Malignaggi’s meltdown leaves Italians without a hero

Monday, May 17, 2010


My close-knit circle of well-groomed, orange-skinned, Italian-American paisans spent Sunday morning crying in their cappuccinos after our savior, Paulie Malignaggi, lost in his bid to capture the WBA super lightweight championship Saturday in New York City.

Flags flew at half-mast in Johnston and North Providence this weekend in the wake of Malignaggi’s latest setback – an 11th-round TKO at the hands of Amir Kahn, who successfully defended his title while fighting on American soil for the first time. I haven’t cried this hard since my last eyebrow waxing.

Whether he realizes it or not, Malignaggi is a polarizing figure in the Italian-American community, which is no small feat considering guidos haven’t universally backed the same cause since the inception of the spray tan.

Granted, he couldn’t knock out Glass Joe in “Punch Out!!” (only five KOs in 27 professional wins), but few fighters share Malignaggi’s gift of gab or uncanny ability to switch hairstyles from a blowout to dreadlocks in just four months. He gave us hope. He made us believe we could grow up to do more than run numbers or work in waste management.  More importantly, he gave us something to watch other than “Jersey Shore.”

Saturday’s loss affects all of us, mainly because there are no potential Italian-American champions looming on the horizon. Rocky Marciano is a distant memory and Rocky Balboa is no longer making movies. Now what?

I’ll carry the torch. So, Lou DiBella, if you’re looking for another slightly effeminate, light-hitting, Italian slugger with olive skin and perfect eyebrows, shoot me an email. I might not have much left in these knees, but this tan isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

  • Just for laughs, the Red Sox and Yankees should swap worthless, left-handed relievers. Damaso Marte for Hideki Okajima. Straight up. Marte’s only saving grace is the fact he pitched eight scoreless innings in the playoffs last year to help the Yankees win the World Series. Personally, I think the value of a left-handed specialist out of the bullpen is vastly overrated (I’d rather have a dominant right-hander face Joe Mauer in the eighth inning of a tied game than use a mediocre lefty just because he throws with his left hand), but watching Okajima and Marte flush leads on a weekly basis underscores both teams’ need for middle relief.
  • At the risk of coming off as “pile-jumper,” the Bruins’ epic collapse against Philadelphia in the Eastern Conference semifinals is absolutely indefensible. You can’t fall back on the “Well, they really weren’t that good to begin with” line of defense when you consider the fact they led this series three games to none. The bottom line is if they’re good enough to jump out to a 3-0 series lead (and a 3-0 lead in the seventh game, too) then they should be good enough to win once in the next four tries. No excuses. Somewhere, Kevin Brown, Jon Lieber and the rest of the retired/black-balled 2004 Yankees are breathing a huge sigh of relief knowing they’re no longer the latest team to flush a seemingly-insurmountable 3-0 lead. And if he weren’t too busy trying to currently sabotage another Yankee season, Javier Vazquez would be smiling, too.
  • Speaking of Vazquez, the Yankees are skipping his turn in the rotation against the Red Sox this week for the second time this season, so the next time Joe Girardi or Terry Francona tell you games against Boston or New York don’t mean more to them than other games, they’re lying through their teeth.
  • Everyone says the NBA’s popularity has declined in recent years because it’s a league filled with tattooed “thugs,” such as Allen Iverson, Dennis Rodman, etc., but the NFL is slowly catching up in the “Men Behaving Badly” department. Whether it’s Michael Vick’s dog-fighting, Ben Roethlisberger dumpster-diving for skanks, or Lawrence Taylor allegedly raping an underage girl in a hotel room, the NFL has just as many uncouth morons tarnishing its image – and that’s without even mentioning the players who’ve been busted for using performance-enhancing drugs. While none of us are naïve enough to believe the NBA doesn’t have a steroid problem, at least its players keep their drug use under wraps. So why does the NFL get a free pass in the court of public opinion?

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