Warrior, The Fighter and What If’s?

Last night, I watched Warrior (2011). I don’t know why I haven’t gotten around to it before. It’s right in my wheelhouse. There’s fighting, family strife, addiction and Tom Hardy with traps the size of mountains ranges. Even Cameron from House M.D. is in it (playing a very cookie cutter wet blanket character). On paper, it would seem to be custom made for me, but for some reason or another, I haven’t gotten around to it. Probably because I saw Fighting (2009) and I was worried this would be another low-budget, over-the-top, MMA porno. 


geez, look at those things.

While watching, there were scenes that made me so tense, I wanted to skip through them. They weren’t, as you might expect, the fight scenes. They were the scenes where Joel Edgerton’s character needed to think about how to pay the mortgage, or explain to a superintendent about his black eye. The fight scenes were gripping but they weren’t the object of tension, they were the release. It was the day to day that left me feeling battered. It always seems to be the day to day that leaves me feeling battered. 

The fights, on the other hand, are a catharsis. I envy the way fighters in movies get to let it all out. During a crucial fight, Joel Edgerton’s trainer tells him “ You don’t knock him out, you don’t have a home.” The entirety of his struggle is made tangible. Everything he was helpless to change before is now malleable in his hands. Outside of the movies, day to day life doesn’t come with a release valve. The frustrations of work, the pressure of life, a lifetime of struggle— these don’t come with that button you find on your Instant Pot. I guess there are adult coloring books and transcendental meditation, but I don’t know man, I just feel like there are some amounts of steam that don’t get blown off with colored pencils. 

In The Fighter (2010), Christian Bale plays Dicky Ecklund, a crack-addicted former boxer, who gives Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg) a moving speech in Mickey’s title fight. After the family overcomes failures, addiction, imprisonment, injuries and embarrassment, Dicky tells Micky “You f***in’ get out there, and use all the s*** that you’ve been through, all that f***in’ hell, all the s*** we’ve gone through over the f***in’ years, and you put it in that ring right now. This is yours. This is f***in’ yours.”

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“take all of you s***, and get it together.”

There’s something incredibly powerful about the idea that you can take everything, everything bad in your life and channel into your fists and bring it into a ring. I don’t know about you, but there are aspects of my life that I’m deeply disappointed by. I feel like made me these promises that it didn’t keep. I feel like there’s a type of person I could have been and a kind of role I could have had in society but society decided it didn’t need what I have to offer. Sometimes, I feel so mad at God that I don’t know what to say to him. Sometimes, I feel like I’m Jonah and I ran away and God never bothered to send a big ol’ fish after me. He just said, “oh well,” slapped the dust off his hands and moved on. I can almost taste what it would be like to pour all of this damned heavy heaviness into my hands and let it all out. 

I envy the fighters because they aren’t helpless like me.


Yesterday, I was lying in bed thinking about the destiny I was meant to have. I could have been a great man. I could have led people through war and strife. I could have penned great American classics, composed compelling ad campaigns, directed masterpieces of cinema and stage. I was mad at the world for not wanting the qualities I love most about myself and replaying my favorite Fight Club (1999) speech in my mind.

“I see in the fight club the strongest and smartest men who’ve ever lived. I see all this potential and I see squandering. God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables, slaves with white collars, advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy s*** we don’t need. We’re the middle children of the history man, no purpose or place, we have no Great war, no Great depression, our great war is a spiritual war, our great depression is our lives, we’ve been all raised by television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires and movie gods and rock stars, but we won’t and we’re slowly learning that fact. and we’re very very pissed off.” Fight Club – Chuck Palahniuk


How can you face that level of disappointment and not want to fight?

I stayed up at night and thought about what I wanted to say about all of this. I thought about how I would explain it to Stephy. I was gonna tell her that I love fighting movies because I can live vicariously through the hero who can fight a manifestation of his problems. And as I got to this section of self-pity, it sort of flipped around on me. A question kept popping into my head that I couldn’t put down. It’s the question that Stephy would have asked me, but she went to bed first. The question is this:

“Who’s stopping you?”

Who’s stopping me? The answer, frankly is no one. I have to come face to face with the fact that I, like the fighters in these movies, have the opportunity to take fate into my own hands. I want the chance on the big stage with the bright lights, but I don’t put the work in on the ground. I want the title shot, but I don’t want to live out the training montage. No one stopped me from doing the things I love. No one came crashing through my door and slapped the pen out of my hand or threw my laptop to the ground. I sabotaged myself through Instagram Explore, Covid-19 memes and my fourth rewatching of The West Wing. I do hold my fate in my hands, I just don’t live like it.

