Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Einstein flunked out of school, twice.

Here’s a quick tip. If you’re thinking of becoming a professional boxer, you need a snappy nickname.

You see the noble art of punching someone in the head - otherwise known as boxing - is about as close to those rinky-dink travelling carnivals as sporting events get. While on the face of it boxing is a battle between two brave warriors testing their strength and courage against one another, the reality is the world of boxing is ruled by promoters trying to make as much money as they possibly can. Now the easy way of doing this is to pair up the best fighters in their weight class, make sure you talk long and hard about how impressive both guys are, get them to talk some smack about each other, and then let them fight. However should the best fighters not be available at the time then… well… you have to get a bit creative.

Take the case of Peter Manfredo Jr. In early Spring 2007 “The Pride of Providence” was gearing up for the biggest fight of his career, preparing to take on the undefeated WBO super middleweight champion and proud Welshman Joe Calzaghe. Manfredo, the son of former World Kickboxing Champion Peter Manfredo Sr, had made his pro debut in 1999 and it had taken eight long years for his star to rise to the top of the super middleweight mountain. But how did he get there? Did he start knocking out perennial championship challengers like he was Mark Wahlberg taking on terrorists aboard a Boeing 767 (Gee Note: “Hey there terrorist. I like your beard. I had a beard like that in The Perfect Storm. Did you see that? Did you? Did you see that terrorist? No? Well, say hi to your mother for me OK?”)? Did he have a ball-bustingly great fight with a highly regarded opponent that was the talk of the sporting world for weeks on end, propelling his profile skyward at a rate of knots? Did he get in to a bar room brawl with 24 men and best them all within 52 seconds before running a comb through his hair and saying something cool?

Alas no. It was none of those things. Instead Manfredo appeared in a reality show on NBC called “The Contender”. The brainchild of Sylvester Stallone, The Contender pitted a group of pugilists against each other competing for a $1million prize. Plucky Peter got knocked out of the competition in the first round when he lost to the unfancied Alfonso Gomez. However thanks to a bout of chickenpox and contestants dropping like The Playboy Club’s ratings (Gee Note: BOOM. That show sucked. Turns out that if something is really boring it doesn't matter how many boobs it has. I know. Shocking right?) Manfredo was brought back in. Playing the comeback kid schtick to the hilt the show concentrated on Peter as he made his way to the final where, in true Rocky style, he went the distance with Sergio Mora only to lose via a controversial points decision.

A star was born. And it didn’t matter that he wasn’t really in Calzaghe’s league. Promoters put the fight together hoping to play off Manfredo’s “underdog” personality and that he was a home grown boy chasing the American Dream. Calzaghe agreed to the fight largely because Manfredo’s presence meant it would be covered by HBO, allowing him to showcase his skills to the lucrative US market. He even vacated his IBF title in order to take the fight.

So the scene was set and the talking was done. It was time for things to be settled the way they did in olden times. A bout of non-homoerotic, shirtless, fist fighting. Here’s what happened.

(Gee Note: If you want to skip to the important bit, it’s at 04:21 mm:ss. Although I’d honestly advise against that because then you’d miss the penguins. No really. Penguins. For, like, absolutely no reason at all. I mean none. It took me a while to get my head around it at first. Then I started think that more sports could do things like that. For example, if there’s some down time in the Superbowl, why not cut to a cow in a field going “Moooooo” for five seconds? Then everyone would be all "Did you see that cow?" and you could say "What cow?" and they would say "The cow! It was right there man! On the TV!!!" which you would follow up with "What cow? We're watching the Superbowl. Are you OK?". This would eventually end with you convincing everyone that they need a good lie down and then you can eat their share of the food. I call it the Cow of Win).

It took just three rounds for Joe to do away with Manfredo, and even if you claim the referee stopped the match a tad early, it was pretty clear that this was a mismatch of such epic proportions that it’s amazing Calzaghe didn’t give Peter a wedgie before placing his hand on his forehead and watching him swing his arms wildly.

