Now that I have a TV in my dorm room and all I do in my leisure time is take advantage of the free HBO, I’ve been seeing a ton of commercials for boxing.
The ads were hyping the middleweight championship as if the fate of the world depended on the outcome of the showdown, so naturally I set aside my Saturday night to watch what I thought was going to be a decisive and important match.
What I actually ended up watching was the replay of a decisive and important match that happened last weekend, but I figured that was close enough.
Other than whatever I’ve picked up from watching Raging Bull and Cinderella Man, my boxing knowledge is scarce. My friend, who is sports-minded to an even lesser extent than myself, generously decided to keep me company while I embarked on my boxing adventure, and I think our combined ignorance resulted in some pretty cool revelations.
A concept that gradually dawned on the two of us while watching the HBO-special rerun is that there are a lot of common phrases the English language borrows from boxing.
My unscientifically-compiled list includes idioms such as: down for the count, throw in the towel, saved by the bell, roll with the punches, pound-for-pound, below the belt, duke it out and against the ropes.
I’ve never watched boxing before in my life, yet none of those phrases are unfamiliar to me. Also, I can’t think of another sport that has contributed quite so many terms to the American vernacular. So why is that?
My friend and I concluded that the reason boxing provides us with so many idioms is that boxing is a much clearer analogy for the human experience than any other sport.
Compared to football or baseball, boxing is way over on the animalistic end of the sporting spectrum. It’s comparatively unencumbered by protocol and decorum, and the rules are simple: stay standing and pummel the opponent until he can’t get up.
When two scarcely clothed men are tossed into a ring and forced to essentially fight for their survival, the metaphors are bound to start flowing as freely as the blood and the snot.
There is some loaded symbolism behind beating someone to the punch, taking one on the chin and having someone in your corner, whereas the only thing a field goal symbolizes is, well, a field goal.
Boxing isn’t so much a game as it is, as my friend brilliantly called it, “sanctioned expression of human nature.” The reason boxing terminology can be so easily applied to everyday life is that the circumstances a boxer encounters during a fight are unmistakable thematic parables for circumstances people face in real life. This is also probably the reason why Hollywood makes so many boxing movies.
I’m still not an expert on boxing, nor am I an expert on HBO’s programming schedule, but what I did achieve this weekend was an understanding that even though the match itself didn’t make much of an impact on me, some aspects of a sport can — I’m so sorry — pack more of a punch.
Haylee Pearl is a sophomore studying journalism, a novice sports viewer and a copy editor for The Post. Did she completely miss the point of the boxing match? Let her know at firstname.lastname@example.org.