Punch Drunk


Some observations on Oscar De La Hoya’s unrewarded boxing clinic performed on Felix Trinidad Saturday night:

Among Trinidad’s defenders— actually, we should say De La Hoya’s critics, since they seem far more numerous— it has now become common currency to say that Oscar “ran” from Felix. Well, we just watched the fight for the second time, and we didn’t see De La Hoya climb out of the ring even once. A boxing ring is bound on four sides by ropes, and since when is it illegal to use every part of the space inside it? And if all De La Hoya did was run, how did he land nearly 100 more punches? Finally, it’s obvious that Felix was unskilled in the very basic art of cutting off a ring.

Ring scoring is supposed to be based on four points: clean punching, defense, ring generalship, and aggressiveness. Well, De La Hoya landed the most clean punches, he got hit by far fewer punches, and he set the pace and dictated the style of the fight for at least eight rounds. Only in aggressiveness did Trinidad deserve an edge. But to award him the fight on that basis is like saying that close baseball games will now be decided not by the team that scores the most runs but by the team that swings hardest at the baseball.

De La Hoya’s “Golden Boy” act has never sat well with the national boxing press and yet it gave him a virtual clean sweep. The Post‘s Wallace Matthews scored it 115-113 De La Hoya, as did Jon Saraceno of USA Today, Steve Springer of the L.A. Times, Richard Hoffer of Sports Illustrated, and novelist Budd Schulberg. The AP had it seven rounds to five for Oscar, while The Star-Ledger‘s Jerry Izenberg had it 7-4-1 (as did Jockbeat). Just about the only writer who didn’t favor Oscar was the Daily News‘s Michael Katz, who has been predicting a Trinidad victory over De La Hoya since the two fighers were in day care. Katz scored it a draw, adding that if it had gone 15 rounds, “De La Hoya would not have had a chicken leg to stand on.” Well, maybe; at least in 15 rounds Felix might have finally been able to catch up with Oscar.

What’s in a Name?

New Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder recently made a name change within his organization to allay some deep-seated hurt feelings.

No, the truly hateful Redskins moniker will not be removed. But Snyder, who acquired the team from the family of longtime owner and near mythic D.C. figurehead Jack Kent Cooke, stripped the Cooke name from the Redskins’ stadium, and is currently (of course) planning to sell the naming rights. Then he got involved in a strange bit of local politics.

The 200 acres of land upon which the stadium sits had been dubbed “Raljon,” an awful amalgam of the names Ralph and John, Cooke’s two sons. The stadium actually sits in Landover, MD, and apparently a number of residents there were upset about the use of Raljon to refer to their neck of the woods. As Snyder has said, “In Prince George’s County, all the leaders have written to me and made it clear it’s insulting.” So the name was dropped.

As regards a long-talked-about change in the team’s indefensible name, however, Snyder sees things differently: “The difference is the Redskins name was taken actually as an honor. It was never meant to be derogatory. . . . Raljon was intended to be a shrine to his kids and not football. The citizens of Landover that live there think it’s insulting.”

This bizarre prevarication basically states that the dignity of a handful of pipsqueak suburban politicos has been abused more than that of the millions of Americans who see the franchise’s name as a slur. But in all likelihood, Snyder is interested in maintaining his team’s name because it is a cash cow; changing it would affect millions of merchandising dollars. Those dollars could dry up anyway in light of a recent decision by the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board. In April, the board granted a petition filed by seven American Indians to cancel the team’s trademark registrations because of a federal law that prohibits registering “disparaging” names and logos. The trademark revocation theoretically allows anyone to market Redskins merchandise without the team’s or the NFL’s permission. The Redskins have appealed, betraying no fear of their adversaries’ bows, arrows, and tomahawks.

Advancing the Cause

The papers are always homers when it comes to local sports teams. But did the Staten Island Advance cross the line and become a virtual house organ for the S.I. Yankees, the island burough’s new Class A minor league baseball team? Bill Franz, political editor of the Staten Island Register, thinks so, and he publicly charged the Advance with being a propaganda sheet for a big-bucks baseball business that robs taxpayers blind while fattening the pockets of Stanley Getzler and family, owners of the team, which has received over $40 million dollars in public subsidies.

Ever since Rudy Giuliani allocated money for a ballpark to be built near the ferry dock, and Guy Molinari wooed Getzler’s ballclub, Franz says, the Advance has done all it can to literally promote the team. He says the paper has reported a story that involves a contaminated stadium site and the privatizing of millions of taxpayer dollars with an unusually soft touch, while also being pom-pom wavers for the team. It’s true that the Advance has consistently called the team “Our Yanks” in just about every article written about the club.

But what burns Franz up most isn’t that “Our Yanks” turned their temporary digs at the College of Staten Island into a circus or collected an unfair share of the city’s budget. It’s when the Advance “browbeats” residents for the team’s poor attendance record— done, he argues, when the Advance published an article by staff writer Jay Price that said Islanders exhibited a “communal inferiority complex” because they didn’t flock to ballgames.

“In the minds of politicians (and their friends in the media),” Franz wrote in an op-ed piece, “the people of this borough are mentally deficient pawns . . . expected to play their role in this drama by obediently showing up for games and cheering wildly and mindlessly for ‘Our Yanks,’ as if it were their patriotic duty. . . . Folks, this fiasco is not the ‘Field of Dreams’— it’s the ‘Field of Schemes.’ ”

For their part, the honchos at the Advance are unimpressed. Says Brian Laline, the paper’s editor in chief, “Everybody is entitled to their opinion.”

Contributors: Allen Barra, Sinclair Rankin, Louis Bardel

Sports Editor: Miles D. Seligman