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Friday, November 13, 2009

The Pressure of being Pacquiao

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I don’t think it’s by accident that on the week of Manny Pacquiao’s rendezvous with Miguel Cotto, I find myself reading superlative articles on Muhammad Ali from the collection “The Best American Sports Writing of the Century". I’ve spent weeks attempting to finish 700 plus pages of sports masterworks. I’ve reached the last six articles, all about Ali, all included in the subset “The One and Only". This is proof that the book’s editor, the late great David Halberstam was a genius. He not only saved the best for last. He saved “The Greatest" for last. As I read every line, verse, paragraph about Ali, I wonder if Pacquiao has become our very own Cassius Clay.

Although Pacquiao doesn’t have the political-cultural convictions of Ali, since Pacquiao leans in favor of the establishment while Ali slams head-first against it, Pacquiao, like Ali, transcends pugilism. Pacquiao isn’t just a well-sculpted figure in the ring. He stands for something more than a talented fighter in a blood-thirsty sport. Big-time bouts are said to be the culmination of backroom deals, busted noses and brokered dreams. Yet, Pacquiao is no longer identified with seedy currents that take dreamers into dreamland. He’s already a symbol of nearly everything for everyone. He is champion, icon, hero, idol, savior, Time Magazine cover, phenomenon, hope.

The pressure, therefore, on Pacquiao come Sunday stems from something more poignant than just beating Miguel Cotto. Cotto is part of the drama. But he is by no means a co-star in the script. Cotto is not the villain. He isn’t the Crispa to Toyota, Yankees to the Red Sox, Athens to Sparta. If Pacquiao wins on Sunday, the nation celebrates not because Pacquiao was better than Cotto. If Pacquiao loses, the nation mourns not because Cotto was better than Pacquiao. By this stage of Manny’s career, he already has a standard all his own. Pacman knows. Cotto knows. Floyd Jr. knows. Even Aling Dionisia knows. Similar to how Tiger Woods competes in the Masters. It’s never Tiger against everyone else. It’s always Tiger against Tiger. As such, on Sunday, Pacman faces Pacman in an attempt to justify his stature as best pound-for-pound fighter in the universe.

Forgive me for spewing superlatives in this piece. J.R. Moehringer once wrote that boxing seduces writers with its powerful undertow of testosterone. Moehringer added that the same band of writers eventually drown in their own hyperbole. Guilty as charged. What can I do? We live in a country of extremes. In many aspects of our lives, there is no middle ground. Public servants are either crooks or saints. Corruption is either grotesque or non-existent. Typhoons are either devastating or harmless. Pacquiao lives in a superlative realm, much like Ali. Manny is pressured to win because his best traits are expected to purge our worst qualities. Manny is pressured to be his best on Sunday because this country has been through the worst. A nation doesn’t demand such from freeloaders. It’s what people expect from “the greatest". – GMANews.TV

Source: http://www.gmanews.tv/story/176894/the-pressure-of-being-pacquiao

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