You know, I don’t think this piece turned out the way I thought. I thought I wanted to rail against the decline of masculinity, about the vacuum of leadership that exists in the world, and the minimal stakes in which we find ourselves out here in suburbia. But I think the place where I’ve arrived is the same as the best part of any truly good boxing movie. Good fighting movies aren’t about dealing with the world outside. They are about a man by himself, a man learning to conquer the demons within.


I have a lot of demons to conquer. I don’t have any discipline. I’m an addict, just not to anything sexy. I’m a glutton and a deadbeat. I’m a coward and I’m quick to point the finger elsewhere.  Maybe the takeaway from this isn’t to crave fight scenes, but to commit to the training montages. In a pivotal scene in Creed (2015), Sly Stallone (Rocky) points to Michael B. Jordan (Creed) and tells him, “You see this guy here staring back atcha? That’s your toughest opponent. Every time you get into the ring, that’s who you’re going against. I believe that in boxing and I do believe that in life. Okay?” You can feel the intensity when Jordan begins to confront his own demons as he shadowboxes. Stallone begins to step out of frame. As he takes a couple steps back, I can hear his voice speaking to me and my demons, speaking to where I need to put in some work. In that thick, tough guy accent, he says quietly, knowingly, “I’m gonna leave you two alone for a while.”  


What Would Kobe Do?

I’m not sure how these things are supposed to go. I’ve been slow to write this because I don’t know my end point. Part of me feels like I want Kobe to know what he meant to me. Another part wants everyone else to know. Then again, I think part of me just wants to remind myself. Something inside of me needs to know with certainty, that I am truly a fan. It’s important that this is true of myself. I am a Kobe Bryant fan.

Like everyone in this city, I have Kobe merch. I have tees, a couple hundred dollars worth of his signature shoes and for different phases of my life I’ve worn a custom-made bracelet on my wrist that reads “What Would Kobe Do?” My first real basketball shoes were the white Kobe IV’s that I wore until my foot would touch the floor through the hole in the bottom. For years, I made it a point to be the last person to leave the court because the shots I took while people were resting meant I was out-working them. I challenged anyone better than me to one-on-ones after games because I wanted to figure out weaknesses for the next game. Kobe has been one of my great sports role models. He’s shaped my approach towards challenges both on and off the court. Even still, it feels like I took him for granted. 


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May 2012


Some people are asking why? Why is there so much mourning over just a basketball player? I think part of why it’s so crushing is that, more than anyone in the NBA, people were most excited for the next chapter of Kobe’s life. Kobe’s post retirement saw him as an Oscar-winner, a coach, a philosopher and a mentor to the young superstars of the NBA. Kobe’s nod of approval is what the young bucks looked for. He became a statesman and a patriarch, not just for basketball but for all realms of life. Calling Kobe Bryant just a basketball player is like calling Bruce Lee just a kung-fu movie actor. 

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Mamba Mentality
For so many, the connection with Kobe goes so much deeper than basketball. For anyone feeling helpless on or off the court, the Mamba Mentality instilled a great power. You could be a killer, a warrior, a winner through sheer force of will. You see, Kobe wasn’t the most gifted or talented. He didn’t have the build like Jordan or Lebron. He didn’t have the giant hands or the indestructibility. He just worked harder than anyone in the league.

There are legendary stories of Kobe practicing for hours before teammates even get into the gym.

Then, just as many stories of Kobe playing through injuries because an ailing body could not get in the way of a man and his mission.

Then there are just legendary Kobe-isms:

The Matt Barnes inbound play.

“Job’s Not Finished” press conference.

Kobe and Chris Rock

The Kobe System

For scrubs on and off the court (like myself), Kobe’s career was a portrait of something truly special. It was special but attainable, because to be a Mamba was a mindset, not a set of God-given tools.

As I wade in the collective sadness, it kind of feels like Kobe is inspiring the masses towards something else. Maybe it has to do with the tragic nature of the crash and the fact that Gianna was involved, but it feels like Kobe’s teaching us to be better fathers, to do more to elevate women. Elle Duncan shared a beautiful story about Kobe that seems to be resonating deeply with people, including myself as a recently christened girldad. While he always supported women athletes, it seems that his role as a father, not a player, is making the biggest impact. 

It used to be, when I thought about Shelby grown up, I felt a sense of loss, because I can’t transfer my love of sports, camping, and violence to a daughter. Now, I’m convinced that it’s even more essential to instill that strength and confidence in Shelby. It’s what Kobe would do. It’s what he did with Gianna and all the girls.

There are a lot of things that I can say about Kobe Bryant. His impact on my life is dawning on me more and more as the world mourns together. I could talk about my approach towards basketball, my bastardized version of the elbow fadeaway, how I pin an opponents hand against their hip. I could talk about staying at the park late and shooting jumpshots in the dark.

