Sports. They provide us with moments of ecstasy that we will cherish forever. Living vicariously through the exploits of other men grants us the courage to continue our mundane, rootless, rudderless and seemingly meaningless existence, for the day-to-day chore of life would be difficult sans the momentous memory of "that one play."
Everyone who watches sports has "that one play"which sticks out from their other memories of the thousands of unproductive hours spent watching others compete and stands alone as the pinnacle moment.
Whether it was Michael Vick evading would-be tacklers and racing effortlessly away from the pursuing defense for a jaw-dropping touchdown; Michael Jordan or Larry Bird stroking in jump shots over the outstretched hands over a never-ending sea of defenders; or that last second field goal that sailed through the uprights, granting victory to your team and the ultimate defeat to the opposition, sports provide memories that leave an indelible mark.
Sports provide an escapism from the trappings of life and give us a reprieve from the ostensibly insignificant daily tasks, where we can fondly recall "that one play" to help keep us going. This was illustrated beautifully in the underrated 2006 film Invincible, the true story of a 30-year-old who ends up playing in the NFL for the Philadelphia Eagles.
Vincent Papale was that player, and when it appeared he might get cut, his father told him the importance of "that one play":
Frank Papale: You know how I used to tell you about Van Buren scoring that touchdown back in '48?Black History Month provides us with few to many actual events, people, inventions or innovations to recall and celebrate, so we created fictional Black History Month to fill that void. And today, with the notion of "that one play" echoing without end, we honor a pugilist of the highest order, Apollo Creed.
Frank Papale: Yeah, I know.
Frank Papale: I know. That touchdown got me through 30 years at that factory. Got me through all those times your mother being sick. When I told you not to get your hopes up... didn't mean that I wasn't.
From the quintessentially American series of the fighting underdog given that one last chance to prove his worth, Rocky, Creed is the personification of the dream some view as uniquely American.
An articulate, brash, highly intelligent, savvy, marketable Black man with a high sense of pageantry matched only by his intense business acumen, Creed appears to be cut from a different genetic cloth than most of the boxers who live in the real world - our world:
In the world we inhabit, it is always the white guy giving the Black guy the opportunity or chance to make a difference (think Michael Oher). Yet in Rocky, the story revolves around a washed-up white boxer granted one last opportunity thanks to luck and, more importantly, Apollo Creed's business-sense to create a Cinderella-story that all sports fans salivate to see:
Apollo Creed is far more than a clown. In fact, for many of us in 1976, black and white, especially us Muhammad Ali fans, he was a heroic, awesome figure. The movie shows him to be a businessman and a master marketer, the brains behind his operation, which happens to employ exclusively African Americans. He is Ali without the baggage -- a clean, polite Ali -- whose braggadocio is transparently for show. He advises kids, "Stay in school and use your brain. Be a doctor, be a lawyer, carry a leather briefcase. Forget about sports as a profession. Sports make you grunt and smell. See, be a thinker, not a stinker." And, in a twist on our normal expectations, it's the black man who gives the white man a chance to rise above his station.And, as people might tend to forget, Creed defeats Rocky. The white man overcomes his own doubts and demons, and gives Creed the fight of his life, but the black man wins.
Apollo Creed picked Philadelphia for the fight against the hometown white boy for pure, profit-driven reasons, as he reasoned a battle between the embattled Rocky Balboa and himself would create the iconic "David v. Goliath" fight everyone wants to see:
Apollo Marvin Creed first appeared in the 1976 Oscar-winning film Rocky as the charismatic, intelligent and undefeated 33 year old World Heavyweight Champion. A planned Bicentennial fight against number one contender Mac Lee Green was scheduled for January 1, 1976, which Apollo gladly hypes whenever someone places a microphone in front of him. However, Green hurts his left hand in training, and when none of the other top ranked contenders, such as Joe Czak and Buddy Shaw, step up to face the champion, Creed responds with a promotion that will generate huge publicity. He will offer an unknown local fighter an opportunity to battle Creed for the title, in a match in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Upon reviewing the local boxers in Philadelphia, Creed is drawn to a club fighter named Rocky Balboa because Balboa is Caucasian and has a catchy nickname, "The Italian Stallion." Apollo brushes off the idea of the left-handed Balboa giving him a fight, pledging to knock him out in three rounds. In spite of his trainer's concern when he sees Balboa in a television interview, training by punching sides of beef in a meat packing plant, Apollo puts more effort into giving everyone a good show rather than training for the bout.
