KICK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (4)

By: Carlo Rotella
January 13, 2022

One in a series of 25 enthusiastic posts, contributed by 25 HILOBROW friends and regulars, on the topic of a favorite sidekick — whether real-life or fictional.

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BELT BEARERS

Before a boxing match, the fighters make ritual entrances through the crowd and into the ring. Fighters, their handlers, and those in charge of mounting the spectacle of fight night all obsess over the details of these ring walks because they offer ripe opportunities to say something about who a fighter is and what’s at stake when he fights — about the meaning of the blows he’s already given and taken in his fighting life, and of those imminently to come. During a ring walk, even a brief one in a union hall or chain hotel ballroom, every detail resonates with significance: the clothes and accessories that drape the well-tuned body, the music, the choice of seconds to march with the fighter, and the talismans displayed by these glowering henchmen. Flags, T-shirts, and ball caps are popular, but they’re all just window dressing if there’s a championship belt to brandish.

A belt bearer has prime duty, charged with a totem that intimidates as it informs, reminding us of what’s on the line in the fight while also trumpeting the expertise and experience of the fighter who earned that belt. The bearer, who ideally looks hard enough that he could sub for the fighter if necessary, flexes and micro-nods to himself as he walks, as if to say That’s what I’m talking about, people. Consider my abundant fearsomeness, and then consider that I am merely a member of the retinue — a favored member, yes, and without question terrifying in my own right, but just one of the boys. How much more fearsome must my liege lord be?

And yet, a whiff of sheepishness clings to belt bearers. It emanates in part from the belts themselves, which typically have the sheen of stained wet plastic and are inset with ostentatiously fake baubles of the sort used to gussy up dollar-store princess dresses. It’s as if the issuers of the belt want to make the object as disappointing as possible to remind the fighter that he’s doing all the work and not getting most of the money.

And even the most blindly partisan fan knows that there are too many belts. The international governing bodies — WBC, WBA, IBF, WBO, and more — have bred world titles down to dog meat by multiplying them for profit, and then there are all the many international, regional, and local variations on that theme: Interim Intercontinental Junior Middleweight Champion, NABA New England Cruiserweight Champion, and so on down to, you know, Provisional Light Flyweight Champion of Acton and Swampscott, Massachusetts.

But it’s not just the proliferation and shoddiness of belts that renders suspect the business of bearing them. Humans do enjoy walking in loose formation with likeminded humans, Reservoir Dogs-style, but the genuine feelings of cameraderie such behavior inspires can’t entirely cover up the fact that the belt bearer is also to some degree an oxpecker. Over his head as he marches up the aisle through the cheering crowd, with death metal or drill rap or a crone croaking an Old Country anthem about a guy who died doing something stupid and brave blasting from the sound system, floats a thought balloon that says See this gloved-up dude behind me in the hooded robe? I have been pecking nourishing tidbits out of his shit for years, dawg. Years.

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KICK YOUR ENTHUSIASM: INTRODUCTION by Josh Glenn | Annie Nocenti on RATSO | Barbara Bogaev on TRIXIE | Sara Ryan on SWIFT WIND | Carlo Rotella on BELT BEARERS | Adam McGovern on JACKIE McGEE | Josh Glenn on RAWHIDE | Gabriela Pedranti on KUILL | Douglas Wolk on VOLSTAGG | Serdar Paktin on CATO | Deirdre Day on TRAMPAS | Dean Haspiel on TIN MAN | Flourish Klink on THE APOSTLE PETER | Miranda Mellis on FAMILIAR | Peggy Nelson on COSMO | Beth Lisick on MARTHA BROOKS | Bishakh Som on CAPTAIN HADDOCK | Stephanie Burt on SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE | Greg Rowland on SPOCK | Adam Netburn on SENKETSU | Mimi Lipson on ROBIN QUIVERS | Jonathan Pinchera on GUTS | Tom Nealon on TWIKI | Mandy Keifetz on DR. EINSTEIN | Judith Zissman on IGNATZ MOUSE | Anthony Miller on DOCTOR GONZO.

