I chatted with Jim Lampley, host of the HBO boxing news/commentary magazine show “The Fight Game” on Wednesday morning. First thing, I offered congratulations, stating that I believed this installment of the show was the best to date.
That is “debateable,” the host pointed out, noting the subjectiveness of such a declaration.
OK, then, but what did you think about it?
General thumbs up, he said, but “it’s still a work in progress.”
People who tuned in were offered some pointing, perhaps even biting if you were the one cough cough Floyd Mayweather on the receiving end of launches from the heart and mouth of Lampley, and ESPN’s Michelle Beadle, who the host said is signed to be a regular on the once a month show at least from the present to year end.
The show didn’t find it easy to find its footing, even with super-helmer producer Bill Wolff, ex of the “The Rachel Maddow Show” on MSNBC offering direction. He’s off to ABC, guiding “The View,” but nothing was lost in the baton hand-off, to my eyes, and gut.
“We chose to be more provocative, off the page a little more, not doing the same old,” Lampley told me, when I asked about tweaks to content and tone. He said that all in all, they tried to trod the same territory and indulge in the same level of analysis as found in the more intelligent boxing coverage, most of which is found on the web these days. Some of TFG audience doesn’t have TheSweetScience.com and some of the other top websites bookmarked, he said, so this format catches them up, and maybe gives them a deeper understanding of why things happen, and don’t happen, in this realm.
He said he’s happy with the addition of Michelle Beadle to the cast, and expects her to widen the watcher base, maybe snag that non boxing fan sitting next to you on the sofa.
I told Lampley that I thought his Keith Olbermann style closing comment was a potent combo, smartly written, direct from brain and heart to Teleprompter. He took the compliment as ever graciously, and noted that it felt right to deep a total assessment of an athlete who he says has largely gotten a free pass for out-of-the-ring behaviors. That was perhaps because people like the keyboard tappers feared that the sport’s façade would crumble if the pied piper was found to be a bad egg. “The sport will survive with or without Floyd Mayweather,” he told me. “Why not pull out a brick? That’s what we did.
The closing comment had me thinking how fascinating and perhaps cringe-y it will be if and when HBO and Floyd do business again. I put that to Lampley. He said he thought about that, but borrowed from the fearlessness of his “idol,” as he put it, Larry Merchant. “Larry Merchant went through that many times,” Lampley said. “As for him being my ‘idol,’ Larry deserves that. For twenty years, he taught me everything he knows.”
The show will be on every month till year end, with play dates Oct. 29, Nov. 18 and Dec. 23, when Lampley will have Bill O’Reilly on, on a special Christmas themed TFG, to debate why there is a war on Christmas in America.
OK, I made up that last part…though an installment will in fact on the eve of Christmas eve, or Dec. 23.