Monday, January 05, 2009

The First Documented Misuse of the Word "Historical"

I don't know why, but people using "historical" instead of "historic" has always driven me crazy.

When I got up to pee at 3 a.m., it was not a historic moment. It was, however, historical (at least, it is now, because it's in the past).

Broadcasters have been misusing these words for years, but I always thought it started only a few years ago. Wrong.

Last night, I turned on ESPN Classic and they were showing the Buster Douglas--Mike Tyson fight. I've read many articles and at least one book about the fight, but I'd never actually seen it, so I saw down to watch.

Some of you may not remember this, but in 1990, Mike Tyson was the baddest man on the planet. Even his opponents were afraid of him, and with good reason--he was absolutely relentless, and his punching power was frightening. The people he fought weren't trying to win; they were trying not to die.

Mike Tyson was a terrible force of nature.

Buster Douglas, on the other hand, was widely believed to be a coward. Soft. No heart. And, at times, many of these things were true. They were probably the reason he was given the fight.

Douglas was a 42-1 underdog, and very few places would even take bets on the fight.

Two other things about Douglas. One, he was universally regarded as a tremendously nice guy. Two, he was incredibly gifted physically, but he never trained hard enough to take advantage of his gifts.

The fight was in Tokyo, and I don't remember it even being televised. I was on my way back from a business trip, and my plane flew into Austin on Saturday night (Sunday in Japan). I was walking throught the airport when I saw a guy wandering around, talking to anyone who would listen. "Mike Tyson got knocked out!" he said.

"No way," I said.

"Knocked out," he repeated. He couldn't believe it, either--he looked like a victim of a car accident who was wandering around in shock at the scene.

As far as sports go, it was one of the signature moments of my life. I still remember the look on the guy's face.

But I digress.

So at the end of this fight, when Buster Douglas (who was in rock hard shape for the only time in his career) hit the baddest man on the planet so hard that he was totally helpless, the announcer shouted "This is a HISTORICAL win!"

February 11, 1990.

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