When is an assault not an assault? When it takes place in a boxing ring….
Late last week I found myself in the not unfamiliar position of seemingly being out of kilter with the British media. The event that occasioned this was the out-pouring of ghoulish fascination and an unnecessarily forensic examination of the circumstances surrounding boxer Nick Blackwell’s medically induced coma, after his fight with Chris Eubank Jr.
‘Come here and be appalled in full colour’ screamed the print media, whilst television, not wishing to be outdone, compensated accordingly, giving it primetime exposure on news bulletins, because, well, it was news.
Only a cynic of the first order would ask in what universe is it news that two men have a fight, rain an onslaught of fearsome blows down upon each other with the result that one of them needs drastic and life-saving medical intervention? How was this turn of events in anyway unexpected? If you saw them doing that after a drunken night out they’d be arrested, and possibly charged with assault. But as they were doing it in a ring, and televised as entertainment in front of a braying mob, that somehow makes it alright.
Yes, it’s a dreadful turn of events for the young man concerned, but news – as I would categorise it anyway – is an event or a series of events that either couldn’t have been foretold or somehow fascinate the public. According to my definition, at least as far as the former has it, it wasn’t news. I mean really! Two supremely fit young men, trading repeated blows to the head and body; how could that not result in serious injury?
And as for the latter, it proves correct the old maxim of, ’What is of interest to the public, often isn’t in the public interest’ And lest some of you reading this think I sound like a curmudgeon, I should make a full disclosure, namely that I used to box.
Admittedly it was a childhood folly, foisted on me and my brother by my mother, who foolishly thought that providing an outlet for our pent up aggression was a good thing. Even though I was nine or ten, I knew that my aggression was focused quite properly on one person and therefore to make anyone else the unfortunate recipient of it would be unfair on them. And, more pertinently, would deny me the chance to unleash it all on him.
My brother however was a natural, which will come as no shock to anyone who’s met him. He was full of pent up aggression – I’ve no idea why – and would expel it with a righteous fury, a bone-crunching uppercut and a blurry of jabs before aright hook. Me, on the other hand, found it all faintly ridiculous. Not the training, the keeping fit and the practice, I could see the sense in that. No, what I found utterly bereft of reason was punching someone with malice aforethought, someone whom I’d never met until moments before they started hitting me. Yes we wore protection, but in my experience, head guards for boxers at my young age are rather like those ‘gamble aware’ warnings on mobile casino, bingo and betting adverts. They confer a semblance of concern, yet they’re contained in the small print of the advert of the very activity they’re promoting.
Years ago a group of friends had gathered on a Cornish beach one night to do magic mushrooms. Happy days! We lit a bonfire and were staring at the flames, listening to the hypnotic timelessness of the waves, waiting for the mushrooms to do their magic when suddenly someone pulled out a radio. Clearly thinking ‘What can I do to ruin this blissed out and tranquil experience?”, they proceeded to tune the ear-bothering device to live coverage of a world title boxing fight. Exhortations for them to turn it off, fell on ears which, unlike mine, were deaf.
Anyway, I didn’t bring you here to read that, oh no, I’d much rather tell you about my recurring nightmare.Actually, it technically is one, but practically it isn’t. It always occurs in the moments when I’m growing dimly conscious of my surroundings but not fully awake. Certainly it isn’t dreaming but neither is it being awake. I am in the third state, ‘drake’ is the word I’d use to describe it.
Anyone spot the Apollo 440 ‘Liquid Cool’ reference there? Well, if you did, you’ll want to hear it again. And why wouldn’t you?
Anyway. Getting back to my drake experience.
It’s recurring because I’ve had this dream, or ones’ very similar to this one, once a month or so, for as long as I can remember since waking up from the coma. The location and the dilemma is the same, only in smaller incidental details are there any differences. It goes like this. I suddenly realise, in my drake state, that I’m late for school, there’s either an exam or a class I simply have to get to. It’s more than imperative that I get there. But how? I used to walk to school, but slowly an unwanted knowledge slowly dawns on me, that because of my present difficulties, that isn’t going to happen, neither for that matter would putting on my school uniform. The only tie I could put on now would be a clip-on. Like a macabre Tango advert in my head, there is a brutal realization that this is how it is for me now.
And that’s before I’ve even got out out of bed!
Doris Svensson – ‘What a Lovely Way’it certainly isn’t!
(For four minutes of cheerfully optimistic pop from 1970. Press play. You ears will be glad you did!)