SPORTS DOCTOR- Forget dignity: Being a prima donna is an asset

If you watched the heavyweight fight on February 23, you may have come away disappointed. Wladimir Klitschko won decisively, but the fact that there was no knockout has many fans spitting nails.

Few rights, no split eyelids, even the knockdowns weren't called by the referee. Where's the drama?

I'll tell you where: 3,000 miles from Madison Square Garden in Los Angeles. 

On Monday, February 25, champion welterweight Floyd Mayweather Jr.– who by all rights should have lost to Oscar De La Hoya last year– announced his participation in WWE's "WrestleMania XXIV."

My ear is not pressed to the ground, but I can't help note the resounding silence in place of outcries of public disgust. At the very least, I expected a little scoffing, but I haven't heard a word. 

Of course, I also expected self-respecting MLB managers to avoid Barry Bonds. I guess Tony La Russa doesn't have any self-respect. For several off-seasons, including this one, the St. Louis coach touted Bonds to Cardinals' management.

"One reason I would love to have had him as a teammate over the many years is his competitiveness, his talent, and his work ethic," La Russa said. "This guy, that's some serious work that he does to get himself ready to compete."

I would agree that evading the Feds is serious work. After two years of placating La Russa, the Cardinals' GM finally claimed the price for Bonds was too high, notably omitting the obvious risks of employing a man under federal investigation for perjury.

Now the door is open for Devil Rays to have a crack at Bonds.

I can't deny the Devil Rays are desperate to fill seats–- they're averaging only 17,000 fans per game– but Barry Bonds? Even without the federal charges, isn't being a prima donna a liability? 

If the Rays need advice, they can call Joe Gibbs Racing for the lowdown. Tony Stewart, Gibbs' prima donna extraordinaire, can't get in a car without a warning. That's what happened after he allegedly punched Kurt Busch during a meeting with NASCAR officials– not to mention his punching a photographer after his 2002 defeat at Indianapolis.

But Tony Stewart wins, Barry Bonds hits home runs, and Pretty Boy Floyd draws a crowd, so people take the risk. If indeed there is any risk.

Actually, being a prima donna is more an asset than a liability. With talent and skill, an athlete or golfer can crank up the attitude with minimal repercussions, but if he or she lacks talent and skill, well, attitude still sells. (See Vince Carter, Shaquille O'Neal.)

When commentators and fans booed Klitschko on Saturday, it wasn't because he fought badly; it was because he didn't "entertain." Why win by decision when a KO is so much more dramatic? If Klitschko had entered the ring tossing $50-bills– as Mayweather did on Monday– the crowd would have erupted. If he insulted the media like Barry Bonds, the cheers would have been deafening. If he punched a cameraman, as Tony Stewart would have, the commentators would have hailed him.

Mayweather can break chairs over every tattooed head in the WWE, but to my mind that doesn't elevate his stature. Four hundred and forty foot home runs, slam dunks, fender-rubbing, and end-zone flips nauseate me. Frankly, I don't know how these people can embarrass their mommas this way. Alan Iverson's momma accepted, of course. (She can embarrass herself quite well on her own, thank you very much.)

It's funny that being a prima donna comes cheap, while dignity is at a premium.

There's a reason Thierry Henry doesn't earn as much as David Beckham. There's a reason Alex Rodriguez outshines Derek Jeter.  There's a reason Oscar De La Hoya takes a backseat to a man who literally throws money away.

Then again, Pretty Boy– or rather "Money," as he likes to be called these days– isn't getting a $20 million purse for having dignity.