I may not look or sound like a “typical” fan of fighting sports, but I love a good boxing or MMA match, and I have long been a fan of a good fight. I suppose I have a bit of a pugilistic mentality myself when it comes to some matters, and I’ve had more than my share of fisticuffs in my own life. I’m not the kind of person who backs down to anyone, and I appreciate seeing that same feisty spirit among other people, that same hostility to bullying and that same commitment to ferocious self-defense.
That said, a lot of big talkers end up being all hat and no cowboy. This is a huge problem in sports right now. Boxing is rife with corrupt belts and protected champions who duck out of fights with their “mandatory” challengers and schedule matches against patsies they are guaranteed to win. To give one example, Selcuk Aydin is the mandatory challenger to the WBC welterweight belt, with a record of 23-0 , but he never got to fight the title holder, Andre Berto, who ducked him and “went in other directions,” leaving Aydin to take a fight at a disadvantage to prove himself to American audiences and earn himself some paydays .
Nor is this the only case where a fighter has a big name reputation but has a tendency to duck competition. For years now boxing fans have been looking for a fight between Manny Pacquiano and Floyd Mayweather, and have been disappointed. There have been disputes of steroid use, unfair attempts to grab more of the gate, demands about venues, and more to divide it. By and large, more the blame seems to rest on Mayweather (his demands for 75% to 80% of the total receipts is clearly unreasonable, and his upcoming jail sentence makes scheduling difficult).
Nonetheless, it’s a fight many people insist on. And why hasn’t it happened? Basically, Mayweather and his camp strike me as chicken. They only want to schedule fights they know they will win, even if everyone knows that this is one fight everyone who is a fan of boxing wants to see . I would give Mayweather a slight advantage in the fight given his speed, but if both fighters remain mule-headed and stubborn it will not happen because it would have to happen on equal terms while both remain compelling fighters and before Manny gets too caught up in the morass of Philippine politics (which I’m not even going to get into here).
Nor is this sort of chickenhearted Brave Sir Robin-esque behavior limited to the fighting sports, where people might be expected to be fierce. It is a particular problem in college sports. The SEC is known for its particularly chickenhearted scheduling and misplaced claims of superiority. Nothing says dominance like scheduling patsies for one’s non-conference schedule. Schools like the Citadel and Furman do nothing but add a guaranteed win to schedules. What, no Sun Belt schools are available for the easy wins?
If you want to see chicken-hearted scheduling, look no further than the SEC. Just about every SEC school signs up for a FCS (formerly Division I-AA) patsy, and some even load up on two cupcakes : Alabama takes on Western Carolina, Arkansas and Florida take on Jacksonville State (with one more game left to schedule), Auburn has Alabama A&M, Georgia has Georgia Southern, Kentucky has Samford, LSU has Towson, Ole Miss has Central Arkansas, Mississippi State has South Alabama and Jackson State, South Carolina has Wofford, Texas A&M has Sam Houston State and South Carolina State, and Vanderbilt has Presbyterian and Massachusetts. That’s not even including the weak Sun Belt or MAC teams on the schedules, just the ones that are out of division. Only Missouri (which has two games left to schedule) has avoided the cupcake diet for next year so far. It’s not as if Vandy, Tennessee, and Mississppi State do not provide enough winnable in-conference games for SEC teams that one has to go trolling for that kind of guaranteed win.
If the SEC loses any of those games, their coaches should probably be fired on the spot, if not subjected to a firing squad. If you want to claim your conference is the best in the land, you need to act like it, and that means scheduling the best. The last time an SEC school (Auburn) tried to schedule Southern Cal it got swept home and away. FSU, Wake Forest, Clemson, and Georgia Tech are regularly successful against their SEC rivals. Let’s hope that some other conference can be invited to the national championship game other than the perennially overrated Big 12 so that the SEC can be shown for the overrated conference it really is. If you schedule like Brave Sir Robin, you shouldn’t be rewarded with gaudy rankings. Cowardice should have a price.
The point is, though, that it in this present day and age it seems more preferable to have a reputation of might and excellence rather than to lay it on the line and prove it. It’s easier to schedule games and matches one knows in advance one is going to win than to risk losing, with all of the costs that come with it. Those who are real fans should know the difference, but homers will support their team no matter what because they are blind to the truth. How long until the charade is exposed for what it is, though? Until then, those who claim to be the best and the boldest boxers and football teams instead taste like chicken. You are what you eat, after all.