While skittering around Denmark a few years ago asking Danes why they're the happiest people on Earth despite their clouds and their taxes, I heard bewildering utterances.
One bloke said a Copenhagen hospital had been so shiny and pleasant that after a weeklong stay he almost didn't want to leave. A 20-year-old student working behind the counter in a coffeehouse said, "We trust our government," and I had to suppress a gasp. And here and there in bits and pieces would appear a mysterious agent of happiness, the curious value of pessimism.
Pessimism gets such a bad name, perhaps especially from pessimists, but there's a fine logic behind the idea that if you expect the world to disintegrate overnight then wake to find that it hasn't, you might be more likely to have a nice day. So on this ever-hovering matter of a prospective cowabunga fight between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr., let's just grab our pessimism and hug it tightly.
If the fight does come someday, more's the wow.
For now, if Pacquiao says he will take 45 percent of the cut in order to entice Mayweather, as he did last week, it does not register on the enticement scale. If he jokes he will let Mayweather wear his trunks, says he will undergo all the drug-testing, stands in a photo with Mayweather's friend 50 Cent with a caption about "business" and so on and so forth, so what. Pacquiao's remarks came as he and Juan Manuel Marquez promoted their fourth fight of the last eight years after three close-call donnybrooks (one a draw), and with even many Pacquiao fans thinking Marquez deserved to win last November, another big dent could hit the Pacquiao-Mayweather daydream.
That's OK. We pessimists expect dents.
This would-be fight has lived for so long in the world's imagination that it has built a house and a fence and a pool in the yard in there. Within my own skull the fight certainly has a look and a feel and a mind-boggling energy after so many considerations of it, and even though I barely have followed boxing through the years, I would yearn to see this thing. At some point, though, the mind has to step in and protect itself, remembering it has heard these little hints and guesses for such a long time as to be wearier than tiresome.
Time was, you could go literally around the world finding optimism. Way, way back in 2011, when I first joined the Pacquiao parade in Baguio in the northern Philippines, Pacquiao trained for Shane Mosley, and promoter Bob Arum flew in from Los Angeles. Arum stood beside the ring one morning talking to reporters and, at very first listen, referred to the wife of another boxer as "a witch," pretty much a reminder of why boxing can be such glory to cover -- candor! -- and why Arum should be invited to every press conference in every sport. The overarching subject, though, was not the fight at hand but the fight in mind, so Arum suggested Mayweather's apparent request for $100 million might just be a way to avoid the extravaganza, and that carried the news day.
From there, it went to Las Vegas, where Pacquiao fought Mosley, sort of, but Mosley didn't really fight Pacquiao, and Mosley got consulted for a prediction after opposing both, and said that while Pacquiao provided "more kinds of punches than I've felt from anybody else," Mayweather had the defense and the speed and the boxing IQ. Pacquiao's trainer Freddie Roach joined the relative front of the worthy pessimism tide when he said, "My hope level is starting to really, really fade."
He also said not a day ever went by without the question, even in "Ukraine, Mexico, wherever," and not many people can speak of a world united on a subject with input from Ukraine and Mexico. For a few days last January the prospect bubbled in Dubai and stoked a brief hoo-ha there, in a country with a big appreciation for the game and for mixed-martial arts, but then tapered off.
But, really, let's prepare ourselves thoroughly as this will never, ever, ever happen, so enough with listening to all of it, enough with entertaining contentions of who might be ducking whom, and blah-blah-blah. We pessimists know that Mayweather is going on 36 and Pacquiao is going on 34, with lots of wear on both, and that come 2013 there will be nothing more than more of this gobbledygook. We know that Pacquiao has looked diminished in his last two outings -- winning but possibly losing against Marquez and losing while almost surely winning against Timothy Bradley - while Mayweather has been in jail. Meanwhile, Pacquiao helps promote Pacquiao-Marquez by promising it will not be "boring."
So as 2013 begins with its clear schedules, it might bring another round of taunts and tweets, but we will not be moved. Optimist International began in 1919, and on this front, all around this globe, the time has come for the people to bond. We are Pessimist International.