Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao (center) and his U.S. competitor Floyd Mayweather Jr. (left) pose in Las Vegas on April 29, several days ahead of their match (XINHUA)
There are very few times in my life that I've managed to find myself in a bar at 8 a.m. on a Sunday, and yet, a few weekends ago, there I was, sitting on a bar stool, exhausted from very little sleep and extremely confused by all the sunlight pouring inappropriately in through the bar windows.
"You want a drink?" the bartender asked me.
"Do you have coffee?" I asked. He laughed and nodded.
I was not alone. People in various states of wakefulness and drunkenness sat all around me. Yes, it was a beautiful day outside, just the right combination of sunshine and breeze, but we'd all chosen to be here--one of the single most important sporting events in decades was about to take place.
If that sounds dramatic--well, it was. The buildup for the boxing match between Filipino Manny Pacquiao and American Floyd Mayweather Jr., billed "the fight of the century," has been in the works for such a long time that when I heard that the fight was going to be broadcast in Beijing--on the Sunday of Labor Day holiday, of all days--I knew I had to watch.
This may have also had something to do with the fact that my relatives, diehard Pacquiao fans, had been telling me for about a week that any true family of theirs would be watching the fight. Any true family member of theirs would find a way.
I'm not a huge boxing fan--I confess that I know nothing about the rules or fights themselves save for what I've seen in movies. However, Pacquiao has become a household name for me, because my mother's family is from the Philippines, where Pacquiao is a national hero. It also seemed like a great opportunity to get out and do something useful with my Labor Day weekend (I--and I'm sure several people can relate--start out viewing the long weekend as a time for increased productivity, "productivity" that quickly devolves into some variation of me watching movies and/or napping).
There were several bars showing the fight, so I just walked until I found one that looked crowded but comfortable. As the bartender handed me my coffee, I wondered what to expect of the experience. Surely I would encounter some really diehard boxing fans? I didn't know anyone like that, so I thought that at the very least I'd get some interesting people watching out of the experience.
That last part was not wrong.
"Uh, excuse me little lady," a very sunburned man said, scooting into the seat next to mine, "you got any idea what's going on here today?"
"Huge fight," I told him.
"You know anythin' about fightin'?" he asked me.
"Nope," I answered.
"Me either!" he answered, a huge smile on his face.
Most of the people frequenting the bar, I found, were just like Sunburned Guy--they weren't sure what was going on. Some people had happened to show up for a Sunday breakfast and happened upon the fight. Most people, though, were looking to enjoy a day off and a few beers.
It turns out that this made for a different kind of viewing experience from what I had originally imagined. Like any sporting event I've ever watched on television, there was plenty of cheering around me--that didn't change--though the cheering seemed to involve questions more than anything else.
"But how do we know who's winning?" one of the guys sitting behind me asked.
"Who cares?" roared someone from the other side. He raised his glass. "Cheers, mates!"
I mean, I couldn't argue with that. A lack of knowledge seemed as much a thing to bond over as anything else. I raised my own glass.
A couple of hours later, Mayweather won the fight in a rather (in my opinion) lackluster show of skill between the two fighters, though it was obvious that Vegas was milking the fight for all it was worth. I don't think passers-by would have known that, though, because we were all having too good a time to care.
That is, I think, the international appeal of sports--hanging out with friends and relaxing while watching people struggle to win (or in this case, two guys beat each other up).
The author is an American living in China
Copyedited by Eric Daly
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