But as I think about his legacy, I wonder if the best I can do is to make sure he impacts what he cared about most: family. Maybe the best I can do is to make sure Kobe leaves a mark, not just on my game, but on my daughter. As I’ve been wearing my “What Would Kobe Do?” bracelet in the past few days, it feels like it’s taken on a different meaning. Sometimes, I look at it when I hear Shelby cry and I decide to run over instead of waiting for Stephy to handle it. Sometimes, I look at it when I’m dying inside at work and I think about what my job means for my family. Other times, I look at it and it makes me think about a brighter future with better GirlDads and more representation and compensation for women. I think about a world filled with more people like Gianna and Kobe Bryant in this world.


How I’m Doing

You may have noticed that I’ve been blogging more lately. This is mostly because we’ve organically settled into a rhythm where I take the first night shift. Stephy tries to sleep at around 10pm after the baby is fed and changed. Then, I usually I wind down and write until the baby wakes at around 1AM to impatiently demandsfood. After feeding and changing, I sleep too. Stephy takes care of things in the awful hours of night until around seven or so. Then, I take over so she can get some rest before I head to work.

Close Call: This child just peed AND pooped moments after I swapped diapers.

This irregular schedule has given me lots of time to compile goofy lists and think about things. It’s also given me more time to work on the novel (coming up on 50k words). I’ve been stuck plot-wise for a few weeks now, but steadily grinding on the passages that I know will happen. It seems to be moving away from detective novel into thriller territory. This is fine with me.

Anyway, one thing that I haven’t really written about is my current stage of life. This makes sense because it’s in flux. Not only am I trying to figure out what is happening, I’m also trying to figure out how I feel about it.

The first thing I want to communicate is that I miss ministry. I miss pouring my time and energy into the service of people, their understanding of God and His role in their lives. I loved every minute of study, preparation, even all the cleaning up. Most of all, I miss the kids. The role I was allowed to play in their lives was one that I never took for granted and the void left from stepping down from that responsibility has been the hardest part of this process.

It’s weird to go from having an important role in so many lives to kinda not. The past few months of “secular” work has been a mixed bag. I manage teachers, prepare curriculum, and help students apply to schools. For the most part, I’m not doing the things I’m best at. The work can be challenging and interesting at times, but there are always the parts of it that reek of the mundane. I think often about Jesus making tables or Paul and his tents. I wonder how they did it when they knew that the fields were ripe with harvest.

On the flipside, I have been able to commit more of my time and energy into my little burgeoning family. You see, for the past few years, I have to admit that there’s been a tension. When I was in ministry and with family (even pre-baby), I had to make compromises. It was hard to go full speed into ministry because I had new financial obligations, a wife to be present for, and a new set of affairs to be concerned about (1 Corinthians 8:33-34). Paul describes the married man as a man whose interests are divided, and that was an apt description for me. At the same time, it was hard to be fully present for my family. I had to give up most evenings and weekends, I missed birthdays and anniversaries.

More importantly, my attention would be divided. I took a look at my inbox today, and for the month of January, I have (as of writing this on January 21st) less than five emails in my primary inbox. As a minister, I’d routinely have hundreds of emails, let alone calls and messages. These were not nuisances, but they could be taxing. While a big part of me desperately wants to get back to doing the work of ministry, I can feel how this time has given me rest and an ability to focus on my family.

It was important to me to be there for Stephy and the wee baby Shelby, and although I’m occasionally too immersed in a TV show, I like to think that I’ve been a good father so far. I didn’t want Stephy to ever feel like there was something competing for my attention and affection and I didn’t want to feel like I had to choose. 

I feel like it sounds like I’m complaining. I don’t mean for it to sound that way. I just wanted to say that it’s been hard. I miss the youth, and I worry that every day I’m spending apart from them in this season is another step towards a day where they no longer see me as someone they can go to for help. I worry all the time that the day has already passed. 

But if you’ll indulge me for a moment, I’d like to share a little bit about what I’ve gained. First, you have to understand that for me, home was an unstable thing growing up. For parts of my life, my church family was the most nurturing family I had. I could count on those people to love and accept me. It’s why I committed my life to building the church. Growing up, I always had this home away from home. But now, I have a home at home.

I don’t know exactly how to express what it feels like to come home from work every day to my family waiting for me. Every morning, I don my necktie, brew my coffee in my travel mug, pack my lunch and mosey on over to the same office in a lifestyle that would make 20 year old Sunroot cry (I still want to cry sometimes). But then, I speed through regions of Irvine and Tustin to get home to these two women that I would do anything for. I come home to my family. After I park the car, I look up and see the lights on through the windows and my heart swells with a weird sensation. For the first time in my life, I feel completely at home.