[Apollo is looking thru a book of Philadelphia fighters]Apollo Creed defeats Rocky in the first film of the series, only to lose the championship in a re-match in the second film. He successfully trains Rocky to defeat Clubber Lang in the 3rd film and dies at the hands of doped-up Ivan Drago in Rocky IV, but his journey into the fictional Black History Month Heroes titans is confirmed by one unifying theme that pervades each film - Apollo is fabulously wealthy and he stays that way through the unique manner of saving money for the future, an act Black people and sports figures aren't particular known to perform.
Jergens: What exactly are you looking for Apollo?
Apollo Creed: This is who I'm looking for. The Italian Stallion.
Jergens: Rocky Balboa? Never heard of him.
Apollo Creed: Look it's the name man. The I-talian Stallion. The media will eat it up. Now who discovered America? An Italian right? What better way to get it on than with one of its descendants?
Apollo's Trainer: He's a southpaw. I don't want you messing with southpaws. They do everything backwards
Apollo Creed: Southpaw nothing. I'll drop him in three. Apollo Creed meets the Italian Stallion. Now that sounds like a damn monster movie.
The well-tailored, sinewy Creed has a vast entourage, but lacks any of the vices that haunt other sports stars and help doom them to lost fortunes of such unimaginable wealth that would even leave King Solomon envious of, and unlike Rocky in Rocky V, he manages to make fantastic investments that protect and insulate his family (Rocky goes bankrupt in Rocky V, but is able to recuperate his losses in the films denouement, Rocky Balboa).
Creed stands apart from other boxers, real pugilists who garnered untold fortunes only to squander them away in furious fashion. Pro athletes, as Sports Illustrated chronicled for us, have a tendency to stray from the sound financial advice that Apollo Creed followed and instead, opt for economic enslavement and bankruptcy:
Worse though, is the fate of Black boxers not named Apollo Creed, for they spend money faster than Brewster's Millions and live impoverished lives in their twilight years:
What happens to many athletes and their money is indeed hard to believe. In this month alone Saints alltime leading rusher Deuce McAllister filed for bankruptcy protection for the Jackson, Miss., car dealership he owns; Panthers receiver Muhsin Muhammad put his mansion in Charlotte up for sale on eBay a month after news broke that his entertainment company was being sued by Wachovia Bank for overdue credit-card payments; and penniless former NFL running back Travis Henry was jailed for nonpayment of child support.
In a less public way, other athletes from the nation's three biggest and most profitable leagues—the NBA, NFL and Major League Baseball—are suffering from a financial pandemic. Although salaries have risen steadily during the last three decades, reports from a host of sources (athletes, players' associations, agents and financial advisers) indicate that:
• By the time they have been retired for two years, 78% of former NFL players have gone bankrupt or are under financial stress because of joblessness or divorce.
• Within five years of retirement, an estimated 60% of former NBA players are broke.
Mike Tyson losing more than $120 million. Evander Holyfield more than $200 million. Black boxers going bankrupt is nothing new, as Riddick Bowe forced to sign autographs at flea markets and yard sales, despite $15 million once in the bank:
It appears even multi-millionaire fighters are feeling the biting effects of the credit crunch.
Evander Holyfield is once again facing foreclosure on his Georgia mansion and the news has sent a wave of disbelief and dismay through British boxing.
The sprawling, 109-room house on Evander Holyfield Drive, south of Atlanta, was due to be auctioned last June but Holyfield struck a deal to remain in the property.
