Friday, August 28, 2009

Boxers And Bookworms Battle Back

"You've been tagged in a note on Facebook."

Everyone on that social networking site--and at this point who isn't?--has read this message with a mixture of flattery ("My online friends want to know more about me!") and dread. ("Who the heck has time for this stuff?").

A popular note is entitled "The ABC's of Me," a straightforward trip through the alphabet, each successive letter revealing, theoretically, a fascinating fact about the friend. I must confess I never completed this work-out, throwing in the towel at the end of Round 2 with the letter "B."

For any librarian, of course, "B" is for for "Books." But as the careful reader will have gleaned from the sports metaphor I've chosen, for me "B" also stands for "Boxing."

This otherwise peace-loving bookworm is obsessed with the sweet science. Nothing enthralls me like the balletic beauty of the ring--the elemental battle of skill and will. Pugilists just happen to share a burden with librarians, too. Both are frequently hit below the belt with the low blow of cruel occupational stereotypes. The punch drunk fighter living on a steady diet of scrambled brains with a side of cauliflower ears may well win a decision in the battle of the bum raps over the cranky, bun sporting spinster in coke bottle glasses and cardigan. (AKA "bum wraps.")

Fortunately for both combatants, a new found sparring partner has enlisted in the ongoing fight to knock out such typecasting: Boxers and Writers Magazine. This online periodical celebrates "the arts of Boxing and Writing in a manner that proliferates the popularity of both."

The site highlights well-read, articulate, and socially responsible members of the boxing fraternity, such as former welterweight champion and two-time Ring Magazine Fighter of the Year, Sugar Ray Leonard. Mr. Leonard recommends his favorite book in an interview with editor Mark Conner. His very sophisticated choice? Kaffir Boy, the autobiography of South African writer Mark Mathabane. This hard-hitting memoir details the brutality of Mathabane's childhood and adolescence under that county's racist apartheid system. The author's eventual escape from oppression was made possible by a tireless honing of his athletic skills to a level high enough to win him a coveted tennis scholarship at a South Carolina college.

In addition to choosing that championship read, Sugar Ray also makes this observation:

"It's never too late to learn, to better yourself. Whether it's reading or whatever the case may be. I think that--I don't think, I know--education is the key, it's what brought me to where I am today. Because you need that education, I stress...that to my kids all the time."

Hardly the words of a ring-worn resident of Palookaville. One more stereotype down for the count.

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