Hubris


Has there ever been a word you’re completely familiar with but can never call to mind when you need to?  You know the definition; you know the usage.  You even know know the basic etymology behind the term, but when the moment comes for you to use it, your brain just freezes.  Maybe it’s just too many years of enjoying fights with my old friend Bushmills, but whenever a situation has called for the word “hubris,” I’ve almost always found myself unable to remember it.

In this era of political choreography comprised of twitter battles, punch lines and catch phrases, we hear a lot of ill-conceived thoughts verbalized.  There are some really egregious statements that, even when clearly hyperbolic, seem so outrageous we almost expect Zeus to reach down from Olympus and smote the offender (or at least zap his absurd comb-over with a bolt of lightning), but it doesn’t happen.   These special moments, when a person exhibits a level of such self-absorbed narcissism that the behavior transcends pride and vanity, should be awarded a worthy label.  It’s examples of this kind of behavior that have inspired my neurons to fire more steadily today and thus brought to my attention the word that so often eludes me.

Two guys in the sport of boxing you can’t spend too much time figuring out (or your head might explode) are Tyson Fury and Victor Ortiz.  True to form, both have managed some inventively baffling statements in recent weeks.  Fury has reportedly been accused of a hate crime for one or more of his homophobic rants, this not long after his oft-quoted witticism about women’s best place being “in the kitchen or on their back.”  With his popularity skyrocketing after the win over Wlad, the BBC has even put Fury on a list of 25 nominees for the award of 2015 sports personality of the year.

If the award is for a bad, unlikable personality, then, sure.  Otherwise, what were they thinking?  On top of this, the “Gypsy King” has declared himself the most charismatic fighter since Muhammad Ali.  Again, if you have a very specifically negative connotation in mind for the term, sure, “charismatic” fits, but the comparison alone is so presumptuous it borders on sacrilege.

This brings me to what’s possibly the more slanderous of the two statements.  Victor Ortiz was recently interviewed on his upcoming fight and the state of his career.  It’s a timely interview given the sharp downturn in the fighter’s career a few years ago.

While Ortiz has always fought recklessly, he didn’t look sloppy and overmatched until after his loss to Mayweather.  Even then, his failure to continue looked more like quitting than being beaten.  Next, he appeared even more desperate for a way out in his losses to Josesito Lopez and Luis Collazo, neither of whom are elite material.

Ortiz had to take a step back and schedule a match against 22-10-1 Manuel Perez, which, thankfully, he managed to win, but he now seems to think that this win somehow suggests that he’s back on track.  He started off by comparing himself to Tom Brady, saying that nobody wants him to succeed.  He proceeds to make the bad joke even worse with a statement about the Mayweather fight: “Oh, absolutely. I think the world knows that Floyd and I have unfinished business. Floyd knows. He’s no dummy. He knows what’s up.”  Finally, he takes his delusion full-scale in his response to ESPN’s final question of the interview:

“What kind of goals do you still have for your career?

I want to be one of the greatest. Muhammad Ali.

Ali may have lost the lightning in his step and the thunder in his hands long ago, but to boxing fans, he’s as close to a god as it gets.  The difference in talent level aside, Ortiz just hasn’t had the significance in any sport that these guys have.  His next fight will be another exercise in confidence building, but if he keeps this up, and keeps winning, someone with talent will eventually take interest.  When they do, Victor will find out just how far from Olympus he really is.

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