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The Magpie Sings the Great Depression:
Selections from DeWitt Clinton High School's Literary Magazine, 1929-1942

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Fight Fandom Focused

Edwin Slone, '37

The Magpie, January 1937, v. 21, n. 1., p. 58.

GONG! The bell clangs and two bodies swing into motion. Fists lash out with terrific speed. There are jabs, hooks, and uppercuts. Smack! A man falls to the canvas and is counted out. The crowd cheers; some boo. Do they really know what they want? Let us go to the Madison Square Garden on the night of a championship fight, and see them in motion. It is 8:00 p.m. and the arena is just beginning to fill up. The first type of fan which I shall try to analyze is of that group who sits at the ringside. Among them we see business executives, public officials, ex-champs of the ring, and some society folks, all of whom enter the arena when the prelims are half over. This group comes to the fights for one of two reasons—either because they like the sport or because they want to get themselves in the public eye. If you were to interview a man who sits at the ringside, you would find him eager to answer your questions. You would find him full of pep as he told the height, weight, and boxing ability of the principals in the main bout. From this group who sit at the ringside the ex-champs of the ring are the ones to be pitied. Imagine what pangs are in their hearts as they hear the roar of the crowd as two men battle it out for the championship. Their memory brings them back to the days when they were in the limelight and the laurels of the crowd rested on their shoulders, but they are now spectators. Such is the way of the world.

The next type of fan to prove interesting is that man who is an occasional patron. He is a person who goes to the fights in order to see action and enjoy himself in a big crowd. A typical example of this kind of patron is George Smith, a small business man. Smith has had a dull day at the office so that when he gets home at night he is very eager to see some action. This particular night there is a big fight at the Garden so Smith kisses the wife good-bye and takes the subway to the arena. Upon his arrival, he purchases his ticket and rushes inside. He takes his seat and orders a bottle of soda. The prelims have been on for about ten minutes but Georgie is primarily interested in the main bout. As soon as the main bout gets under way, Smith begins to shout for his favorite. If his man is losing he keeps very silent and moves uneasily in his seat. Silence turns to shouts of joy though if his man makes a comeback and scores a knockout. Smith, then feeling as if he were the victor, leaves with the air of a braggart and probably "lords" it over the office next day.

Finally we have the third type of fan, one who goes to practically every fight in town and knows all the slang of the ring. He is usually a man who grew up in a neighborhood where one had to know the fistic art if he wanted to get along. For example, let us take "Tuffy" McConry. Tuffy works hard all week and saves his money for admission to the fights. He get there before any bouts have begun and buys the cheapest seat. Taking his seat, "Tuffy" immediately gets into an argument with another fan over the merits of his favorite boxer. They become embroiled in the argument and nearly come to blows, but friends separate them. Soon the first prelim is on and they are friends again. Eating a hot dog on one side of his mouth and shouting from the other, "Tuffy" is certainly seen and heard. He shouts such familiar fight phrases as "Hit him in the labonza," "Knock his teeth down his throat," "Slay him," "Give him the woiks," "Oh, what a Lulu!" etc. If the fight is slow, "Tuffy" and his friends begin whistling the Merry Widow Waltz or stamping their feet. When the main bout begins, "Tuffy" becomes louder and louder in his calls. Before twenty minutes have elapsed, he has become hoarse. A knockout occurs in the ninth and magically "Tuffy's" voice is heard again. Leaving the arena, "Tuffy" celebrates by having a couple of beers.

Thus I have presented to you three types of fans, the ringsider, the occasional patron, and the real fight fan. You may or may not agree with my analysis of these fans but at any rate I have not gone in for undue exaggeration. My writings are based on experience at the fights. I have seen that irresistible force, Joe Louis, meet Baer and Camera and flatten them. I have seen also that immovable object, Max Schmeling, meet and flatten the Brown Bomber. At these fights, I have enjoyed noticing the way fans reacted. The result is the work which I have presented before your critical eyes.

The Magpie Sings the Great Depression

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