By Bill Dwyre
Las Vegas -- My bucket list is now complete. I saw a boxing Grand Arrival.
I used to work for a newspaper where the old sports editor frowned on such frivolity and didn’t allow his reporters to waste time and money on such things. They would be allowed to report to Las Vegas for the big matches, such as Saturday’s Manny Pacquiao-Tim Bradley battle, the day after the Grand Arrivals.
What is a Grand Arrival, you may ask?
You also may ask, did Derek Jeter make a Grand Arrival before every Yankee game he played?
And what if nobody shows for the Grand Arrival? Does that make it a Goofed Arrival?
A free man now, clear of the chains of journalistic stubbornness and misguided attempts at common sense and fiscal responsibility of that old sports editor, I decided to go Tuesday, to be there in the warmth and excitement of the main lobby of the MGM Grand Hotel. The big boxing ring was there. So was the big MGM lion, sitting prominently in the middle.
Ah, a little cross promotion (wink, wink).
And there were fans everywhere, stacked four and five deep behind barriers. The barriers had MGM Grand signs on them. A little more cross promotion (wink, wink).
Everybody had a camera, or at least a cell phone with a camera. People were taking pictures of themselves with blown up balloons painted as Tecate beer bottles. The real trending thing was taking selfies of people taking selfies. There is a line here about the need to get a life, but that would sound too much like a curmudgeon. And that was not me. I was there, at the Grand Arrival, trying to be trending, too.
There was music. Loud music. No sporting event can take place these days without it. By the year 2030, we will have an entire generation of deaf people, and doctors will be baffled by this, until they find out they were all sports fans. Until the Grand Arrival boxing stars made their grand arrivals, the star was the ringside disc jockey in jeans and head phones, who, so expertly made Adele morph into Jay-Z, all at high decibels.
The noise helped build the excitement for what was to come, whatever that was. The most content person on the premises was the promoter of this grand fight, Top Rank’s top gun, Bob Arum. He was content because he only hears well out of one ear.
There was other, less-significant activity taking place in the lobby of this gigantic hotel, things such as people checking in. They would walk into the middle of this and eyes would open wide. You could almost guess the conversation: “Hey, Millie. This sure ain’t what it was like when we checked into that Holiday Inn in Keokuk last year.”
The Tecate girls were there, as they are everywhere during these promotions. And I never fail to feel sorry for them, because they clearly aren’t allowed to eat in the days preceding these big fights, plus the outfits they are made to wear have been left in the dryer too long and don’t seem to cover those areas that are usually covered. But then, in show biz, as we all too well know, equipment malfunctions do happen. Right, Janet Jackson?
The Grand Arrivals, for those of you who intelligently pay no attention to such things, are merely each boxer walking into the MGM lobby. They actually made their un-grand arrivals the day before and went quietly to their hotel rooms. This, presumably, makes it official, that they are in town. But then, we shouldn’t really have had to worry about that, seeing that Pacquiao has been guaranteed $20 million for this fight and Bradley $4 million. Not a lot of chance for no-shows there.
Bradley arrived first and freneticism broke out. People were taking selfies with people who had taken selfies of people who had tried to take a selfie with Bradley. He marched in and slowly made his way in a circle around the ring, engulfed by security guards, TV cameras, pretend TV cameras and selfie hopefuls. He did a long interview with people manning the TV cameras and pretend TV cameras, but it was so noisy that nobody could really hear, nor could he say anything that he hasn’t already said in the last two months.
Yes, the sad essence was that this was a no-news Grand Arrival, which, presumably, is no different than any other Grand Arrival. But it quenched the thirst of gawking and selfie-taking that is an epidemic these days.
Bradley and his trainer, Teddy Atlas, went off to meet a small gathering of reporters, the majority of whom had shown veteran savvy by skipping the noise and just going directly to the interview room.
With Bradley gone, Pacquiao made his Grand Arrival with trainer Freddie Roach nearby. And everything -- noise, music, fan gushing -- was multiplied by two.
The post-Grand-Arrivals press gatherings broke some new ground, with Bradley and Atlas talking about noticing the huge Ferris wheel near the Strip, so cleverly named the High Roller, and Atlas seeing it as kind of a symbol of his fighter taking on Pacquiao for a third time. The first time you see the wheel, it is bigger and imposing and scarier than it really is, especially after you have already ridden it twice.
Pacquiao told reporters he had had a dream before his disappointing loss a year ago to Floyd Mayweather Jr. and in that dream, he had lost. He was evasive when asked if he had a dream about this fight. Roach said, “I dream he wins by knockout.”
Arum ended the proceedings in a perfectly fitting way, with a political non-sequitur no less head-scratching than the two hours of Grand Arrivals, which brought much sound and fury and signified nothing.
Never missing an opportunity to make a pitch for the election of Hillary Clinton, Arum said it was perfect that he had German boxer Arthur Abraham on the undercard because Abraham came from a country whose president is a woman, Angela Merkel, and Abraham’s presence would show that a woman can be our president.
As the late, great Los Angeles radio star, Jim Healy, used to say, I don’t make ‘em up, pally.
Bill Dwyre will be writing a series of weekly columns on the Pacquiao vs. Bradley world championship event. Bill was sports editor of The Los Angeles Times for 25 years, ending in 2006. He was a sports columnist for 9 1/2 years at The Times, ending Nov. 25 with his retirement. Boxing was among his most frequent column topics. Bill can be contacted at BillPatDwyre@gmail.com or via Twitter at @BillDwyre.