Monday, April 27, 2015

How you gonna root?

It was always easier when you didn't know so much. Blissful ignorance meant you could wear an athlete's cap or his jersey with the lack of ambivalence imperfect knowledge imparts, drawing comfort from it even if it was false comfort.

Things were so much brighter when you didn't see the darkness in a man's (or woman's) soul. Home truth.

Now, of course, we do, the all-encompassing 'net being what it is. And if you can rightfully argue that we see too much, it's better than not seeing enough.

There may be ambivalence now where there was none before, but I'll take it. I'll take the queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach whenever I hear a bunch of lacquerheads spin a narrative about someone that's 90 percent bunkum.

That's what I heard yesterday when Kurt Busch landed in Victory Lane at Richmond, and that's what I'll likely hear this week about Floyd Mayweather Jr. from the carnival shouters trying to squeeze a few more bucks out of the Pacquiao fight. Pardon me if I choose not to play along.

Busch led 295 laps at Richmond and drove a masterful race, but, please, don't sell it to me as some sort of redemption tale. Busch is and always has been the architect of his own troubles, and that especially includes the domestic violence beef he just ducked when the authorities chose not to prosecute. That didn't mean he didn't smash his ex-girlfriend's head into the wall, as he was accused of doing. It just means it wasn't a gold-card lock for the state to prove it, so the state chose not to try.

As with anyone in his situation, Busch chose to see that as vindication, even if we'll never really know if it is or not. That why it's always best not to lean too hard on the redemption thing. And yet that's what media in all its forms tends to do these days, because it's a lot harder to sell nuance than to craft a simple one-size-fits-all narrative, whether or not it remotely squares with reality.

So, yeah, watching Busch celebrate in Victory Lane made me a little uneasy.  Watching the run-up to Mayweather-Pacquiao, on the other hand, will make me feel downright disgusted, because there's no uncertainty at all about who Mayweather is and what he's done.

The man's a woman-beating punk.  There's no way to paper over that, although God knows the entities that stand to make major coin off Saturday will try. One representative of those entities, Stephen A. Smith of ESPN, has been a Mayweather toady for years, consistently sneering at the numerous complaints lodged against him.

And yet: Since 2002, Mayweather has not only been accused of slugging women, he's been tried and convicted of it. He pleaded guilty in two incidents, and in another was convicted but threw enough lawyers at it to get the charges dismissed four years later. Most recently, in 2010, he belted his ex-girlfriend around in front of two of their children, drawing a 90-day stretch in the Graybar Hotel.

Floyd Mayweather Jr. is no one anyone should be rooting for, but of course people will. We'll hear a lot this week about how we should give him the benefit of the doubt in his numerous instances of punching women in the face. We'll hear he's a changed man, and we should respect that. We'll hear he's a good guy at heart who's paid his debt, and so we should let bygones be bygones.

Shoot. We might even hear there's a giant invisible bird in the sky that flaps its wings and makes the wind blow.

Now that I believe.

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