I’m the People’s Hero on Radio Ghana

In my capacity as beloved media icon here at UT I was recently invited to attend a boxing match. Since the last time I saw boxing was sometime in the 1400s, and it was still being referred to as “fisticuffs,” I decided that this might be something of great interest to me.

Knowing that I would be seated in the press box (not actually a box, more like a rectangle of seats with an invisible wall of silence around them) I prepared a raincoat in case of splatter from the ring and a trusty Minaret pen with which I planned to sign many autographs.

Little did I realize that I would soon be making my radio debut – in Africa.

The first portion of the event was uneventful. Two large men would enter the boxing rink and pummel one another for a few minutes until one complained of “chest pains,” “problems breathing” or “white-lit tunnels.”

Needless to say, I was somewhat disappointed. I wasn’t the only one, since most of the audience was more interested in the ring girls than in the fight.

I found this amusing the first few times, then found myself wondering how much these women make for less than five minutes a night of what apparently passes for “work.” They could at least grill some burgers, do calisthenics or hurl insults at me like most women.

And then a miracle happened. I met Mohammed Al-Hasssan.

Now, I didn’t write any of this down afterwards, but I assumed this would be easy to remember. After all, Mohammed is Mohammed (peace be upon him) and Hassan tried to chop Bugs Bunny. Little did I realize that this particular Mohammed Al-Hassan would leave a more lasting mark on my life than either of his namesakes.

“Are you from Tampa?” he asked, reading my press badge, which identified me as a staff member of America’s Finest News Source. “Can you help me make sense of this?” Naturally, as is the case whenever I can’t hear something, I made a noncommittal, agreeable sound.

Bear in mind that my most important memory about boxing involves “Punch Out” for Nintendo. It took almost two decades, but I eventually defeated Mike Tyson – a man who, in real life, I would cross the street to avoid, fond as I am of both of my ears.

For a while, I attempted to ignore this interloper as he gave a blow-by-blow of the main event into his cell phone. Crazy people occasionally get press passes too, I assumed. I was surprised as anyone when I heard Mr. Al-Hassan declare, “I’m here with my good friend Simos Farrell from Tampa, FL, United States to get his opinion on the match!”

Now, it occurred to me somewhere down the line that Ike Quartey, fighting Winky Wright in the main boxing performance, was from Ghana. Somehow, within the first few seconds of having that cell phone thrust at me, I became both the world’s foremost expert on boxing and the U.S. ambassador to Ghana.

“This fight is what boxing is all about!” I claimed. As if possessed by Howard Cosell, I proceeded to describe a boxing match in which Quartey was being pummeled senseless as “a real battle! These two really want this fight! I believe in Ike Quartey! I think he can pull this off!”

Thus, of course, he kept asking me for comments. There are a couple of problems with this.

Problem one: It never occurred to me that Quartey’s name was French. My pronunciation apparently got worse every round, but then again, that’s how you know it was an American talking.

Problem two: As in The Minaret, my commentary had nothing to do with reality. I should’ve realized that I was veering off course when I saw the actual boxing commentators packing up to go home in the fifth round. Once my collection of stock boxing metaphors ran out, the ghost of Howard Cosell was joined by the ghost of former Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saeed Al-Sahaf, who likely is just as knowledgeable about boxing as I am.

“Winky Wright is running scared, around and around and around Ike Quartey! Wright’s fists are nearly useless thanks to minute after minute of futiley punching Ike Qwerty! Ike Chartreuse is adopting a brilliant strategy of passive resistance! I am not worried about the outcome of the match, and neither should you be!”

Al-Hassan’s cell phone apparently had some signal trouble in the final rounds, preventing me from describing how anti-Quartey insurgents stormed the ring, attacking the hero from all sides until he was eventually overcome and the match was forfeit.

However, I had already become an international radio celebrity – and, since the report was never complete, there may be people in Ghana right now who still think Quartey had a chance.

People of Ghana: I’m sorry your boy was defeated. There was nothing I could do to encourage him, since, as Sports Editor Peter Arrabal informed me while jabbing me with an ice pick, “there is no cheering in the press box!”

However, I hope you found my performance entertaining. Next semester, I am taking the show on the road throughout Europe.

My next engagement will be at Speakers’ Corner, Hyde Park, London – a notorious “free speech zone” where orators can say whatever they wish, so long as they do not threaten the Royals.

While there, I will be arguing against the existence of the State. For my encore performance, I will deliver a stunning dissertation on the perils of air.

However, I will never forget that I got my start in broadcasting at the Wright-Quartey match. Quartey? Quar-tay? Quartee? I’m going to get it right sometime, I swear!

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