Noted dick Buzz Bissinger is confused. Boxing great Sugar Ray Leonard claims in a new memoir that he was molested by a former coach. But Leonard didn't tell Bissinger, the world's greatest sports reporter, first and exclusively. So obviously Leonard is lying.
See, Sugar Ray Leonard is just Sugar Ray Leonard. But Bissinger is like the Sugar Ray Leonard guy. He's been working with Leonard on a screenplay, which obviously means that Bissinger is more privy to Leonard's innermost thoughts and secrets than Leonard himself. It certainly means he is entitled to first dibs—ahead of Leonard—on every humiliating and terrifying memory Leonard might care to make public.
I happen to know Sugar Ray Leonard. I happen to know him well when it comes to the intimate details of his life. In 2007 and 2008, I spent hundreds of hours interviewing him for a screenplay that never came to fruition....
He went into great detail over all the aspects of his life both good-the triumphant victories over Roberto Duran and Tommy "The Hitman" Hearns and Marvin Hagler that made him world welterweight champion. But he spent just as much time on the bad.... He was honest about his failings, and so brutal about them, that it became wrenching.
The one incident he never mentioned was the sexual abuse.
Hmmmmmmm. Why all of a sudden are you mentioning this alleged sexual abuse, Sugar Ray? I mean, you had the chance to talk to THE BUZZ BISSINGER about how your boxing coach masturbated as you took a bath when you were 15 years old and then later tried to give you a blow job in a car! And you didn't! And now you write about these "incidents" in a book about your own life? Now? Right when you are trying to sell that book? Sounds fishy.
I keep asking myself why yesterday, given his wincing candor about so much else. Did something happen with that coach? Something must have. But was it embellished for the sake of a book about to be published?
Maybe after 35 years as a journalist I am too cynical. But at his peak, nobody in sports knew how to market himself better than Sugar Ray Leonard. And the revelation, 18 days before publication, has set off a publicity bonanza. The immediate effect—last time I looked approximately 350 stories had been written based on the Times story—has been what every author prays for.
Yes, being masturbated at and blown by a male role model is what every 15-year-old future author prays for. God smiled on you, Sugar Ray Leonard. He gave you the opportunity to cynically market your book by writing about your own secrets rather than letting Bissinger, their rightful owner, peddle them. I hope you're happy. Why couldn't you retail your shame to a real journalist, like that gay dude who owns a basketball team?
If Leonard wanted to open up about what happened, why not do it the way Rick Welts, the president and chief executive officer of the Phoenix Suns' basketball team, did this week in publicly coming out as gay: no book to sell but a one-on-one interview with New York Times reporter Dan Barry, in which his feelings and motivations and fears were thoroughly explored. It was a true public service for other gay athletes confronted with homophobia in the locker room. Inserting the issue of sexual abuse into a book about to be published is a selling service.
Because being a victim of sexual abuse as a minor the same thing as being a gay adult. And the important thing is that Dan Barry got a story out of it. Where's Buzz's story, Sugar Ray? You're selling your book. What about the books that Bissinger needs to sell?
[Photo via BuzzBissinger.com]