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Bad boxing decisions, bad horse racing luck make for bizarro sports world

As if the Kings' Stanley Cup wasn't strange enough, boxing gave us the ridiculous Manny Pacquiao-Tim Bradley outcome. Then horse racing's shot at a Triple Crown disappeared before the Belmont even started.

June 20, 2012|Bill Dwyre
  • Manny Pacquiao, left, and Timothy Bradley trade punches during Bradley's controversial split-decision victory for the WBO welterweight title on June 9. The outcome of the fight was the only bizarre event to happen in the sports world this month.
Manny Pacquiao, left, and Timothy Bradley trade punches during Bradley's… (Julie Jacobson / Associated…)

Recently, the world of sports has gone off the rails. It made a right turn at Indy. It has become a bunch of Seinfeld episodes.

It has triggered furrowed brows and disbelieving shrugs. As Yogi Berra would say, "You can observe a lot just by watching."

The sports planet clearly slipped out of orbit a tad at NHL playoff time, but that one could get past the weird test. The Kings got hot, they were as due as a Chicago Cubs fan on life support, and they won the Stanley Cup, spectacularly.

Sure, it was a little strange to see all those pictures of swaying palm trees that TV used to create the atmosphere for a game played on ice. Still, the Kings' victory was palatable. Plus, all the bandwagon jumping was a hoot to watch.

But the other hits have been coming so fast that we are left like the duck in the Aflac commercial, after he's heard another Yogi-ism. Slap me back to reality. Say it ain't so, Yogi.

There was, of course, the worst boxing decision in the history of the sport, predating even Evander Holyfield's choice to keep his ear close to Mike Tyson's jaw. Those at ringside who watched Manny Pacquiao defeat Tim Bradley in Las Vegas and then see the Filipino star judged the loser by a split decision were merely flabbergasted. Those of us who knew the outcome and got to watch the TV replay were speechless. The three-blind-mice references made afterward about the judges who favored Bradley were trite and simplistic. Also accurate.

It got so weird that veteran analyst Larry Merchant, tossing his own conspiracy theory into a sea of others, jokingly conjectured that Pacquiao's newly found religious inclinations prompted the powers that be, represented by the blind mice, to show him the error of his ways in Sin City.

Never to be shut out in the attention grab was Floyd Mayweather Jr. He had been allowed to fight May 5, despite having been sentenced to three months in jail in a domestic violence case. By the time Pacquiao and Bradley fought, Mayweather was asking the same legal system that had given him a break by postponing his jail time to let him out early because, among other things, he was losing weight and couldn't handle the prison food.

You can't make this stuff up. You can only wonder if there has ever been a more entitled athlete than Mayweather.

The news brought us the Jerry Sandusky trial, and his defense's strategy of characterizing, as the norm, grown men taking showers with young boys and hugging them in sports locker rooms. Don't read Sandusky stories over breakfast.

The news also brought word of Argentine tennis player David Nalbandian, angry over a line call, kicking a wooden standard near a line judge, shattering it and sending a sharp piece into the leg of the line judge, who bled while Nalbandian was being defaulted from the final. Tennis writers will tell you that interviewing Nalbandian, a less-than-agreeable guy, is painful enough. And no, the injured line judge had not worked the Pacquiao-Bradley fight.

The Roger Clemens trial just ended and, unlike the vast majority of batters who faced him, Clemens walked. It was interesting to watch Andy Pettitte, facing no personal consequences, make the choice of keeping sacred the locker room code of sticking up for your buddies. Pettitte merely needed to remember to misremember. The jury thought it rendered the final verdict to Clemens, but that will come when the baseball writers vote on the Hall of Fame. There may be a few who misremember to check his name.

Then, of course, there was horse racing, the sport of five million personal agendas and nobody driving the bus. It had a super horse named I'll Have Another and a chance to win lots of new friends and customers with a Triple Crown winner. But the trainer of I'll Have Another, Doug O'Neill, had been assessed violations for excess carbon dioxide in several of his horse's systems over the years and that got all the attention, no matter how hard O'Neill tried to keep it about this horse and this Triple Crown.

Then, in the ultimate sad twist, O'Neill found the start of an injured tendon on I'll Have Another the morning before the race and scratched the horse, who will do his only running now around the stud farms. The conspiracy theorists had a field day with that, the Belmont went on with no Triple Crown in play, and sports fans returned to their long-standing inclination toward disinterest.

Our final tally of all this recent weirdness puts the Pacquiao-Bradley decision and the non-Triple Crown in a dead heat for first place. Seldom have two sports in such great position to do some good done the exact opposite with self-inflicted wounds.

Not only did boxing get a mind-boggling decision, but its only other remaining star made headlines whining in prison. That left fans with the burning question: Do you want to pay $59.95 to watch Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.?

Not only did horse racing allow a Triple Crown pursuit to feel like an Iran-Contra investigation, but it had a horse break down right in front of the main grandstand on Belmont day. The always-ugly scene played out, and the horse was put down a few days later. It helps to be lucky, as well as good. Horse racing was neither.

Somebody's grandma, maybe mine, would have called all this a fine kettle of fish. Yogi would bring his own off-key clarity to the summation:

"It ain't the heat, it's the humility."

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