Current Events in Sports, from the Sofa.1. As last month’s column, dedicated to summarising some of the most important, recommendable sports documentaries in history, was so well received, I have taken the liberty of adding a short epilogue to complete the selection a little bit more. Basically, I would hate to overlook the series “Hard Knocks”, created by the prestigious, infallible chain and producer HBO. It is an insider, in-depth, highly detailed look at an NFL team (each year they focus on a different one), basically following it closely, through pre-season and the preparation that surrounds a sport like American football. As usual with HBO, spectators can expect the maximum rigor, realism, criteria, and respect in their treatment of the subject, in this case sports. No tricks, fireworks, or blunders. The documentary tone reigns, even in the credits. The contents don’t make it into the top 20, and it’s also a very technical, meticulous approach to be interesting to neophytes, but it didn’t seem fair to me to leave it out. So far, they’ve broadcast six seasons, and since HBO hasn’t put the DVD’s on sale, here you have total freedom and moral excuse to use your favourite downloading system to get them.
I have taken a look and it doesn’t seem to be too hard, especially to catch the last seasons. And since we’re talking about the hairy subject of American football, a speciality that isn’t broadcast much in Europe unless a famous singer performs during halftime at the Superbowl, I wanted to add another title that didn’t make it into the list last month (there wasn’t enough space, it’s the same old sad story) and which brings together two worlds that arouse the same fanatic instincts (at least in me): American football and hip hop. “Straight Outta L.A.”, directed and led by Ice Cube, is a fascinating reflection on the impact that Los Angeles gangsta rap, led of course by N.W.A., had on the city’s team, the Raiders, and how the team’s look, the pirate logo and the lethal combination of black, silver, and white became the banner look for the rap group and, by extension, the African-American community. In it appear rappers, players, technicians, journalists, even the president of the team, and all of them agree on the fact that during the maximum boom of gangsta rap, the importance of the shield and the colours was more significant than the team and its legacy themselves, to the point that the Raiders field ended up becoming a fiefdom of gang members and other similar types who had fights and dangerous attitudes. The documentary was produced by ESPN and it won’t be hard to find in cyberspace either. Good luck looking for it.
2. Having got past the summer impasse, we find ourselves swept up in a whirlwind of sports competitions. Now our agendas are filling up and it’s hard to find free time. We’re back to those exhausting weekends where you need three television sets, Twitter updates every ten seconds, and a permanent connection to a reliable news website to keep up with all the goings on. So let’s go over what we’ve seen and experienced in recent weeks, to get up to speed. Let’s start with the most recent competition, finished just a couple of days ago, the U.S. Tennis Open. Someone predicted (someone without much of an eye) that Rafa Nadal had become an ex-tennis player. This of course was when the Spanish player was having a rough time, not getting over his injuries, and appearing depressed. Why deny it? People more or less predicted a dark future for the Majorcan tennis player; after all, journalistic opportunism applied to sports is one of the world’s great pastimes. (Whoever isn’t opportunistic every weekend, raise their hands now.) Nadal’s victory didn’t have much of a story: he strolled through Flushing Meadows and only the heavy New York rain prolonged the agony of rivals who could see what was coming for them when they saw what good shape the Spanish tennis player was in.So, since the strictly sporting analysis of this victory has nothing to it—the best man won without much difficulty—we’d do better to concentrate on the tournament’s great moment in summarising this U.S. Open, the most memorable scene of the last two weeks. I’m not talking about Nadal’s celebration, the picture of the trophy, or even about Caroline Wozniacki’s outfits: I’m talking about the shouting match between two spectators that livened up a day without much of a story. There are two videos, two of the many bouncing around the web, that allow us to follow the whole scene. The first shows us the resounding slap that a spectator gave the guy sitting next to her, an incident caused by the persistence and impertinence of his comments out loud during the match. And with the second, we can follow it: you can hear the conversation between the two of them perfectly. I could watch the scene for hours and hours. We’re talking hard drugs.
3. Let me go back a little bit further in time: the United States has just been to Turkey to make off with the Basketball World Championship. A good corrective measure for shutting some people up, and for putting some hot subjects out on the table. First, European journalism has suddenly discovered Kevin Durant. Well, he’s been in the NBA for a couple of years now, so the effectiveness of his game should come as no surprise. Another thing is that besides the specialists in the American league who live in Spain, France, Italy, Germany, Serbia, Russia, or England, the sports press on the old continent only worries about following the players from their respective countries during the regular season, and they forget that relevant things are happening in the NBA beyond their narrow point of view, especially the generational changing of the guard that is looking to be very good, with Durant as the undeniable leader of this new wave of stars.Second: it was about time that something took the defenders of FIBA basketball down a peg or two, as they had been getting uppity in recent years because of the international success of some selections on the continent, basically the Spanish one, and with the increasingly widespread presence of players in the NBA. But they had better come down from their cloud quickly, because in the next Olympic Games, they might get a slap in the face. With a team that we could consider to be second-rate, the United States swept the floor with Turkey, without even mussing their hair, and giving the feeling that their game wasn’t as good as expected, or as good as it could be. Some people will claim that the absences among the favourite selections were at fault (Gasol, Ginobili, Kirilenko, etc.), but if we start thinking about the absences among the champions— that is to say, the first choices who turned down playing—then it’s almost better not to keep digging around in the wound.And three: the future of FIBA basketball is already not in the Spanish selection, the reigning champion on the continent and former world champion, but in the Serbian selection. While Spain has let its recent record go to pot with a mixture of lack of motivation, lack of interest, arrogance, cockiness, and a worrisome Gasol-dependence,not only in terms of sports, but also mentally and even personally, besides the disastrous technical direction of trainer Sergio Scariolo, the Serbians are playing just the opposite: they don’t consider any ball to be lost, they can pride themselves on having a brilliant, reliable trainer, they transmit youth and drive, and they also have Milos Teodosic in their ranks, the best playmaker in Europe and a guy with a real set of balls on him. We’ll replay his sizzling three-point shot to relive what was undoubtedly the best moment of the entire tournament, a faithful summary of what was a decaffeinated basketball world championship, with only three or four games that were really up to snuff. Fortunately, it won’t be long until the kick-off of the regular NBA season, because if we had to rely on what the European leagues are going to offer us, we would be better off focusing on some beach-tennis tournament.
