“When you run the house,” Frank Costello is credited with saying, “you don’t have to rig the roulette wheel.” What Uncle Frank meant, of course, was that the man who ran the game was going to come out on top no matter who won or lost. Costello’s philosophy is the best argument that the Evander HolyfieldLennox Lewis heavyweight title unification bout wasn’t “fixed” by Don King. King has everything to lose from such an action— if discovered, he’d be banned by every boxing commissioner in the world and most likely go to prison— and little to gain, since he owns the heavyweight division and bosses around most of the alphabet organizations anyway.
As for the anticipated huge payday from a Holyfield-Lewis rematch, this was probably inevitable. There’s no other big-money fight out there for either man, and with Holyfield at 36 and Lewis at 33, neither fighter could afford to sit on the title for a year or two fighting patsies.
Still, as millions have seen over the last few days in watching the replays of the fight, something was dreadfully wrong with the scoring, and Eugenia Williams, who scored it 115-113 for Holyfield,
doesn’t need to shoulder all the blame. In truth, none of the three judges came up with anything like a score that accurately reflected Lewis’s dominance. How is this possible? We asked HBO’s official scorer, Harold Lederman, who had the fight 117-111 for Lewis, the same as Jockbeat, and he gave a simple explanation for the Holyfield-Lewis scoring as well as for the increasing number of bad decisions we’ve seen this decade: “The judges are getting distracted.” By the hype? By Don King? “No, by the number of things they have to keep in mind each round.” And we bet you thought it was all about two guys beating each other up. Uh-uh. A drama critic shouldn’t have so many things to consider: clean punching (meaning no fouls), effective aggressiveness, ring generalship, and defense. The problem with the last three is that even in theory they’re highly subjective categories. What is “effective aggressiveness” if not “clean punching”? (If you don’t land a punch, are you to be given credit for swinging hard and missing?) And what exactly is “ring generalship”? What if you make your opponent miss most of his punches— defense!— but throw none of your own?
Given so many things a judge has to consider that have nothing to do with actual fighting, it’s no wonder we’re seeing such weird decisions. Scoring the Battle of Little Bighorn, Williams and her colleagues might be expected to give Crazy Horse points for clean blows and defense but go with Custer on ring generalship and aggressiveness— and call the thing a draw.
The annual Red Sarachek high school basketball tournament at Yeshiva University doesn’t usually draw a lot of media attention. But reporters were out in force last weekend at YU’s Washington Heights campus to cover the competition, which brings together 18 teams representing Jewish high schools from across the country. The reason: Tamir Goodman, or as his nickname would have it, the “Jewish Jordan.”
Goodman, a gangly 6-3 junior for the Talmudical Academy of Baltimore who plays with a yarmulke on his head, has given a verbal commitment to play for the University of Maryland. In return, the school has assured Goodman, who averages around 37 points a game, that it will do everything in its power to pull off a miracle: create a schedule during which the high-powered ACC school will play no games from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday to avoid any conflict with Goodman’s observance of the Jewish Sabbath.
In his first two games in the tournament, a 70-50 victory and a
90-88 overtime loss, Goodman, who looks like a cross between Howdy Doody and Opie Taylor, showed why Terps coach Gary Williams is willing to make the effort: He averaged more than 45 points despite constantly being double-teamed. Even in Sunday’s painfully deliberate game in front of a packed crowd of more than 1100 fans— most of them in yarmulkes themselves— when the opposing team triple-teamed him, Goodman showed flashes of brilliance, leading his undermanned squad with a game-high 13 points.
Indeed, in the last seconds of the game, with his team trailing by two points, Goodman did a fair imitation of Air Jordan when he drew three defenders toward him in the corner and then dumped the ball inside to a wide-open teammate for an easy layup. Even after the shot was missed, and Talmudical Academy again went down to defeat, his expression barely changed. As one spectator said approvingly, “He plays like a mensch.”
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contributors: Allen Barra, Peter Ephross, Brian Parks
sports editor: Miles D. Seligman
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on March 23, 1999