Wednesday, July 15, 2009

100 Down, Way Too Many To Go

UFC 100 may have been watched by millions, but I was not one of them. Loyalty to boxing may be to blame. But there seems to be a simple reason for the MMA hysteria. It starts with a number.

We are obsessed by numbers. When you're 39, you have free range at booze, drugs and loose women. But once you turn 40, apparently it's time to settle down and get old. Hey, you're over the hill, right? If a guy says he's been married for 49 years, jokes about unhappiness ensue. Married for 50? A love that cannot be touched. We build up these milestones like they have some kind of significant meaning. Well, they don't. They're just numbers.

UFC 100 is one of these milestones. It was the biggest fight in mixed martial arts. On the grandest stage, the so-called sport showed us all what it's made of. Fans and sports writers across the country proclaimed that UFC had arrived. Time to get with the program. It's boxing for the 21st century boys. Looks like I'm stuck partying like it's pre-1999.

Look, I'm a boxing fan. But not a boxing "fan". You know those people; they claim they love the sport, but explain their lack of enthusiasm due to the fact that the heavyweight division is so barren. Yes, my favorite boxer (Lennox Lewis) was a heavyweight, and yeah, when the big boys are rockin' the fans come a-knockin', but I don't need it to enjoy boxing. Good boxing is out there, and its not really that hard to find.

And that's what UFC buffs have marketed around; the fact that boxing is dead. OK, I'll give you the fair-weather fans. Let them drive your pay-per-views up. But don't think that UFC is grabbing them for good. Remember the numbers.

Like #100, which has gotten everyone up in a frenzy. You know when boxing's 100th main fight was? Well, the first heavyweight champ was John Sullivan in 1885, so it was a long freaking time ago. Most people won't recognize a fighter until Jack Dempsey, who won in 1919. If you're celebrating where you are as a sport at #100, then boy, you know nothing. You haven't even begun.

Oh, but that's point, they say. Look how big we are in such a short span. Well, what's the road from here? Do UFC fans really expect to keep expanding at this rate? It'd be bigger than the NFL in a decade. Not gonna happen. Also unlikely is plateauing at this point and averaging the millions of viewers last Saturday's fight attracted. There is no basis to this, no history. If anything, this was the peak. 100 is not a milestone, it's a pebble in the history of UFC. It means nothing.

The only argument I would give UFC fans is that MMA is a representation of a change of interest in young Americans. Boxing was two men beating the hell out of each other, yes, but it was art. MMA is simply beating the hell out of each other. And on a much greater scale. It's in-your-face brutality, a concept adored by a generation raised on reality television and violence. Don't dance around, kill! Mob mentality, fill the Colosseum! How apt for a country that is starting its Roman descent.

Am I missing the boat, perhaps? But I'll be playing my boxing violin as I go down drowning, not cursing the iceberg that drug us there. It's a fad, in my book. Nothing more. Like Bender from The Breakfast Club, I too share a disdain for guys who roll around on the floor with other guys. But hey, if you want blood, you got it.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Where Is My Mind?

Twittering during games, protecting your image, tabloid deaths and bashing Americans. Yeah, I got a few thoughts.

No Fun

Chad Ochocinco is getting on my nerves. You want to putt the football with a pylon? OK. Create your own Hall of Fame jacket? Fine. I don't really care. But now he wants to use Twitter during games. This has gone too far.

It's one thing to be the class clown, the joker. But is it too much to ask these millionaires to have just a tad bit of focus for three hours a week? This isn't a product of the No Fun League, it's a starve for attention. Most critics of the NFL's policies complain that the players aren't allowed to have enough fun, but isn't football itself supposed to be fun? I mean, it is a game. I get the feeling that guys like Ochocinco play football because they have the talent, not because they love the game. If they did, simply being on the field would give them the enjoyment they need. But not Chad. The game's not enough. Perhaps he should quit.

Fuhrer LeBron and S.S. Nike

Now this has rubbed people in a very wrong way. Apparently at the LeBron James Skills Academy, Xavier guard Jordan Crawford dunked on James, and shortly after Nike officials confiscated all the tapes from said dunk. To make matters worse, it seems that James was the one who ordered the search and seizure.

First off, I could see Nike orchestrating this more than Lebron. But if he did do it, is it that big of a deal? So he has some pride issues, what do you expect. He's constantly harped on for not winning a title, despite being crowned "The King" (a nickname that he was given, by the way). Oh, and he's 24 years old. Who cares if he's ashamed? I am tired of the high horse riding by sports people when it comes to LeBron James. Nobody will remember this. Hell, Kobe raped a girl and Shaq had a "tell me how my ass tastes" rap and everybody just loves them. I can't wait for James to win a title to shut these middle-aged white sports writers up. Give it a rest.

