By Jason Keidel
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I was midway through writing the obituaries of the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers, gloating as they lost their ancestral grip on the Larry O’Brien Trophy, when I was interrupted by Bernard Hopkins.
I know most of you don’t give a damn about boxing, which has been usurped by team sports that pay the same money without the incessant corruption and concussions that have defined the sweet science for too long.
But Bernard Hopkins, a formerly sublime fighter who had a chokehold on the middleweight division for a decade, stuffed his feet, fists, and Everlast gloves into his mouth.
A pre-fight workout morphed into a symposium on Donovan McNabb’s “blackness.” Don’t ask me why. Heck, don’t ask Hopkins why, as he’s so drenched in dementia, self-righteousness and some abstract prerogative as arbiter of racial relevance. These are the risks we take under the tent of First Amendment freedom. But that doesn’t mean we can’t assert the same privilege he abused.
Here’s part of his sermon, making national headlines yesterday:
“Forget this,” Hopkins said, according to the Philadelphia Daily News, and pointed to his own skin. “He’s got a suntan. That’s all.”
He wasn’t done.
“Why do you think McNabb felt he was betrayed?” Hopkins added, referring to the Eagles. “Because McNabb is the guy in the house, while everybody else is on the field. He’s the one who got the extra coat. The extra servings. ‘You’re our boy,’ ” Hopkins continued, according to the Daily News, and patted a member of the media on the back to illustrate his point. “He thought he was one of them.”
Evidently, McNabb’s decent upbringing didn’t toughen him up enough for the NFL and, far more importantly, for Hopkins. By contrast, Hopkins pointed to Terrell Owens and Michael Vick as men who properly represent his race.
Hopkins is fluent in incendiary remarks. He said, in so many words, that Manny Pacquiao isn’t a true champion because he ducks black fighters. Joshua Clottey and Shane Mosley look like they qualify, and Pacquiao can’t make Mayweather fight him. There are about a dozen more gaffes from “The Executioner” in word or deed, including dumping a plate of rice and beans on Felix Trinidad before a fight. The food was Hopkins’s way of painting a Puerto Rican fighter in disturbing, stereotypical terms, and called it Trinidad’s last meal.
Mind you, Hopkins didn’t say this at an Eagles game or a family barbecue (nor is this the first time he’s bashed McNabb). He said this in a gym training for his championship fight with Jean Pascal. Makes sense, right? No doubt Donovan spends his spring days in the weight room pondering Archie Moore’s place in the pantheon.
The scattered brain cells of the pugilist, the violence and the resultant damage and dearth of common sense that follows a few decades of being battered by another man’s fists is amply archived. And the aggregate drum of jabs and hooks and uppercuts taking its inevitable and inexorable toll on the skull and its contents, are all possible explanations for B-Hop’s eternal case of foot-and-mouth. But there are no excuses.
Hopkins’s tongue is now towering over his transcendent career, while he forfeits his place as the avatar of redemption. Hopkins could have been the quintessential American story, the American Dream in retrograde, who spent a chunk of his youth in prison for armed robbery and, rather than become swathed in self-pity, he took his talent and monolithic dedication to it and became the best middleweight since Marvin Hagler, if not of all time.
Hopkins was renowned for his monastic approach to his craft, neither smoking, drinking, nor drugging while he anesthetized his opponents. I sat ringside, stunned, while he dominated the Latino legend, “Tito” Trinidad, in 2001 at Madison Square Garden. His nuanced style and legendary endurance allowed him to fight long past the prime of his peers. He was – was – that good, defending his middleweight belt twenty times
As a victim of Rush Limbaugh, Terrell Owens, and Bernard Hopkins, Donovan McNabb has served as a piñata for peripheral characters for years. McNabb is, alarmingly, arbitrarily, the target of tongue-heavy celebrities who, for some reason, are convinced McNabb has done them wrong when, in truth, he has done absolutely nothing to them.
Owens has at least an oblong beef with McNabb, who was the quarterback in the Eagles’ Super Bowl loss to New England in 2005. But why Limbaugh or Hopkins? Hopkins is from Philadelphia, and that’s where the connection ends. Maybe Will Smith is next.
Forget, if you can, McNabb’s merits as a player. (I think he was a wonderful quarterback who will fall just short of Canton.) I’m unaware of any rebuttal or ritual that would warrant such tirades. The most offensive thing I’ve seen from McNabb is a poorly mimicked Michael Jackson dance after a touchdown.
McNabb can take the high road unknown to Bernard’s Escalade, or he can defend himself. Or he can let us do it for him. Or he may just be sick of it all. And I wouldn’t blame him.
Why does this matter? Because Hopkins used to matter. Used to. The Executioner has killed himself.
Feel free to email me: Jakster1@mac.com
Your thought’s on Hopkins’ rant? Let Keidel know in the comments below…