Now this all has a point (Gee Note: I know. Amazing isn’t it? I actually think I’m going somewhere with all this waffling about folks walloping each other. You got to admit I’m determined). Before the fight no serious Boxing analyst or pundit gave Manfredo a hope in hell of winning. Everyone agreed that Calzaghe would hardly break a sweat, and likely finish it within six rounds. Obviously the promoter themself would have also known this. Which begs the question, if the contest was going to be farcical at best, why put the show on in the first place?

Well it’s because there was money to be made, either straight away or in the long run. If Manfredo had managed to somehow defeat Joe then it would be the Cinderella story of the century, with pumpkins turning in to huge piles of cash. If it went the way it was expected to then you’ve introduced Joe Calzaghe to the American public and can sell them on fights with him and legit top tier players later down the line. Either way, it’s a gravy train. In fact the only thing you have to worry about is a couple of anoraks complaining that Peter Manfredo Jr vs Joe Calzaghe was a waste of time.

So that’s why if you do decide to become a boxer you’ll need a pretty good nickname. Largely because a promoter is much more likely to book you if you have one. It’s not very easy to sell plain old Freddy Jones. Freddy “I’m going to tear your head off and then spit down your neck and then be mean to your pets be offering them treats and running away without giving them any” Jones on the other hand can be marketed. And the easier you are to market, the more money you’ll make. It’s the carnival school of business, just jazzed up a bit. You don’t have be a good boxer. But you have to have something that will make people pay to see you box.

In a strange way Cryptozoology has a lot of similarities to boxing (Gee Note: Weren’t expecting that were you? Neither was I if I'm honest. Still we're here now. Might as well keep going). Cryptid’s names are an important part of their mythos. Take the Loch Ness Monster. Would dear old Nessie be as popular if she were known as “The Loch Ness Green Giraffe with Flippers or Paddles or something. I don’t know. Wait. Are you writing this down? Why have you drawn a face with its tongue sticking out next to where it says “Witness Statement”? I don’t think you’re taking this seriously.”? Probably not. But the Loch Ness Monster? That evokes something untamed, wild, slightly dangerous even. Who wouldn’t be intrigued by that?

Now Nessie with her longevity, her reported size, and her elusiveness has definitely earned her “Monster” status. But the problem here is even the slightly crap cryptids have grandiose titles. Like the “Enfield Horror”, for example.

Now if you’ve never heard of the Enfield Horror take a moment to picture what it could possibly be. A giant rampaging bat with blood dripping from its fangs perhaps? Or a ten foot lizard with a tongue made of fire? How about a normal man with a giant head that looks like a boiled egg left out in the sun too long (Gee Note: You know, like Newt Gingrich)? Whatever it is, it must be pretty scary right? Horrors generally are.

Well, here's the fizzle to the chizzle. On April 25 1973 in Enfield, White County, Illinois Henry McDaniel was kicking back in his pad minding his own business when he heard a commotion outside of his house. Thinking it may be a racoon or an opossum trying to get in, McDaniel did the sensible thing and grabbed (Gee Note: A broom and attempted to “shoo” it away) his .22 revolver with the intent of shooting the poor bastard right between the eyes (Gee Note: Oh. Sure. You could do that as well I guess). When he opened his front door he came face to face with a strange creature. He would later claim “It had three legs on it, a short body, two little short arms coming out of its breast area and two pink eyes as big as flashlights. It stood four and a half to five feet tall and was grayish-colored. It was trying to get into the house”. A little bit shocked McDaniel pulled the trigger over and over, claiming he emptied all four bullets in to the beast. Rather than do something sensible like die, or lunge forward in a fit of rage, Stumpy Tri-legs “hissed like a wildcat” before turning around and making its escape. By taking three jumps that covered 75 feet.

