When I visit Mayo Clinic, my habit is to gather every newspaper I can find. As I await appointments, I read every word of stories that interest me and, more particularly, stories that don’t. I figure it broadens my mind so yesterday I read those I normally wouldn’t, and one in particular made me want to weep.
First, there is no one alive who loves sports and competition and fair play more than I do. I know what clean competition can inspire in young and old alike and immensely enjoy almost every sport you can name. On the other hand I dislike boxing, the martial arts and especially the “ultimate fight” venue where the object is to maim your opponent with repeated blows to the head. We know the health risk is far too great.
That said, there was a story in USA Today that revealed Garrett Holeve, age 23, will fight in a cage against David Steffan, age 28, for the title of “King of the Casino” at the Seminole Immokalee Casino in Immokalee, Fla., on Aug. 3. The promoter will sell tickets and it will be a huge event. What’s most troubling is what makes the draw: Garrett was born with Down syndrome and Garrett has cerebral palsy.
This is a sickening fiasco that should never happen. I believe, very strongly, that our society has a deep obligation to those among us who are mentally or developmentally challenged. We should help, encourage, and embrace those who – face it -- had no choice how they were born in America. Equality shouldn’t even be a question.
So the huge moral and ethical problem is that both of these want to fight. Garrett, who trains in Nebraska, has been turned down in several attempts to compete and his dad has a point when he told USA Today, “A disability, in my mind, is only one if you let it be.” His dad is rightfully proud and wants to see his son succeed.
David – the one with “mild” cerebral palsy (as though there was such a thing,) -- has competed in both the Special Olympics and the Paralympics. “I think it’s a great opportunity for both of us to show the world that we belong in there like everybody else.”
Kristen Seckler, a vice president of Special Olympics, told USA Today, “People with intellectual disabilities might read slower or learn slower than others, but they can run marathons, hold jobs, go to school, get married and have babies. One of the things we like to show is there are no limits.”
Oh, we all agree with that but the Florida State Boxing Commission very wisely saw the risk and “discouraged” the fight. The casino, able to dodge the commission due to different laws on Indian lands, works under a different boxing organization on the fight is scheduled for Aug. 3.
Please! Who in America wants to watch somebody with Down syndrome fight somebody else with cerebral palsy? I can’t imagine going to such a fight because I believe people with disabilities must learn there are some things they can do and some things best left undone. Don’t you see, this is no more than a cheap spectacle that isn’t sport at all.
Centuries ago, outside of Rome, a monk was tending his garden when a huge surge of people were hurrying to the Coliseum. The monk was asked to join them and, as the trumpets blared, a Christian was jerked from a cage and ran in a terrified way inside the tall walls.
Suddenly a gladiator appeared, chased the victim down, and killed him with his sword. The blood-lust crowd roared. Another Christian was jerked from the holding pen and the gladiator, to the cheers of the crowd, beheaded the captured slave.
From high in the Coliseum, the monk screamed, “Stop, in the name of Christ, stop!” and many nearby laughed, thinking it was part of the afternoon’s show. The monk scrambled down the wall, ran to one that was slain and, with tears streaming down his face, held the dead body and screamed, “Stop, in the name of Christ, stop!”
The bewildered gladiator didn’t know what to do so there, in the now hushed Coliseum, the Roman pagan raced to the monk and thrust his sword into the Holy Man’s middle. “Stop! Stop in the name of Christ,” cried the monk, not looking at his assailant but towards the eyes of those who had brought him to such a spectacle.
High in the Coliseum, one man stood to walk away. One followed, and then three others followed. Next a dozen, and then a long line as no one said a word. According to legend, the gladiators never “entertained” in Rome again.
How could anybody watch two intellectually and physically challenged guys fight for “King of the Casino?” Stop, in the name of Christ, stop.