It used to be that fight week– hell, fight MONTH– before a Manny Pacquiao feature was like one, long Christmas morning for those of us who get a kick out of hardcore media pandering and cheerleading.
Every day I’d wake up, wipe the sleep sand from my eyes, and run down to the laptop, anxious to see what Manny-pandering gems were awaiting me on the potholed boxing side roads that snaked away from the information superhighway.
From the websites that used his arrival at LAX as front page fodder to the faux journalists who waxed poetic about the awesomeness of being Manny, I loved it all. Oh, sure, the rise of Mannymania ushered in a penny-click culture that became a pretty dark period for journalism and it led to many half-truths and flat-out lies, passed off as facts. But never before in the often checkered history of the boxing media has the line between integrity and pandering ever been so clearly defined. The real, hardcore fight fans could easily see the reporters from the publicists. And, frankly, the poor, uneducated saps earning way too much money for their poorly-crafted pro-Manny propaganda had a certain charm to them.
I mean, how could you not get a kick out of a guy like former boxing publicist Michael Marley, who milked the eager and often naive Pacquiao fan base for millions of penny clicks over the years, earning a nice chunk of change for posting utterly meaningless daily affirmations about the benevolent awesomeness of boxing’s “humble superhero.”
Or how about Dennis “D’Source” Guillermo, Marley’s young Fil-Am, hip-hop protege and self-proclaimed accomplished journalist, who was the ultimate source for fan club information such as the inside scoop on Manny’s collector Topps card or Manny’s favorite shoe for pick-up basketball games. Guillermo also holds a distinction for having created the single worst headline of all-time: “America may think he’s damaged goods but Pacquiao just like Boxing is bigger than America.“ (Actual headline, nothing added or changed!)
Behind Marley and Guillermo, there were guys like Brad Cooney, Scott Heritage, and Rick Rockwell– all good for a few craps and giggles, as long as you were willing to see their serious work in its proper comedic light. For example, Cooney once wrote, in all seriousness, that long-time Pacquiao aide Buboy Fernandez deserved leniency after being accused of assaulting a ringside photographer because Buboy had once saved a friend of his from drowning.
Working for the Google-friendly Examiner.com, these not-ready-for-primetime-players earned a penny for a certain amount of article clicks. Meant to be a minor league proving ground for young writers, the Examiner platform was aimed more at paying in exposure with a few cents tossed in for good measure.
However, somebody had the bright idea to submit these quickly-written puff pieces to the ultra-powerful traffic beast, Pacland news aggregator (now PinoyGreats.com) and the money started rolling in. As things progressed, the stories began to be crafted specifically for the obviously pro-Manny Pacland audience.
Then, some of these authors, eager to make even more money, entered into an agreement to pay Pacland’s owner a share of their penny-click profits for preferential placement on the news aggregator. The pay-for-play deal generated thousands of dollars for these writers and made the difference between a trash bin article paying 85 cents to a viral turd, capable of bringing in as much as 200 bucks.
A casual perusal of Examiner.com boxing columns, in its prime, got you articles such as: “Preview of Pacquiao’s new Nike Air Trainer 1.3 shoe and release date,” “U.S fans heckle Floyd Mayweather, demand he faces Manny Pacquiao,” and “Does God want Manny Pacquiao to win?”
Alas, the era of the penny-click Pacquiao Press Corps ended late last year shortly after it was revealed– thanks to The Boxing Tribune– that writers had entered into this unethical Payola arrangement. The story would go widely unreported by the boxing media because, by this time, most “legit” sites had also begun submitting their work to the Pacland news aggregator.
The real deathblow for this pay-to-play arrangement came when Examiner.com changed their pay scale to one more beneficial for themselves. For the major players, the potential payout wouldn’t be worth the kickback anymore. Some of the smaller guys hung around, but eventually faded away. Now Pacland/PinoyGreats is almost completely devoid of penny click articles. A quick look at the current front page shows just three among the long list of stories.
Hall of Fame cheerleader Marley, who wrote fourteen Pacquiao-friendly articles in the month prior to the June, 2012 Pacquiao-Bradley bout has written about the same amount of Pacquiao articles in the eighteen months since then– and not all of them quite as gushingly positive as before.
Guillermo is mostly retired from the penny click scene, but will pop up every once in awhile with an Examiner article guaranteed to not earn even one-tenth of what he made when in full under the table kickback mode.
It’s Christmas morning no more for me. The low-hanging fruit, ripe for my picking, has been replaced by slicker, more clique-oriented fake-hipsters who are just as clueless as the Examiner crew, but much better at deflecting criticisms.
Oh, sure, there will always be instances like when BWAA auxiliary member and Sweet Science writer, Ray Markarian, recently walked Andre Ward to the ring and, with a bad-ass glare, hoisted Ward’s belt high in the air during ring introductions. And I’m sure a quick Google Search would result in plenty of recent articles comparing Manny to various superheroes and bestowing upon him heroic nobility. But it’s just not the same.
Back when Pacquiao’s massive fandom had just washed over the boxing scene like a gigantic tsunami, the rush to exploit his hard-headed but charmingly naive and loyal fans opened up the industry for a brief moment and, for the first time ever, revealed the true nature of the business. While the keyboard slappers at Examiner.com were heavy-handed with their hustle, they weren’t doing anything that some of the big boys at the major sites don’t regularly do, albeit with greater skill and aplomb.
Selling fights and passing along talking points is the boxing media’s prime function these days, but at least, back in the glory days of the Examiner’s Pacquiao Press Corps, there was some unintentional humor mixed in with the cheerleading.
We may never see headlines for well-traveled articles like this again:
“Manny Pacquiao’s religious reawakening results in beatific glow, promoter says”
It’s all well and good that the Examiner clowns are gone from the sport, but if given my choice, I’d much prefer to deal with the clowns who paint their faces in public and wear rainbow wigs than the ones who hide behind the illusion of professionalism.