My children were asleep as Showtime separated roughly 6.5 million suckers from their Pay-Per-View money and Floyd Mayweather Jr. handily defeated Conor McGregor. Though they were spared the ten rounds that desecrated the sweet science for lucre, Tony, my martial arts-obsessed five-year-old had a pretty solid post-fight analysis: “They took away all of the wrestler’s tools so of course he lost.” My boy gets it–I practice muay thai and talk about these things so this isn’t a total shock–but he doesn’t necessarily understand the economics of a sure thing. He wouldn’t know what to do with the information that losing made McGregor, the son of a petty officer with the British Merchant Navy, $30 million dollars richer.
Setting aside for a moment the fact that the match never should have happened for reasons related to both safety and human decency and further setting aside the fact that both men are villainous — one is a domestic abuser; the other is either racist or comfortable blowing racist dogwhistles, which is essentially the same thing–I’d like to find a virtuous lesson to tell my son about it. Again, I’m interested in fighting. I see the nobility in it. But where is that lesson?
This guy at work suggested, off-hand, that Conor McGregor hasd at least, behaved in the interest of Conor McGregor Jr., his newborn and not yet demonstrably racist son. [Editor’s Note: Seriously. You made this about me? C’mon man.] McGregor, he logicked, was doing right by his family and his new kid by “signing up to get his ass whooped to pocket a lot of money.” This coworker, added–and I’m pretty sure this was a hypothetical–that he was pretty sure I’d allow him to punch me in the face for less than $30 million. I would have, though I don’t think I would have been responsible for what happened next. [Editor’s Note: If you’re willing to do it for under $100, I’m in.]
Anyway, I was willing to entertain this notion, which essentially boils down to the idea that providing for one’s family is virtuous per se, because I do think that providing for one’s family, especially when one comes from a background as hardscrabble as McGregor’s, is virtuous. But the state of a pursuit being noble does not inoculate it against criticism. A lot of dicks use fatherhood as air cover. Buying into that is–with some but not much respect for my colleague–stupid. [Editor’s Note: Fuck you, Joshua.]
The real question here is not whether or not it’s noble to provide one’s sires with mammon, but how a man should balance his desire to provide for or enrich his family with his obligation to be a good citizen. McGregor and Mayweather are successful men if you’re unconcerned about a listing scale, but they’re shitty humans and that limits their potential success as father. Like a goiter full of gold, a canker full of cash, a tumor full of legal tender, the fight was a toxic excrescence foisted upon mankind that stirred up its most base impulses at a time when better angels are need. [Editor’s Note: We get it. You went to college.] It presented those who watched with the devilish dilemma of cheering for one of two villains, neither of whom any father would want his child to admire. Yes, the children of Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor shall never want (not that they wanted before), but does that comfort make up for the cost of the degradation? Probably not. Does that make them good dads? Nah.
Dads pass on more than money, but they pass on values too, for good or ill. I’ll here invoke the modern-day Godwin’s law: Trump has enriched his scions. Doesn’t mean he’s a good dad. Doesn’t mean he’s a good dude. [Editor’s Note: Not everything is about Trump.]
The other way to look at the fight is as a clash between an underdog and the ultimate favorite. Or as an egotist confronting a professional. Or as a foreigner socking an American. One can slice and dice the salient features of each combatant in almost endless ways, extruding it through an astonishing array of value systems. Traditionalists chose Mayweather. The noble-hearted chose McGregor. In each case, there is the seed of something good and kind. That’s nice and I’m happy to lean into it, but it’s not a fair description of what happened. What happened was that two fathers behaved poorly for money then put on a boring spectacle and pocketed the cash. Worse things have happened, but lots and lots of better things have happened (even to good people). [Editor’s Note: Remember that time you didn’t talk through a meeting? That was a good thing.]
So if my son ever does ask, “Dad, tell me about the time Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather Jr. faced off in the squared circle?” I’ll tell him, “Listen, son, shit’s complicated. Just thank God you didn’t pay $100 to watch it like your old man did.”