POSTSCRIPT / December 13, 2012 / Thursday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Odets play has insights into Pacquiao dilemma

BROADWAY: Three days before the Dec. 8 Pacquiao-Marquez fight in Las Vegas, I happened to be in New York watching Broadway’s revival of the 1937 play “Golden Boy” of Clifford Odets (1906-1963). As the title may suggest, “Golden Boy” is about a boxer.

But before I saw the play at Belasco theatre, I had no inkling I would find a connection between Odets’ play and our Manny Pacquiao being knocked out by Mexican dinamita Juan Manuel Marquez in the sixth round.

The play tells the story of Joe Bonaparte (played by Set Numrich) who was torn between his first love as a concert violinist and the seduction of the money and fame that boxing may bring. Necessity forced him to be a Golden Boy of the ring.

Did that career choice resolve Bonaparte’s internal conflict? This is like asking if Pacquiao feels fulfilled being a boxer, politician, preacher, showbiz star, among other things rolled into one.

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THE VIOLIN: Even before Joe Bonaparte donned professional gloves, it was clear to him that while he could earn good money in the ring, it could mean injuring his hands and bidding goodbye to his Stradivarius that his Italian padre had tenderly kept for him.

Despite the dons of the ring grabbing much of the purse, Joe was able to fill his pocket. But did he find fulfillment?

It could be that Odets was moved to write “Golden Boy” in 1937 by the ring victory that year of Joe Louis, the Brown Bomber who broke through racial bias and won the world’s heavyweight championship. (The boxing legend’s full name, btw, was Joseph Louis Barrow).

It was uncanny that in his childhood, Joe Louis’ mother Reese tried to interest him into learning the violin – just as Odets inserted the string instrument into Joe Bonaparte’s fictional story.

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LACK OF FOCUS: In Pacquiao, it was not the violin — a symbol of the finer things in life — that is at the core of his being. It was boxing gloves, with other interests entering his life only after he had made his mark in the ring.

With his modest background, Pacquiao must have seen the ring as the only path to gainful occupation and possibly making it into the big time. As a teenager, he left his native Mindanao to go to Manila to train as a boxer. The rest, as they say, is history.

Much has been said about Pacquiao’s unfortunate lack of focus, his having strayed into politics and showbiz aside from his being sidetracked into gambling and other costly distractions.

The boxer is running in May 2013 for reelection as representative of his wife’s Saranggani lone district. Will being congressman and being absent most of the time give him fulfillment?

The congressman does not have either the education or the specialized track record to qualify for lawmaking. If he insists on being in the government service, maybe being governor or mayor that requires only de oido management skills would do.

Not a few well-meaning people have said that if he wants to prolong his shelf life as a champion boxer, he should find his soul and keep his focus.

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NYT REVIEW: In his next-day review in the New York Times, critic Charles Isherwood wrote:

“Plenty of punches are thrown in the forceful new revival of Clifford Odets’s ‘Golden Boy.’ Eyes are blackened, uppercuts fly back and forth, and by the end of the play, the young boxer hero, Joe Bonaparte (Seth Numrich), is staggering across the stage, delirious and practically bathed in blood.

“But the blows that truly stun are the ones we cannot literally see, the jabs to the soul that Joe inflicts on himself, torn as he is between the urge to make it big as a boxer and the desire to be the artist he feels he was meant to be.

“Throughout this blistering Lincoln Center Theater production, directed by Bartlett Sher, we watch in anguished anticipation as Joe struggles with a defining question… Do you spend your life trying to shine in a world that values only the mighty dollar and the power it brings, or seek instead to fulfill a humbler, more humane destiny?

“‘Truthful success,’ as Joe’s Old World Italian father puts it, remains as elusive a goal today as it did when ‘Golden Boy’ first opened on Broadway at the same theater 75 years ago.”

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DRUGS MENACE: With talk of drugs flying in Taguig City, the logical move is to dig out the record stripped of political color.

The claim of Taguig police chief Tomas Apolinario Jr. that there is a black propaganda campaign against him deserves a closer look.He is smarting over Taguig Rep. Freddie Tinga’s saying that the drug situation in his jurisdiction has worsened.

Apolinario challenged everybody to check the records of the Southern Police District and the National Capital Region Police Office which, he said, had even commended the Taguig police for its high success rate in the anti-drugs campaign.

He said the Taguig Police led successful operations when it launched its anti-illegal drugs operation in 2011. Its 103 operations were the highest number in the Southern Police District. Taguig was second to Paranaque in the number of pushers arrested, and second to Pasay on the amount of confiscated drugs (P1.6 million).

Apolinario noted that during Tinga’s term as mayor, the city was known as one of three centers of the illegal drug trade in Metro Manila. Drugs then could easily be bought in some sari-sari stores.

Tinga’s allegations against him and the Taguig police, he said, may be related to an operation that led to the arrest of Elisa Tinga, allegedly the third most wanted drug dealer in Taguig and a member of a “Tinga Drug Syndicate.”

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of December 13, 2012)

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