By Tim Baffoe–
(CBS) Let’s get the full disclosure out of the way: I will probably watch the fight between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor on Saturday.
I don’t look forward to it, exactly. But I’ll spare you the moral absolution of watching sports being my job or “Hey, the bar I was at had it on” noise. I’m a moth to a flame of spectacle, and this is one of the more high-profile high school science lab fires in a while.
This fight isn’t cool. It’s a freak show, more outside of it than within, every member of the audience tuning in to feed off some sort of projection of our worst selves.
Normally, the unconventionality of a sports matchup would appeal to me. I like chaos and sticking it to the starchy conventions of sports decorum. I like the spontaneity, touchdown dances and bat flips. The easiest way to get me to like a sports figure is usually to hate the person for harmless reasons. You don’t like that a baseball player wears his hat crooked? Hey, you’re an insecure moron and got him another fan.
But this fight between two pieces of garbage, while unconventional, isn’t cool chaos. It’s calculated buffoonery. It’s a microcosm of 2017 America, a phantasmagoria’s culmination of political fever dreams personified in a yelling orange man translating logically to this thing. It’s mashing a couple of square asses into round holes for the sake of a bad tavern argument come to fruition. It’s slobbering name recognition mutating into the idiotic “Could Alabama beat the Cleveland Browns?” argument on meth.
There’s no logic that says McGregor wins. Mayweather is the best alive at what he does, and McGregor doesn’t do what Mayweather does. “But Conor only needs to …” shut up.
The “It takes just one punch” dreamers are people who want to see the Notre Dame mascot beat a black man. That Mayweather is one of the worst human being in sports isn’t a valid excuse, because McGregor is trash in his own right. Let’s count the ways.
During the staggering circus of a promotional tour for this farce last month, McGregor told Mayweather “Dance for me, boy!” more than once on separate days. For those not privy of that word’s history, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. explained in his “Letter from Birmingham Jail”:
“I guess it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say wait. But … when your first name becomes ‘n—–’ and your middle name becomes ‘boy’ (however old you are) … then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait.”
On one of the nights after his “boy” usage, McGregor described the film Rocky III as one with “dancing monkeys.” To make up for the criticism of this racism, McGregor expanded a day later.
“Let’s address the race,” he said. “A lot of the media seem to be saying I’m against black people. That’s absolutely (bleeping) ridiculous. Did they not know I’m half-black? Yeah, I’m half-black from the bellybutton down. And just to show that that’s squashed, here’s a present for my beautiful, black female fans.”
He then danced as sexual as an Irishman like myself is capable. Which is to say not. And that’s only part of his track record. For good measure, Mayweather countered with homophobia. It should be noted that Mayweather’s flashy lifestyle that only adds to his detestability isn’t applied to McGregor, who isn’t exactly walking around as Jim Braddock.
McGregor’s isn’t an attempt at virtue prevailing, and the hero treatment he gets in certain circles, many of them on social media and among young people, is disheartening. I’m not going to measure racism against Mayweather’s deep history with violence against women, but rooting for either of these fighters for any reason beyond a wager is gross.
But many of the viewers will be, blathering terrible reason after dog-whistle after apologia. To entrench oneself in either camp speaks to a deeper rottenness within. Meanwhile, the morally superior like me will merely be willful onlookers getting some sort of visceral thrill watching two of our worst attempt to injure each other’s brains in a display that stands a great chance at being one of sport’s more shameful displays ever. How great I am.
Marquee boxing matches are supposed to be cool. There’s still something still glitzy and regal about what these days is a rare boxing match that captures national interest. It’s not a game, not a team sport, which makes it more artistic and a “sweet science.” Saturday would be an exception because neither participant is cool, no matter how much they preen and yell and flash wads of cash in order to hide what must be a vacuum of lonely existences when the cameras are off and you try and try to fill the sieve inside with the sand of fame and luxury.
It’s almost funny that these two vile champions have found each other without knowing they’ve really found another like them. And if they knew it, they’d hate the mirror image even more. For much the same reasons a Mayweather fan or a McGregor fan won’t dare examine their rooting interests.
Plus, what they’re going to do in the ring likely won’t be an affront to boxing so much as an abortion of it. Mayweather is just here for the sick joke. McGregor isn’t a boxer. He can’t train for two months and get in the ring with a guy who has never lost to people that have trained their entire lives. This is from two weeks ago.
But, ya know, money. Boxing has no morals or human standards and will take whatever it can get in the 21st century as fewer and fewer people can name its current fighters. If that means holding an almost-boxing match that will be more a boastful frat bro becoming very awkward once it’s just him alone with the prostitute, so be it.
Mayweather claims he’s retiring after this episode in which he doesn’t allow McGregor to get near him for however many rounds until it all flaccidly goes the distance or McGregor loses his temper, gets overly aggressive and loses.
And then we who watch all lose, and not because the fight will probably suck. Because we are actually the freak show.
Tim Baffoe is a columnist for CBSChicago.com. Follow Tim on Twitter @TimBaffoe. The views expressed on this page are those of the author, not CBS Local Chicago or our affiliated television and radio stations.