I know this story won’t draw a huge number of hits.
Tough tamales, I say.
Stories like this one, which spotlight people who are doing good things, aren’t written enough, not by me, and sure as hell not by a media obsessed with feeding the darker sides of all our human nature.
Melvina Lathan was named chair of the New York State Athletic Commission in 2008. It was a heady time. Optimism was in the air, amongst many of us, anyway, if not for the people for whom color blindness infects their reasoning, however much of it they may possess. A black man was elected to oversee the most powerful nation in the world, and that felt like a massive reparation, and a concession to progress, a reminder, of which there hasn’t been enough of in the last 30 or so years, that America can do great things, beyond thinking up ways to package sugar and fat into delectable fast food items, and engineer diabolically lucrative methods to exploit loopholes and make Wall Street richer than the sum total of some small nations’ GDP.
A woman being named to head up an athletic commission…good stuff.
Her tenure, as all of them are, was a mix of positive and negative. I’d argue that the positive far, far outweighed the negative, especially if you talk to some of those young fighters who she touched, with one of those hugs, or a heart to heart talk, or a string of encouraging words which lifted them up after back to back losses, or they admitted to a homelife featuring a paucity of love and attention.
We the media aren’t, of course, so prone to pick up on those stories. They don’t do as well in the hit department and also some feel funny about writing “positive” stories. It’s like we’re fated to skew negative, we fightwriters, because we often subscribe to the conventional wisdom theory, that our red light district of sports is a human cesspool where flesh merchants slither alongside wannabes and dreamers and square peggers who have been drawn to the only pro sport which would allow entry to the likes of them.
Further, sometimes people tell me to get over myself, stop being so self righteous, stop that earnest schtick, stop preaching. Eff them, eff that I say.
If we the media don’t get a bit better at accentuating positives then why don’t we just pull up stakes, call it a day, and concede to the darkside?
Hey, I wonder if maybe Lathan sometimes feels like conceding…throwing in the towel…hanging up the gloves, stepping down. You guys know what happened last November, how a boxer, a brave warrior fought his heart out, and almost gave his life for what he was born to do. You know that in such situations, we play the blame game. We ask, we want answers: who screwed up? We need a head to roll…That’s the way the game is played when fate takes a turn into a deep ditch. Should it be? No.
I was at MSG that night, I saw the warrior who is today back at home, getting better, to the utter joy of his wife and kids, throwing hard punches to the final bell. And after that fight, could things have gone more smoothly, and could maybe Mago have been better served? Sure. By any number of people. They know who they are. No one person deserves an excess of scorn or judgement in such a system, not when we are all operating within the imperfect system that is boxing, and life.
I don’t find it fair when one act defines a person.
Now, maybe she doesn’t really want me to write this, but I think it is important to get this out there. Lathan has been married for 44 years. She experienced the ups and downs that we all do, doing that marriage thing, doing the life thing, but if you know her, you hear her talk about her four kids, her 13 grand-children, and you know that this is a person who seems to understand priorities, what the big picture should be.
She’s been tested; her younger brother had a stroke, which left her asking why, if indeed everything happens for a reason. Two years later, her husband, a physician, also suffered a stroke. This is the kind of stuff that can and will happen to you if you are graced with enough decades on earth. But we’re not inclined to advertise our woes, are we, we’re encouraged to soldier on. So, while those issues linger in our mind while we get through that work day, because that mortgage still got to be paid, most folks we deal with don’t know when our souls are being particularly challenged. And most folks don’t know when a good person is doing things that aren’t earning themselves a boatload of money or acclaim. When a Lathan is helping put together a fund-raising golf outing for the American Association for the Improvement of Boxing, which unfolds Oct. 13 at the Galloway National Golf Club, in Galloway, New Jersey, you’re not as likely to hear about it as when the blame game is being indulged in….
Let’s put aside the blame game, and note that four kids were given scholarship dough last year out of funds raised at the AAIB outing and gala dinner. And while we’re shifting out of the gears of the familiar, the sensational, the blameworthy, the superficial, let’s consider a fuller picture on Lathan, who two weeks ago was visiting about 30 kids at the Willis Ave. Gym in the South Bronx, giving out goodie bags, with fresh fruit and water and the like, from out of her own pocket. She talked to the kids about healthy nutrition, about staying in school, about being decent souls, about stuff that so many of us take for granted, and can’t conceive of anyone needing pointers on, because we come from a place of plenty. And did you hear about her presence at the WBC’s first Women’s Convention in Mexico last week, and how she was rallying people together, trying to help advance the cause and presence of women in the sport, encouraging the voiceless to use those lungs, announce their worth in the world? You didn’t hear about that stuff? Shame on me, for not shouting it louder….
Yeah, decent people in boxing. Doing good things. Spreading positive messages. it happens. A lot.