MORE ENTHUSIASM at HILOBROW

KILL YOUR ENTHUSIASM (4Q2022): TBD. BLURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM (3Q2022): LEFT-CORNER BRICK | JOY IS RESISTANCE | THE FUTURE IS PASSÉ | EVERY MINUTE AN OCEAN | SHUT UP, HE EXPLAINED | & 20 other apothegms to live by. KOJAK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2Q2022): ARK II | WKRP IN CINCINNATI | BUCK ROGERS | THE WHITE SHADOW | POLICE WOMAN | & 20 other Seventies (1974–1983) TV shows. KICK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (1Q2022): KUILL | CATO | COSMO | TRIXIE | VOLSTAGG | & 20 other sidekicks. NERD YOUR ENTHUSIASM (4Q2021): TIME | THE POST OFFICE | ARDUIN | DOUBT | SUMMATIONS | & 20 other nerdy passions. SWERVE YOUR ENTHUSIASM (3Q2021): WARHOL’S WALT WHITMAN | 70, GIRLS, 70 | TYRAEL’S MIGHT | SHIRATO SANPEI | THE LEON SUITES | & 20 other never-realized cultural productions. FIVE-O YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2Q2021): DARK SHADOWS | MANNIX | GET SMART | THE ADDAMS FAMILY | I DREAM OF JEANNIE | & 20 other Sixties (1964–1973) TV shows. FERB YOUR ENTHUSIASM (1Q2021): STEVEN UNIVERSE | TOP CAT | REN & STIMPY | SHE-RA AND THE PRINCESSES OF POWER | DRAGON BALL Z | & 20 other animated series. CARBONA YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2020): “Sex Bomb” | “Going Underground” | “Soft South Africans” | “Typical Girls” | “Human Fly” | & 20 other Seventies (1974–1983) punk singles. KLAATU YOU (2020 weekly): ZARDOZ | METROPOLIS | DARK STAR | SINS OF THE FLESHAPOIDS | SOLARIS | & dozens of other pre-STAR WARS sci-fi movies. CONVOY YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2019): THE TAKING OF PELHAM ONE TWO THREE | ROLLERBALL | BLACK SUNDAY | SORCERER | STRAIGHT TIME | & 20 other Seventies (1974–1983) action movies. SERIOCOMIC (2019 weekly): LITTLE LULU | VIZ | MARSUPILAMI | ERNIE POOK’S COMEEK | HELLBOY | & dozens of other comics. TUBE YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2018): LOONEY TUNES | THREE STOOGES | THE AVENGERS | ROCKY & BULLWINKLE | THE TWILIGHT ZONE | & 20 other Fifties (1954–1963) TV shows. WOWEE ZOWEE (2018 weekly): UNISEX | UNDER THE PINK | DUMMY | AMOR PROHIBIDO | HIPS AND MAKERS | & dozens of other Nineties (1994–2003) albums. KLUTE YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2017): THE KILLERS | BANDE À PART (BAND OF OUTSIDERS) | ALPHAVILLE | HARPER | BLOW-UP | & 20 other Sixties (1964–1973) neo-noir movies. #SQUADGOALS (2017 weekly): THE WILD BUNCH | BOWIE’S BAND | THE BLOOMSBURY GROUP | THE HONG KONG CAVALIERS | VI ÄR BÄST! & dozens of other squads. GROK MY ENTHUSIASM (2016 weekly): THE THEORY AND PRACTICE OF LUNCH | WEEKEND | MILLION YEAR PICNIC | LA BARONNE EMILE D’ERLANGER | THE SURVIVAL SAMPLER | & dozens more one-off enthusiasms. QUIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2016): “Tainted Love” | “Metal” | “Frankie Teardrop” | “Savoir Faire” | “Broken English” | & 20 other Seventies (1974–1983) new wave singles. CROM YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2015): DARKER THAN YOU THINK | THE SWORD IN THE STONE | OUT OF THE SILENT PLANET | THIEVES’ HOUSE | QUEEN OF THE BLACK COAST | & 20 other Thirties (1934–1943) fantasy novels. KERN YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2014): ALDINE ITALIC | DATA 70 | TORONTO SUBWAY | JOHNSTON’S “HAMLET” | TODD KLONE | & 20 other typefaces. HERC YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2013): “Spoonin’ Rap” | “Rapper’s Delight” | “Rappin’ Blow” | “The Incredible Fulk” | “The Adventures of Super Rhyme” | & 20 other Seventies (1974–1983) hip-hop songs. KIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2012): Justice or vengeance? | Kirk teaches his drill thrall to kiss | “KHAAAAAN!” | “No kill I” | Kirk browbeats NOMAD | & 20 other Captain Kirk scenes. KIRB YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2011): THE ETERNALS | BLACK MAGIC | DEMON | OMAC | CAPTAIN AMERICA | & 20 other Jack Kirby panels.

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Enthusiasms