by Fox Doucette
Tuesday, April 10th, marked one year since my first article for this site (a piece on the middleweight division after David Lemieux lost to Marco Antonio Rubio that I wrote as a spec piece to get my foot in the door here) went up. Since every writer has an ego as big as all outdoors that causes us to think anyone cares what we have to say, you’re going to have to indulge my ego this week. Besides, when I went out on the story I’m about to describe, my girlfriend at the time (more on her later) said “this is a story you’re going to be telling people for years”…and I’ve yet to tell it once apart from telling it to her (again, more on that later.)
I’ve always been a fringes-of-society guy. Worked as the office guy in a truck repair shop, covered boxing matches, came from a mostly blue collar family. Never understood Robin Leach’s fascination with the rich and famous; still don’t understand reality TV’s fascination with those same people. I go to business school, and (no offense to any of my friends from college reading this) by and large I find business people intellectually sterile, conversationally boring, and not much fun to hang around with.
So when I got the assignment to call up Rick Mirigian from RGM Promotions in Fresno and interview him about an amateur fighter he had coming up through the ranks (Jose Ramirez), I knew I couldn’t just leave that assignment at a simple five minute telephone meet-and-greet. I had to make a splash and do the story right. So I made the eight-hour bus trip from my home base in Reno, booked a room at a cheap motel, and made a weekend of it.
Say what you will about a bus as a form of transportation, but if there is truly beauty to be found in ugliness, the Sacramento Greyhound station is beauty in ugliness. I could probably take another trip down there, just talking to the people doin’ work, and put together one damn fine paean to the 99% in hearing the woman serving the obviously microwaved chicken sandwiches (the same ones you get in the freezer aisle at Wal-Mart when you’re short on money and too hungry to care if the food is any good) telling her story. Blue collar, a little bit Mike Rowe and a little bit Jacob Riis (he of How the Other Half Lives), my kind of people.
Covering Ruslan Provodnikov’s fight with Ivan Popoca was supposed to be the sideshow attraction to the weekend. I was going to be watching ESPN2 anyway, and I had my laptop with me, so why not bang out a quick 800 words? I’d always felt the boxing media didn’t pay enough attention to the up-and-coming fighters, which never gave them due chance to develop a fanbase among the people who digested the boxing news without necessarily becoming regular viewers of those Friday night cards. Some of ’em had dates, I guess.
Provodnikov took care of business, as he so often does on ESPN, and I had my column turned around in about a half an hour, even going so far in the email as to ask my boss if that was too slow (I’m perfectly aware now that it’s better to be the best than to be the fastest, and I take pride in writing the most complete, well thought-out articles to be found on any site covering the Worldwide Leader, but that wasn’t on my mind when writing the first one.) Considering the next thing he asked me was if I wanted to make covering FNF my regular gig, the one I still hold a year later, I must have done something right.
So I did what any man would when he’s just done something awesome. I called my girl. She was practically beaming over the phone. She said “You’ve always talked, for as long as I’ve known you, about wanting to be a sportswriter. And now…you’re a sportswriter. Your article was great.” My mother posted on my Facebook that she was proud of me…the first time I can remember her ever saying anything to that effect in the 34 years I’ve walked the earth. More importantly, falling asleep in a motel room with a TV on and an article submitted to a journalistic outlet…it just felt like I was doing what the gods put me here to do. Not everybody can be a nine-to-five suit-and-tie wearing accountant (something I wish I’d realized before choosing a college major, but the bills don’t pay themselves.)
Fast forward to the next day. The nuts and bolts of the fighter and the boxing side of things are covered in the article I submitted the following week—Jose Ramirez is a helluva amateur fighter, has a bright future as a pro if he can work on his mechanics and not pulling straight back and leaving himself open to being timed and knocked out by a professional. He’s managed by a guy who needs to do more work in the Sweet Science, because Rick Mirigian has no small bit of integrity and is the kind of guy that even Teddy Atlas would say nice things about. And for all of this site’s justifiable rage against writers who are too nice to promoters, it’s hard not to like a guy who picks up the tab at the Mexican restaurant. I may be immune to bribery in my work (read the article again; it’s not a puff piece, nor could I look myself in the mirror if I made it a puff piece), but I’m also human.
The fight festivities concluded, I had a bus to catch; two hours in the Fresno Greyhound station with a Nintendo DS and Dirk Nowitzki putting up 28 in Game 1 against the Blazers to keep me entertained. Right as the bus left the station with me on it, my phone rang…if it’s possible NOT to love someone who not only genuinely wants to know how your day went but knows the minute the bus is leaving the station, I don’t want to know that someone.
We talked for two hours. I practically wrote the column in the course of the conversation as organizing my thoughts around the questions she, not really a fight fan, wanted to know (still a hallmark of the writing process with me—I try to make my columns accessible to people who may not understand boxing but do understand good writing when they see it). As the conversation went on, someone on the bus finally decided he’d heard enough of my side of the conversation and yapped at me, saying “Are you going to talk all night?”…to which I said “Not ALL night, my battery doesn’t last forever.” (my girl took the hint, and I was left to stare out the window at the late-night empty nothingness of rural Central California. At least the DS still worked.)
The really weird thing about the weekend came at the end; as I got ready to head to classes on Monday I felt like the last thing in the world I wanted to think about was supply chain management and cost accounting. Talk about a letdown. For a weekend I was living the dream…and then I woke up, ready in my own way to face the dreary emptiness of corporate slave life, which I escape through the written word and having an indulgent social circle and readership willing to indulge me the habit.
I still dream of doing this without having to do a day job. I know I could do Dan Rafael’s job better than Dan Rafael does Dan Rafael’s job. I think back to Max Kellerman’s days sitting opposite Brian Kenny on FNF and I’d sit in that chair for a few bucks to cover my living expenses just to have a job that awesome. And maybe someday I’ll be that rambling, traveling man, just going where regular people are doing extraordinary things with their fists, living the life. Beats the hell out of debits and credits, that’s for damn sure. (and in true rambling man fashion, of course I didn’t get the girl in the end. Then again, I wouldn’t be much of a hardened loner keyboard jockey if I settled down. Still think of her from time to time, though.)
Fox Doucette covers Friday Night Fights for The Boxing Tribune. His weekly column, The Southpaw, appears on Thursdays, and usually isn’t this self-indulgent. But hey, an anniversary’s an anniversary. Fan mail, hate mail, and offers to set me up with your late twenty-something daughter or sister can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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