The sweet science

by Ted on February 19, 2004

On the other wing…

Matt Welch once wrote a pretty good column about liberal pieties at alternative weeklies. I think I’ve found Exhibit A. I’d like to distance myself from this article before Lileks or somebody finds it.

The cover story of Houston’s alt-weekly, the Houston Press, is about a talented young boxer named Benjamin Flores. Flores was born in Mexico and came to the United States when he was eleven. Although he came here illegally, he has a work permit (but not permanent residency or citizenship.) The work permit doesn’t give him to the right to re-enter the country.

He’s beaten the No. 1 amateur featherweight fighter in the United States and the No. 1 from Mexico. But that means nothing, because Benjamin Flores belongs neither here nor there. He can’t fight for the United States because he’s not a citizen. He could fight for Mexico, but there’s no guarantee the U.S. would let him back in this country once he crossed the border.

He is a fighter without a country — a pugilist caught in the gears of globalization.

Tonight, as he takes his first step into the professional ranks at the International Ballroom, he will also take home a modest cash prize. The money will seal him off from ever competing on an Olympic stage.

I guess that this is where the infinite flood of compassion is supposed to kick in, but it’s not happening. Flores isn’t doing too badly; he’s got a work permit and a promising career ahead of him. It’s entirely reasonable to restrict a country’s Olympic athletes to its citizens- it prevents rich countries from athlete-shopping all over the world. It’s isn’t Flores’ fault that his birthplace disqualifies him from boxing for the U.S. But it isn’t my fault that I hit like a ten-year old, either. If he had been one or two years younger, he probably wouldn’t have waited until 2008 to start his pro career. Plenty of successful boxers have gone to the Olympics, but plenty haven’t, including Buster Douglas, Mike Tyson, and Matthew Saad Muhammad.

Also, it’s really Daniel’s gig, but I call “globollocks” on “a pugilist caught in the gears of globalization,” for reasons that should be obvious.

Flores comes across as a decent guy; my perception is that the wheedling tone comes from the reporter. Wouldn’t be the first time.



dsquared 02.19.04 at 7:05 pm

“A pugilist caught in the gears of globalisation” sounds more like antiglobollocks to me, but otherwise dead on.


theCoach 02.19.04 at 7:07 pm

What are the odds that if the son or daughter of a famous boxer became an economist that there would be a headline that was some derivative of “The Dismally Sweet Science”.
I am suprised that it is not used in this example actually.


JX 02.20.04 at 12:49 am

At the very least, this example of antiglobollocks shows some intellectual diversity on the part of CT’s bloggers though Daniel’s point scheme only accounts for proglobollocks. I, however, would like to see the globollocks point score Daniel would award this:

(I say this as a proglobalist and a fan of Bhagwati’s, a self-described social democrat who supports globalization. He was also one of Paul Krugman’s most influential teachers.)


roger 02.20.04 at 3:55 am

Have to disagree. Anybody who does profiles knows you have to have a hook. The boxer without a country is a pretty good hook. It doesn’t really imply that we have to abolish requirements for the Olympics and revise our geopolitics so we are all one nation — it simply gets our sympathy for the boxer, who will hopefully attract more people that way. Granted, the overlap between boxing fans and readers of Alternative presses might be small, but I don’t think the hook is as wheedling as you seem to, nor do I think that Flores comes off badly. There are much worse ways to pump athletes. The one criticism I’d make is that he didn’t go far enough in the direction you criticize. Why not tabloid the guy up, make his situation seem like something inflicted on him by the cruel Feds? Make him an underdog in a larger boxing match with the INS, or whatever they call themselves nowadays. That, I think, would sell more to boxing fans, and more copy. The art of journalism, in this case, is not equivalent to judicious analysis. This ain’t forecasting employment in lower Ruritanian — its a male sob story.


dsquared 02.20.04 at 8:30 am

score on the Bhagwati article coming up … I’ve always been rather a fan. His Lectures on Trade got me through a pretty nasty term.


Michael Serazio 02.23.04 at 7:29 pm

randomly googling the kid boxer and i stumbled across some of the takes here. pretty interesting (i was the writer on it). you can probably guess that i sort of naturally agree with roger’s thoughts — the hook of the kid’s situation is what lured me into covering him rather than political conclusions beforehand. actually, in truth, i just wanted to write about a story about boxing. if this kid does turn out as good as he’s supposed to be, he’s going to make a hell of lot more dough than an alt-weekly writer could ever aspire to, so it’s hard to feel sorry for him in that regard. even so, it’s hard to not feel sorry for the meatpacking plant cleaning crew type work that immigrants often wind up doing (in the middle of reading fast food nation right now). as for liberal bias, absolutely it’s there. for what it’s worth, though, we did a pro-life activist feature last fall that was apparently too sympathetic for some of our readers’ tendancies (one wrote in dropping the “fair and balanced” stigma on us). i figure as long as we’re pissing off the left and the right, equally, that’s the best alternative one could hope for.


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