Stories To Tell: Farewell to the Winter Olympics

By Brian Arsenault

He came off the ropes like a cobra attacked in its den. His opponent stumbled back across the ring as much from the pure energy of the counter assault as the force of the blows.

Brian Arsenault
Brian Arsenault

A moment ago the opponent had sensed victory, punishing his less skilled foe with well placed blows. But then something deep exploded in the hometown fighter and he claimed back the night. Left, left, right. Roundhouse right. For fifty bucks, win or lose.

I think the hometown guy won the fight that night decades ago but I can’t be sure. In my memory I want to make it so. And by knockout.

He was a Hurricane, oh not the Hurricane made famous by prison and Dylan. Just a local storm, dubbed Hurricane because of the ferocity of his approach to a real sport, the only sport really. The others all have balls (but no balls mostly) and gadgets like skates and skis and helmets and too many rules, contested on grass or ice or water.

No, mark off a small area with rope, bring two contestants and a third to eliminate unfair advantages and fouls. See what brains and blood and guts and gumption will produce this night where the only lights are over the protagonists. We watch in darkness knowing that we see the essence of things, rare as that is.

No problems of wax or aerodynamics. No fawning analysts or boorish coaches and politicians. Just the two, toe to toe. Three minutes a round. 10 -15 rounds.

They did away with 15 round championship bouts some years ago and cut much of the heart out of the sport. Backed off to 12 for the “safety” of the boxers. There is no “safety” in boxing and in the late stages of a 15 rounder, men were sometimes lifted to another strata. To a higher ground where gods did battle and diminished all else by their presence.

You don’t believe that. You have been taught to fret over men who do not need or want your concern, despise it in fact. You need to tell others how to live but you are not truly alive. Ever.

There was smoke everywhere. The smell of beer. Hot dogs with onions, grease laden fries with grams and grams of salt. Nothing good for you, not as you reckon good. But as with Reed’s Berlin, “oh baby, it was paradise.”

Bad judge’s decisions? Sure, then as now. It’s just that no network guy had to pretend they weren’t bad, cover it blandly, even handidly. It was bad and booed and there might be a fight at ringside.

Of course the hometown guy was favored. Why not? You looking for objectivity? Go to the cemetery. The are all objectively dead.

Pistol Pete also fought that night. Hell, it seemed like he fought every week though he didn’t. Still, he did battle about once a month or so for the mythical New England Light Heavyweight title.

A title Subway Sam created to promote Pistol Pete’s fights with Jimmy from Boston. I don’t know how many times they fought. A lot. Always barn burners. Seldom decisions. At some point, one or the other just couldn’t go on. There was never a question they had given all.

We didn’t know how prophetic Pistol Pete’s moniker was till years later when he drove to the dump — oh yeah, recycling center — and blew his brains out. He couldn’t recycle.

The fight game couldn’t kill him but life did. Oh well, it kills us all and he knew The Bright Lights. It was enough. Had to be.

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To read more posts, reviews and columns by Brian Arsenault click HERE.


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