A Proud Man
You go to the gym, and after awhile, you get to know the fighters and the trainers.
There was this one trainer, a former Eastern Bloc Olympian, who really impressed me. He knew his stuff. Showed fighters moves, could pick out an opponent's flaws and explain how to exploit them, demonstrate the little things that made the difference...and looked them in the eye and told them the plain, unvarnished truth.
He wasn't easy to warm to; his smile when he came into the gym was an effort. He just nodded to the other trainers and went about his business. When there was any hoopla in the gym.. say, a press conference with two big-name fighters, promoters, publicists, reporters and photographers hogging every inch of space in the gym, he just kept his charges focused on what they were doing.
He had the same proud baring as Tony Zale, a lifetime of disappointment and skepticism etched in his face. He saw the world for exactly what it was.
We had long talks about fighters and what they could do to improve, and the game itself. He'd learned his lessons well.
So when I received an e-mail from a producer asking me to play a trainer in a commercial for the up-and-coming Tyson-Etienne fight, I told him I couldn't do it but I had just the guy in mind, and I'd pose it to him.
So when I got to the gym, I saw the trainer and told him I had this offer for a TV commercial that he'd be perfect for: It was only for a few hours, it was good money, he didn't have to say anything, just do what he does normally as a trainer. Simple.
I handed him the e-mail and he studied the offer carefully, and then he looked up, shook his head and smiled that same tight smile and said, "It's not for me," and went back to working with a fighter on the heavy bag.
I was really puzzled. The money was good, the hours were good, fight jobs weren't falling out of trees...and they weren't asking him to wear a ski mask and carry a gun. So, why not? A gig was gig.
So, I left the gym, and while I was driving home, I kept turning it over in my head: Why would he turn it down? What possible reason could he have? Then it dawned on me...and it saddened me...and still does: He couldn't read.
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