whippings as a slave… Sonny lived a life that was like that. But I think that he was haunted by hoping that beating Floyd Patterson (who was TERRIFIED of Sonny… and he was trained by Cus D’Amato, which is worth noting as he ‘discovered’ Mike Tyson) that he would finally be embraced and on his plane flight back to his adopted home town of Philadelphia. He had come to grips that he wasn’t going to move the hearts and minds of every one, but when he got off the plane, nothing could have prepared him for what he saw as he came off his plane.

There was almost no one at the airport to greet him as Philly’s own heavyweight champion. A few sportswriters and a handful of airport employees were there to welcome Sonny. He knew at that moment, no matter what he did or who he beat was going to erase enough of the taint of his associations or his attitude, which was a thousand times more pant-pissing inducing than Mike’s because Sonny was FOR REAL.

Comparing whose life was harder, Sonny’s or Mike’s is a case of apples and who gives a rat’s patoot. Being black as Jim Crow was still strong as they were in Sonny's era or in the 80’s where the seed were planted that would eventually sprout into a Black President? It isn’t any competition. Sonny had it harder and HE was tougher. Even as they both were managed by ‘inside guys’, Mike with the trio of Bill Clayton, Cus D’Amato, and Jimmy Jacobs, all independently well-off and established to get Tyson the right fights, Sonny Liston was not so lucky, even for a guy who was controlled by the Mob. He fought EVERYBODY on the way up. I don’t think there has ever been a heavyweight champion who fought as many top contenders before he finally got his title shot than Sonny, and he beat guys up.

He could bust you up with his jab and when he put his right hand behind it, it was good night and thanks for coming… please drive home safely.

Watching Sonny bust up guys like Cleveland ‘The Big Cat’ Williams on repeats of the Cavalcade of Boxing would help me connect with the misunderstood Liston. Like many people, he wanted different but the world would not let him be any more than what he had been for most of his life. Begrudgingly, he would play his role as he did in the Esquire cover, the ‘sais quois’ of white fear of the black man. Still, as a little boy I did not know all of this and all I could see was how bad and tough Sonny Liston was and that I wanted to be able to make people shake in their seats and avert their gaze lest they draw my attention.

Sonny was a bad, bad man. For real. But he was buried by the relentless waves of history and is nothing more than a footnote in the accomplishments of others.

I don’t want that to happen to Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl. I will be pulling for them (after all, Wisconsin IS a party state!) and for the Big Ten and all the people who work in decaying industries and have to acquire talents to find work and do so wordlessly, the same focus determination that comprised the ‘Arsenal of Democracy’ and put the whole friggin’ world on wheels. On Wisconsin.


Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

Love Big Ten football, it is smash mouth and Monster's of the Midway style.

Toon said...

Sonny Liston shows up as a Trivial Pursuit answer a LOT. Don't know why.

Jonthy, Alice the uppity white cat's babysitter said...

Mark, I have to root for TCU since I attended a couple of semesters of school there. However, I believe it will take a miracle for them to beat Wisconsin. May the best team win.