Sweet and sour science

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Glamorous trek from lowly locker room occupant to revered deity

By John Pawlak

I remember the first time I had sweet and sour pork.  It was New York City and the meat was soaked in that sugary vinegar sauce, guaranteed to hide the flavor of pretty much anything you wanted to cook.  
My friends and I were delighted with an endless variety of food names we had never seen before; Moo shu, bean curd, chicken cooked by some military dude named Tso, and of course the sweet and sour.  It was all very delicious, but I’m not really sure what the meats were.
Did you ever notice that you don’t see stray animals in New York City?
But I’m not really a big fan of sour anymore, whether it be gumballs or Chinese food or drinks.  I do however like a good whiskey sour, minus the lemon juice and sugar.
These days, I find myself more biased toward the sweet.  Ice cream.  Chocolate chip cookies.  Dried fruits, fresh squeezed orange juice, cheesecake, a handful of those gourmet jelly beans (the type where you really can’t figure out the flavor).  Anything sweet is good.
Well, almost anything.
I read an article about Afghan girls taking boxing lessons in Kabul.  These women are working to get to the 2012 London Olympics in the women’s boxing competitions.  
And yes, in case you were wondering, they would fight in Islamic dress.  With hijabs to cover their heads and a modest circus tent to cover their bodies, these burqa boxers are ready to make a jab for stardom in the Islamic world.
OK, I freely admit that I’m not much of a sports fan.  The fact that some Neanderthal can bounce a ball and make $10 million a year while homeless veterans freeze to death on the streets of cities in disrepair is in my top 10 of things that disgust me about the human race.  
But let’s not insult sports icons, lest we find ourselves having to buy running shoes that aren’t endorsed by some brain-dead football player.
Ah, forget all that.  Let’s get back to talking about boxing.  The sport of boxing.  The sweet science of boxing.
Yeah, the sweet science.  Boxing proudly promenades that euphemism coined by Joe Liebling who wrote the book, “The Sweet Science,” in which boxing is portrayed as a glamorous journey (from lowly locker room occupant to revered deity) where a person rises to the top by virtue of excellence, perseverance and insight.  
The top of what, I’m not sure.  A pile of unconscious bodies?  Can’t you just smell the virtue?
Liebling states that “Watching a fight on television has seemed to me a poor substitute for being there.  For one thing, you can’t tell the fighters what to do.  When I watch a fight, I like to study one boxer’s problem, solve it, and then communicate my solution vocally.”
I know exactly what he means. “Kill him!”  “Knock his brains out!”  “Hit him again!  Get the other eye!”
Or my favorite, “You show him, Mike!  Now spit out that ear!”
Boxing, the “sweet science.” No human “sport” is more brutal and vile than boxing. Think about the physiology of a knock-out punch. Repeated blows to the head deprive the brain of oxygen, bludgeoning the gray matter like pudding until the person is rendered unconscious.  
Brain tissue is permanently damaged.  Neurons are stretched and torn.  Over time, this results in pugilistic dementia (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), or what is commonly called punch drunk.   
Considering how little intelligence is involved before one gets into the ring, just imagine how little is left after someone is head-punched a few hundred times.
So, the sweet science seems just a little sour to me.  Now, there are many who disagree and love watching the science of splattering brains.  
And it’s only reasonable to presume that science would be somehow diminished if we didn’t allow bikini clad mammary augmented babes to remind people which round it was.  
Perhaps they assume that the viewers are as arithmetically challenged as those boxers who get hit in the face once too often?
John Pawlak
Los Alamos columnist