One thing to do in a dingy motel is to watch dingy TV. There was lots of it—tedious sports shows and talk shows, unfunny comedies, dumbass celebrity updates, bad movies of the ’80s, a charnel house of shitty writing and stale ideas. I ran aground for a while on an offbrand show or movie about the crew of a rocket ship who go around fighting space vampires. The heroes dashed from here to there shouting fakey jargon and toting futuristic weapons that looked like the weapons we have now with nonfunctional molded-plastic appendages glued to them. The vampires glowered, hissed, and suppurated. It kind of ruins the space-opera magic to wonder what the actors’ parents think when they see them on the screen, but that’s what I usually wonder about. The talented darling who starred in school plays and expectant local fantasies back in Elk Grove Village or Mamaroneck or wherever is now wearing fangs and slathered in gory makeup and being blown unconvincingly in half by a plasmoid megablaster. I picture the parents thinking, “Well, at least he is on TV.”
The lameness of it all caught me just right—in that end-of-day, far-from-home, buzzed-from-work mood—and laid me low. Deep gloom descended. I went through the channels a few more times, only growing more despondent, until I happened upon round one of the middleweight title fight between Marvin Hagler and John Mugabi—held 22 years before, almost to the day. Hagler had his hands full, but he knew what to do about it. He was settling in to cope with Mugabi’s strength and power by taking him deep into the fight, wearing him out over the long haul and fi nishing him late. Mugabi, a blowout artist, had gone ten rounds just once and six only twice in his twenty-five fights, all wins. The turning point would come in the sixth round, when Hagler, having blunted the force of Mugabi’s early-round assault, would take over the fight by giving his man a spine-jellying pounding, then settle in to finish him inside the distance, KO’ing him in the eleventh.
[Photo Credit: Ryan Hancock]