However, the $10m manor is now due to go under the gavel on 7 July at the Fayette County Courthouse.
An Olympic bronze medallist in 1984, Holyfield participated in some of the biggest bouts of all time and is reputed to have earned over $200m in the boxing ring.
Yet his present financial predicament sees him join the legion of legendary fighters whose fortunes have dwindled, or who have fallen on hard times.
From old-timers, like the great Sam Langford, who ended up blind and broke, and Joe Louis, who went to his grave with the IRS still in dogged pursuit of a tax claim, to modern-day champs such as Mike Tyson, boxing's rich history appears to serve as a cautionary tale of how not to manage money.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.— Amid all the items to be discovered at the Meadowlands Flea Market on Saturday, past the kettle corn and between the $2 leather belts and the $1 bottles of shampoo, was a two-time heavyweight boxing champion of the world.
Riddick Bowe sat on a folding chair behind a card table that straddled two parking spaces, labeled in chalk as Nos. 264 and 265. Most people sauntered past, holding bargains in a bag or grilled meat on a stick, not recognizing the large man who waited for someone to come see him.
“The champ is here!” Darren Antola, who set up the autograph session, called out, like a carnival barker. “He beat Evander Holyfield two out of three times!...
“Somebody I can whoop,” Bowe said. He smiled. She laughed. Then she bought an autographed picture for $35 that she intended to frame for someone named Pete. And Bowe, who said he had $15 million when he retired in 1996, thanked her.
A man working a stall behind Bowe watched.
“All those millions of dollars, and they’re gone,” the man said, and it was not in the form of a question, but a fact, readily apparent. “It’s a sad story.”
Antonio Tarver, another talent Black boxer, filed for bankruptcy. Holyfield though, has numerous women to pay child support for, as he found having children with more than one woman a splendid operation. $200 million lost for a decade of fine living though!
Mike Tyson found the life led by Apollo Creed to be one of pure fantasy and indulged in a joyous romp of fun that left him in a financial "hangover":
Name the boxer and inevitably a tale of financial woe will follow, save Apollo Creed. He died in the middle of the ring, during an exhibition bout with an evil Communist from Russia, but he went to his maker a rich man. Stuff Black People Don't Like finds the example of fiduciary prudence exercised by Apollo Creed enough to warrant inclusion in the fictional Black History Month celebration. That Carl Weathers is one great actor.
For the former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson, a cash machine to himself and to others, record earnings in the boxing ring became a license to spend — on jewelry, mansions, cars, limousines, cellphones, parties, clothing, motorcycles and Siberian tigers. Despite making about $400 million over the past 20 years, Tyson managed to squander his fortune.
One of his most recent extravagances came on Dec. 22, when Tyson walked into a Las Vegas jewelry store and picked up a $173,706 gold chain lined with 80 carats in diamonds. But he never paid for the fabulous jewelry, which is among the $23 million in debts specified in the Chapter 11 petitions he filed Friday with the United States Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan.
Tyson's free-spending past made him creditworthy at Jewelers Inc., which he departed without paying a cent for the diamonds. "Knowing him for so long, I gave him the merchandise and knew he'd pay later," Mordechai Yerushalmi, the store's owner, said by telephone yesterday. "He had open credit with me." He added: "He's been through his ups and downs. He will make good on it."
That may not be easy. At 37, Tyson's boxing skills are diminishing, and so is his earning power; he could once command $30 million for a night's work. His future earnings and the future proceeds from the sale of a Connecticut mansion will go to pay a $9 million divorce settlement to his ex-wife, Monica Turner. She also has a lien on Tyson's Las Vegas estate, which is beside Wayne Newton's.
Even Rocky fell victim to financial misery, but not Apollo though. Movies once again provide us an escape from reality, for Black athletes do go broke in real life. Those same players who perform the incredible feats that comprise "that one play" sadly end up living on only those memories and nothing else.