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Respect is a Thing of the Past
Last uploaded : Saturday 12th Jan 2008 at 14:58
Contributed by : The Editor


As 2007 was coming to an end an incident occurred in Las Vegas that brought anti-Americanism to even newer horizons.

It is unlikely the men who were behaving like fourth-century pagans in the Nevada desert are ‘Guardian’ or ‘Independent’ readers who harbour a litany of grudges against American environment-spoilers, Zionist neocons, serial racists and genocidal murderers, but the despicable behaviour of the English fans at the Ricky Hatton fight on 7 December must be included in this New Year reflection.

The events of 7 December need to be examined on several levels. The fans of undefeated Mancunian welterweight boxer Hatton arrived in Las Vegas in their thousands -- one estimate places the figure at 18,000 -- to cheer their hero on, he having been pitted against the supremely fit Floyd ‘Pretty Boy’ Mayweather Jr. It was a match I had felt weeks before was doomed to be a humiliation for the ( I thought) physically vulnerable British boxer.

The Hatton fans spent serious money in Las Vegas and were generous patrons of every amenity the Strip had to offer. They brought thousands of Pounds Sterling to the city and were an object of bemusement as they strutted around in the loud, crass style one associates with football fans in Europe.

Some had spent a chunk of their savings to travel thousands of miles to see Hatton fight; the hype before the match was, to me, silly, because the mismatch was so glaringly obvious. I felt there was a foolish Walter Mitty-ism bordering on arrogance amongst some British commentators. In ‘The Daily Mail’ of 10 December Paul Hayward felt this was Hatton playing golf with the Tiger, tennis against Federer or participating in a singing competition against Tom Jones. One felt the cards were already on the table when Mayweather fans reminded the media that ‘UK’ stands for ‘Undefeated King.’ I cringed when I saw the two fighters meet in their pre-match facedown, Hatton pale and almost sickly-looking, and Mayweather the picture of vitality and brute strength.

And so it was to transpire that on the night of the big fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena Tom Jones sang ‘God Save the Queen’ to a silent and reverent 95% American audience, but when it came time for the host country’s ‘Star Spangled Banner’ national anthem to be sung all hell broke loose. As the song began, the large crowd of British fans booed and jeered, drowning out the anthem altogether; when the introductions were being made the British fans once again booed and jeered.

When I first heard about this in the early morning hours of Sunday 8 December I thought I was imagining things. It was being discussed on a news programme broadcast before the Sunday political shows. I was stunned and disgusted; imagine how Britons would feel if a large crowd of Americans jeered the national anthem?

Soon the incident became a national talking point and many commentators were setting aside time to write and talk about it. On the night itself, the fighter Sugar Ray Leonard was incandescent with rage when his country’s anthem was trashed. ‘The crossed the line,’ he fumed. Interestingly enough, a British friend asked me why an African-American boxer would care about the national anthem ‘of such a racist country’ being drowned out and I explained to her that a significant majority of Americans, whatever their ethnic origin, feel the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ must be heard with reverence, as, one assumes. Britons would expect of its own anthem.

It was also reported that the referee, Joe Cortez was well beyond incandescent when the anthem was drowned out by the deafening roar of jeers, boos and verbal garbage spewing from the British crowd. The head of the MGM Grand attempted to speak but gave up, throwing the mike away.

Hatton lost the fight and, in the replay I watched barely escaped with his life, but his ‘Sorry’ afterwards was as much an apology to the Americans as to his disappointed fans. Paul Hayward in ‘The Daily Mail’ remarked that an HBO documentary about the fight included a boxing saying: ‘In the ring, the truth will eventually find you.’ The Guardian’s Richard Williams referred to the match as Hatton being ‘broken by the hands of a master’ and ‘comprehensively dismantled.’ John Rawling in ‘The Guardian’ wrote at length about the deluded arrogance of the British media in hysterically promoting the Hatton phenomenon, when the sum total of the event could be summed up thus: ‘football standards reached the MGM Grand as Hatton’s hordes booed and whistled through the American national anthem..’

After the bout Mayweather reminded a supporter that respect must be shown to Hatton in defeat. Hayward added in his column, ‘ Pity respect was a one-way street between Mayweather, America and the English anthem-wreckers.’

It is interesting that so many commentators wrote about this aspect of the big fight, and with considerable shame and disgust. Bloggers who had returned to England from Las Vegas in the subsequent days protested that it had all been in good fun and that Americans should be glad they had spent a fortune on the gaming tables, in hotels and in the bars of the Strip. Others reminded readers that the American Ryder Cup team had offended British fans and golfers three years ago.

Indeed, as I mentioned at the beginning of this editorial, it is doubtful the Hatton fans jeered the American anthem because they are outraged by Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo. It should also be noted that 'Hatikvah,' the Israeli national anthem, as far as one could determine from the appalling broadcasting sound facilities that day, was not booed when Israel played England.

But the all-pervasive denigration of all things American -- and Jewish -- has so permeated British society at all levels that Britons think it can be open season on Yanks wherever they may find them. This should not have been manifested by guests in the host country and during the singing of the national anthem.

When my virulently anti-Bush and anti-war family is outraged by the behaviour of the Hatton fans, then I know my instinct is correct. It was an ugly and unnecessary moment; it was not ‘good fun’ but illustrates the facility with which so many around the world will ostracise America, when Americans behave impeccably in similar circumstances.



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