Frank Deford

It was long an article of faith among sport cognoscenti that nothing in athletics approached the sheer electric drama and glamour of a heavyweight championship fight.

Well, if you missed it, they had one of those in no less a shrine than Madison Square Garden on Saturday. You could have watched it on plain old TV if you were not already analyzing the NFL draft, following the NBA or NHL playoffs or watching the baseball season unfold. Poor, ignored heavyweights.

In an interview airing Friday on ABC, Bruce Jenner is expected to announce that he is transgender, though he has made no such acknowledgment.

As the public awaits his presumed revelations, Jenner is still invariably and glibly identified by his paternal connection to the Kardashian clan. It's presented almost anecdotally that he won the gold medal for the Olympic decathlon — the 10-event classic of track and field athleticism — in 1976. But back then, he was a glorified champion and called "the world's greatest athlete."

Whatever happened to rotator cuffs? It seems like just yesterday that every pitcher who was injured had a problem with his rotator cuff. But baseball player injuries now invariably require something called "Tommy John surgery," which has become epidemic.

Wherever you stand on the matter of American exceptionalism, there is one indisputable fact: We are the exception when it comes to soccer. For just about every other nation, soccer is the sport — a far, far better thing than the American dollar, beer, Google or sex. Alas, in the United States, soccer has been more commonly identified with soccer moms than soccer players.

The inimitable "Hot Rod" Hundley died last week at age 80. He will be remembered as a great announcer, even though he was also an All-American basketball player. He messed it up after just six years in the NBA when he forgot about concentrating on the fun and games.

"You gotta love it, baby" was his signature call for the 35 years he broadcast games for the NBA Jazz. Even when he was playing for the Los Angeles Lakers, he was already trying out expressions, mimicking announcers and working on punch lines.

Once again, the question of the NFL's pre-eminence — even existence — has been raised with the retirement of Chris Borland, a very good player, who has walked away from the game and millions of dollars at the age of 24 in order to preserve his health, or more specifically, his brain.

It's the venerable custom in tennis and golf for the crowd to be still and quiet when players hit their shots.

Now, since even ordinary baseball batters have some success hitting against 98 mph fastballs with 40,000 fans standing and screaming, do you really believe that great athletes like Novak Djokovic or Rory McIlroy couldn't serve or putt with a few thousand fans hollering? If they'd grown up playing tennis or golf that way, that is. When disorder is a sustaining part of the game, players, in effect, put it out of their minds. Hear no evil, see no evil.

OK, after an eight-year investigation, the NCAA hit Syracuse University and its basketball coach, Jim Boeheim, with all sorts of penalties for academic and recruiting violations. Normally in sports media, nobody is particularly surprised whenever any coach is caught, so a great deal of speculation was then diverted to how this might affect Boeheim's "legacy."

One of the very best old-time sports columnists was named Jimmy Cannon. He wrote after Hemingway, tough-guy style, and Jimmy had a lot of original devices, too. One was an occasional column he'd do in what I called the second person impersonal. For example, my favorite was about an aging hitting star when he was in a slump. Cannon began: "Your name is Stan Musial and all your bats are broken."

Now, that's how you start a column. And so, in honor of Jimmy Cannon: Your name is Alex Rodriguez, and nobody likes you.

Sometime in the future, when the Winter Olympics are being held in the tropics, in Zimbabwe, because there are no other dictators that want them and Robert Mugabe promised the International Olympic Committee he'd build an artificial ski mountain, historians will study what happened in sports during these last few days in February of 2015.

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