Sick News is Sick

I applaud sports fans for not wanting to hear anymore about Steve McNair. Sure, we still read the updates, but it's July - what else are we gonna do? The mood I get is that the story is too disturbing, too wrong and has nothing to do with McNair the quarterback. We understand that our heroes aren't really superhuman, we don't need to be reminded. With the gross exploitation of Michael Jackson's death, fans are disinterested to do the same with McNair. This is a good thing.

We want sports and we want it now. Not a 24-hour news investigation of McNair the man. None of our business. Chalk it up to ignoring the truth if you want, but what will learning the truth achieve? Nothing but negativity, and we surely don't need anymore of that. ESPN and the rest and continue to let us in on the latest, it's their job, but I get the feeling that nobody is all the concerned.

America, F*** Yeah!

This whole Lance Armstrong thing cracks me up. As I've written before, sports nationalism in this country is a joke. First soccer, then tennis, and now cycling. Remember, if it's foreign, it's crap. Until we put a competitor out there, then we are the greatest! We are the saddest bunch of front-runners in the world. It's alright during the Olympics, it's kind of the point. I'm rooting against Armstrong and for the French. That's right, I said it. Let's bring the trophy to a group of people who actually care about the event when they aren't dominating. What happened to our underdog spirit?

Monday, July 6, 2009

Summer of Morality

This past Independence Day weekend got me thinking. While most people were consumed with the Steve McNair story, I started wondering about Wimbledon. And soccer. And Phil Mickleson. And Rocky. Let me explain.

See, this weekend was a microcosm of what I call the Trophy Era, which is our current state of giving the kid who struck out four times and made two errors the same hardware as the kid who went 4-4 with five RBIs. It is the land of morals, home of the meek, and they are indeed inheriting the Earth. And it's entirely possible that the movie Rocky helped shape this new form of ideals.

Looking at the series as a whole, there are six parts. In part one, Rocky loses, but receives the biggest moral victory in the history of both fantasy and reality athletics. But in parts 2-5, Rocky wins. And our memories of Rocky are in those wins. He beat Mr. T. He knocks out Drago. It doesn't matter that the first image is of him losing, because the lasting images, which are the most important, are of the underdog champion.

When the franchise came full circle in 2006 with part six, Rocky Balboa, the underdog loses. Rocky gets beat. So the message being sent here is that while all the wins were good and made a champion out of Rocky, it's the losses, to start and end his career, which are the most important. It is the birth of the moral victory - the most disgusting term in sports.

The summer of 2009 is the result of this kind of thinking; the Summer of Morality. The lasting images of this summer will be of three events: the U.S. Open, the FIFA championship and the Wimbledon final. The dominating storylines of these three were of the underdog caliber. Mickleson had to fight for his sick wife. Team USA and Andy Roddick had to fight the foreign powerhouses. Real Hollywood stuff, you know? But in real life, we want Rocky II-V, instead we got Rocky I and VI.

Mickleson fell short. Team USA gagged. Andy Roddick was no match for history. In the way we usually look at sports, these are failures on the biggest stage. Mickleson's bogies on 15 and 17 were awful. Team USA blew a 2-0 lead at halftime. Roddick played the greatest game of his life, and found out it wasn't enough. These are the lowest of the low. Except, we live in a Rocky world, where not only does failing in the clutch not get you criticized, it gets you a medal.

I'm not saying that the Rocky movies create excuses for professional athletes. Art reflects reality, it doesn't produce it. This is a new, late 20th century American view. We changed Lombardi's quote of "winning isn't everything, the will to win is" to "winning isn't everything, it's the only thing", because that is what America has always been about.

Not now. No, Mickleson, Roddick and Team USA are champions of the heart, and that's all that matters. The compelling aspect of athletics used to be to witness what it takes to rise to the top, not what it takes to achieve noble failure. Maybe we need to stop rewarding people for just trying. Whether it's giving runner-ups journalistic praise or your clumsy kid a medal. It breeds defeat, not success.

Remember, Rocky did eventually become a champion. He had a statue erected. Phil Mickleson, Andy Roddick and Team USA lost. There is no award for second place in life, so let's not give one out in sports. I want to go back to "only the strong survive". It's what makes July 4th such a great holiday; a day to raise our foam fingers as #1. We didn't just try, we succeeded. There used to be morality in that.
J Fish Sports © 2008. Design by :Yanku Templates Sponsored by: Tutorial87 Commentcute