The Enfield Horror almost certainly looked nothing like this

The morale of the story? Never ever leap out from behind a bush dressed as a clown and carrying a meat clever in front of Henry McDaniel. Because if you did, you’d get your f***ing head blown off.

Eventually Henry calmed down and stopped shooting things long enough to call the police. Christ knows what he told them but they sent an officer to have a look around regardless. They reported strange scratches on the side of the building and prints on the ground that resembled a six toed dogs paw and measured between four inches across. Also, assuming all the tracks belonged to the same animal, it was judged that whatever it was could possibly have had a tripedal gait.

On May 6 McDaniel was woken in middle of the night by the sound of neighbourhood dogs howling their heads off. Again he grabbed his gun (Gee Note: Thankfully he didn’t own a bazooka, otherwise I’m guessing large parts of Illinois would be nothing but smouldering craters) but as he peered out in the darkness he saw the crazy sumbitch was someway off in the distance. "I didn't shoot at it or anything," he said. "It started on down the railroad track. It wasn't in a hurry or anything" .

The media started taking an interest in dear Henry and his wacky three legged friend, writing breathless reports of a monster on the loose. The hysteria became such that White County Sheriff Roy Poshard Jr. threatened to arrest McDaniel for causing a mass panic. In fact only a couple of days later Deputy Sherriff Jim Clark locked five men up for wandering around tooled up to the gills with firearms. These intrepid travellers claimed to have seen something grey and hairy in the underbrush and let off a couple of rounds (Gee Note: Gandalf? You bastards shot Gandalf! Now Frodo will never make it to Mordor to throw a ring in to a volcano for reasons that aren't entirely clear. You've doomed us all idiots). Two of the group said they were confident they had hit the thing, only for it to take off at one heck of a speed.

Even more curious, reports began to surface of a young boy named Greg Garrett. The Garrett’s were neighbours of McDaniel and on the night when Henry had first spied the critter, Garrett had been playing in his backyard. About half an hour before Henry went all kinds of Chuck Norris on its ass, the strange fiend rocked up to Greg Garrett and stepped on his tennis shoes, tearing them to shreds. Garrett, outrage by this, pulled out his revolver and shot at the creature. Nah, not really. Instead he freaked out and tore a path to his house, slamming the door shut behind him.

Then it was the turn of the professionals. Rick Rainbow (Gee Note: Who, let’s be honest, sounds like something a male stripper would call themselves) was at that time the news director of radio station WWKI in Kokomo, Indiana. Searching desolate places for anything suspicious, he saw something grey and stopped over near an abandoned house. Too far away to catch a good look at it, Rick grabbed his tape deck and made a recording of the strange high pitched wailing sound it made. The house wives favourite Cryptozoologist Loren Coleman soon arrived in the area to find out what all the fuss was about, and while he never saw the Enfield Horror himself he reported hearing the same noise while investigating the area surrounding McDaniel’s house.

But that’s where the story pretty much ends. As is so often with woovy bezerk wild things, staying power proved a problem. The sightings dried up, and the strange sounds stopped echoing through the night. Everything just went back to normal in that little part of Illinois. In fact the only other interesting event of note was that Greg Garrett was eventually shot and killed by his wife in what was deemed to be in act of self-defence.

So back to my original point. Because it was so scarcely seen and had such a short shelf life it would have been easy for… whatever the hell it was… to have been forgotten by the passage of time. But because it’s been labelled The Enfield Horror, and because Coleman has penned the odd article about it here and there, it remains a hot topic in some circles. Problem is, more so than any other cryptid, the Enfield Horror fails to live up to the hype. A seemingly bullet proof nuisance? Sure. A small scruffy kangaroo with either an extra leg or a surprisingly large penis? Possibly. But a “Horror”? Not even close.

Still if it is a kangaroo and - like so many of its brethren - it does happen to step in to a boxing ring, at least it will have a snappy nickname.

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