If we did not know better, the announcement from Washington that two senior Senators are proposing the creation of a national commission to regulate boxing would be dismissed as a cruel joke. But this is no joke, and Senators Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) are serious. They seem to believe the recent controversy over a judges’ decision in the Bradley-Pacquiao fight in Las Vegas awarding victory to Bradley warrants this recondite unlimbering of the heavy artillery of federal authority. Of course there is not much going on these days in our Government and so these two lawmakers have time on their hands.
One hardly knows where to begin. If a decision in a boxing match can fuel federal intervention, does that mean a close call at home in a World Series game could have the same kind of result? I suspect the sports leagues are calling lobbyists firms to begin efforts to keep the federal regulatory wolves at bay. One assumes there are at least some senators with the wisdom to see this as a low priority in these parlous times.
To justify federal regulation one ought to document there is a serious need for federal intervention, and also that the proposed regulation will address the perceived abuses.
Here neither condition is met.
The apparent justification per Senator Reid is that boxing is corrupt. His early career was spent with the Nevada Gaming Commission so he may be onto something. The sport has been in the dark shadows for years. Drug testing is surely a problem for this sport and there are serious questions about the integrity of the fight game. But those are hardly new and what evidence is there federal regulation will clean up that Augean stable. To me the ultimate absurdity is the belief such regulation will lead to better decisions by anyone. And further, given the subjective nature of all judging of sports contests, what evidence is there this boxing decision was clearly wrong.
Yes, some believed Bradley lost but the judges saw it otherwise. Do these senators have evidence of corruption? And if they do, who believes such behavior will be eliminated by a few noble federal commissioners?
Did some fool propose federal regulation when Joe Louis defeated Jersey Joe Walcott?
Some aspects of American life do not warrant instant replay. Some decisions have to be accepted. Sometimes the judges are correct. Just sometimes.
Let’s look at the bigger picture. These august senators must sincerely believe regulation of boxing is a cure for all that ails this ancient sport. Notice there is plenty of state regulation of boxing with licensing required to all matches and state authorities who supervise the referees, judges and medical personnel.
The fight at issue was fully licensed in Nevada. Yet that is not enough for the senators. They want another tier of regulation. The sad reality to life in our grand country today is the blind belief in the curative power of regulation. To any national blemish, even a slight case of a skin rash, politicians want to apply the full regulatory poultice as if such a remedy is warranted and likely to work.
One has only to look carefully at the vast number of federal boards and commissions with vague jurisdiction but no activity. Many such organizations do nothing but waste money. But of course Senators Reid and McCain must believe we have money to spare these days with the deficit lurking at about $1.5 trillion. Maybe this is just a jobs bill, as surely there will be some jobs available to help the new boxing commission do its important work.
I am convinced the only way to kill this absurd proposal is to laugh it off. The late night comics have a job to do here and one wishes them well.
Boxing can stand some remedial work. But I would have thought the federal priorities leave little room for this kind of inane activity. How these two senators can waste even the ten minutes they spent on this crazy proposal is a question they should be made to answer. But the ultimate tragedy of their stupidity is that it will soon disappear in the foul mist of equally silly suggestions for new regulation. When this kind of absurdity does not stand out, you can be certain this nation is in extremis.
I knew we were in tough shape. Now I realize our leading senators are shamelessly unable to find important work to do. This is the best argument I have seen for term limits and votes against incumbents.
Fay Vincent is a former CEO of Columbia Pictures Industries. He served as the Commissioner of Baseball from 1989-92.