4. The great European football leagues have also started up. It is still early to say much from a sports perspective, so we are going to analyse and give priority to the case that is now keeping us busy and interested—we aren’t addicted to gossip and rumours for nothing. Our friend Wayne Rooney is in fashion, and not exactly for his goals or the plays he’s making during the league start-up. The ManU forward is in the news for a high-level sex scandal. He not only cheated on his wife with a prostitute who charges £1,200 a night –if you’ll excuse the frivolousness of the comment, it seems awfully expensive if you look at the woman in question, really– but he also did it while his wife was pregnant, which undoubtedly magnified the impact of the betrayal. It is also not the first time: it’s the second time that his fondness for paid-for sex has been made public, although this time his wife hasn’t forgiven him for the infidelity.The English press says that Rooney had seven encounters with her in four months; that is to say, the player would have spent nearly eight thousand pounds, about nine thousand euros, on this 21-year-old sex worker, who has obviously made the most of the opportunity. This horniness is really going to cost him dear: his wife is already filing for a divorce that is expected to cost him millions; she has a good chance of keeping the footballer’s mansion, with an estimated value of five million pounds, and some of the athlete’s sponsors are likely to withdraw their accounts and investments, with all of the financial loss that this would imply. It could be a new Tiger Woods case, although it’s true that when it comes to sex, few can compete with the golfer. His record is in another league, but if we focus on the repercussions, things aren’t too different. Meanwhile, the fans of Manchester United’s rivals are rubbing their hands, and the whole planet is jibing him. A television channel in Taiwan has even recreated the case in its own way with a video that you shouldn’t miss: ugly, bizarre, disturbing, nightmarish. Wayne, dude, you blew it. Big time.
5. And I’ll finish up this month with a character that I still hadn’t been able to talk about in this section, and who, personally, holds a special fascination for me. It’s the boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr., not only because he’s one of the best fighters to get into the ring in the last thirty years, which would already give us a subject for hours of conversation and study, (although my knowledge about this sport is very limited), but also—and here we can just dive on in—because he has a controversial, aggressive, exhibitionistic personality, and he gives hours and hours of entertainment to the sports media. In barely a month, he has been in the news for three different reasons, and all of them full of controversy. First: barely a week ago, the athlete was arrested in Las Vegas accused of domestic violence against his significant other, Josie Harris. The fighter allegedly threatened to kill his girlfriend, as well as Chicago Bulls player C.J. Watson, who in theory was her lover, after intercepting some highly-charged text messages between the two of them. But not only that, he is also accused of having punched her in the presence of their son, aged 10.Second: shortly before this incident, Mayweather already had a delicate episode with a video aimed at the Philippine boxer Many Pacquiao, in which he spoke of his opponent in politically-incorrect terms. In the video, which we have of course attached below, the American calls the Philippine fighter a “dwarf” and he gives him a very clear message if he manages to beat him in the ring: he’ll make him fix him “sushi and rice.” And he tops it off with another threat: “we’ll cook you with dogs and cats.” Although this type of diatribe forms a part of boxing, he was quickly accused of racism and pressured to apologise and take the comments back. And third, the best of all for me: Mayweather holds campus visits to tell young people about his experiences in life and sports, to act as a guide or adviser so that they don’t make mistakes, and help prepare them for what the world holds in store. So far, there’s nothing strange about that, it’s common among stars like him to organise this type of “clinic,” in which in a sense they are also looking to clean up their own images and look good to institutions, the press, and the authorities.
But if your name is Floyd Mayweather, nothing is what it seems. And the thing is that if you follow the boxer’s Twitter closely, it’s a real mine for gossip and absurd news, and you will quickly see the contrast between his lifestyle and the grotesque cynicism of his public movements in terms of the public. Of course I needn’t tell you that I for one prefer the Mayweather on Twitter, especially because he gives us some of the best pictures that you can find on this social network. Here are a few examples off the cuff. An image of a briefcase full of money and a Frank Muller watch (look at the absolutely enormous caption), another of a receipt for a million-dollar bet (on top of that, tripling the winnings!) and a third in which our star is promising succulent prizes (we’re talking about a ring and watches that couldn’t cost less than ten thousand dollars) when his follower account reaches one million. And meanwhile, on his campus, he’s trying to give an example of overcoming difficulties and honesty to a group of youths who will find all of this when they connect to Twitter. Controversies and violent attitudes aside, Floyd Mayweather has earned the right to form a part of the current cult athletes’ Hall of Fame.