At the end of the day, yes, of course I want to get back into ministry. A few times a week, I’m looking for jobs at non-profits where I can serve again. My thoughts and feelings are still jumbled. I’m still figuring it all out and I’m trying to know the right thing to do is. But as I write this on my laptop in the dark, my wife and my daughter are sleeping peacefully next to me and I know, without guilt or shame, that I’m doing my best to give my best to them. And that thought helps me sleep peacefully too.

The Return of McGregor: Why You Don’t Need To Be Perfect To Be King

I’m a casual UFC fan at best. I mostly watch boxing now. This is probably due to the fact that I saw my UFC hero Anderson Silva shatter his leg against the shin of Chris Weidman in UFC 168. I watched a living legend turn his leg into a snap bracelet, so you’ll forgive me if my appetite for that shade of combat sports is diminished. I popped back in when McGregor and Rousey were in their heyday (I even watched the Ultimate Fighter 17), and that’s why I couldn’t ignore the allure of the Notorious One returning. I’ve even followed his Instagram in the past few weeks to watch his training sessions (while enduring his incessant whiskey ads). I was excited for his comeback and I figured that this was as good a time as any to get back into it.

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My favorite posts were of Conor and his son, Conor Jr.

This Saturday night, I watched the bulk of UFC 246 on my phone via sketchy streaming sites where the video would pause and restart every half minute or so. Fights played on while I went through my nightly chores: wash the dishes, sterilize the baby bottles, refill the formula maker and bottle warmer, top off the water boiler and coffee maker. Around the time I finished up, the main promos were starting. I sat down, pulled up the bootleg feed on my laptop and got ready to watch McGregor return to the Octagon after 15 long months.

Then, as McGregor strut out to the ring, my feed died. My internet was fine, but someone told the pirate-fighting powers-that-be and my feed when kaput. A minute later, I was able to refresh and video finally came back. Except now, Conor McGregor was sitting on top of the Octagon with the flag of Ireland draped across his shoulders. The fight was over.

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McGregor, visibly emotional after his win over Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone

I just missed the details of it. A couple of seconds later, I watched it on the replays and the details began to emerge. Conor McGregor broke Cowboy’s nose and cut him above the eye with his shoulder. You read that right, his shoulder. In an early clinch, McGregor whipped his shoulder around so fast and so hard that he broke the UFC legend’s nose and opened up his eye. Then McGregor quickly finished off the fight with a leg kick to the head and a flurry of punches on a dazed Cerrone. What a way to win a fight. What a way to make a comeback.

I could only laugh. It was Jose Aldo all over again. Two years ago, Conor McGregor caught lightning in a bottle and won a fight in speedy spectacular fashion. Then on Saturday night, he did it again.  Admittedly, “Cowboy” Cerrone isn’t on the same level of competition as Jose Aldo, but you can argue that the stakes were just as high, even without a belt on the line. McGregor has a lot to prove if he wants to stay on top of the UFC and potentially tens of millions of dollars in career earnings hinged upon this fight.

My thoughts after the bout were the same after the Jose Aldo fight. “That was very impressive, but I don’t know what it means.” The unusual nature of the fight leaves my questions about McGregor unanswered. Is his conditioning enough to go the distance? Can he hold his own if he has to grapple at an elite level? Can he beat Khabib?

McGregor landing a clean shot against Jose Aldo in a historically short (13 second) title fight for UFC

As I started to run through the scenarios in my head, I realized that this is the appeal of McGregor. I remembered why I loved watching him fight. First, he is an incredible fighter. His striking is elite and thrilling to watch. Every now and then, you can see flashes of Jeet Kune Do and the Karate stance is a nice break from the Muay Thai/MMA style.

His skill isn’t unusual, lots of fighters are great. What sets McGregor apart is the feeling that he’s getting so big, he’ll pop. His hubris sets him up for a mighty fall and everyone in their schadenfreude wants to witness a mighty fall. McGregor takes a page out of the Floyd Mayweather Jr. playbook and builds up a persona that you either want to cheer for, or jeer against. Either way, no one is ambivalent about him. Mayweather Jr. built a career around building haters, but never losing. He made over a billion dollars in his career by walking the tight-rope of an ego-maniac that backed it up.

The difference here is that McGregor has some losses on his record but you somehow don’t care. You’re just glad he’s back in the mix. McGregor has accomplished much of what Mayweather Jr. has for marketability and he’s done it without the perfect record. But I suspect that in order to continue generating interest, he can’t rack up losses against sub-elite opponents. Two things sell an MMA Pay-Per-View: A loaded card, and a big star. This card was anything but loaded (although Maycee Barber showed an insane amount of heart against Roxanne Modafferi in the prelims by fighting on a torn ACL). The draw here was the star: Conor, the Notorious One.

Saturday was just a reminder of the power of a star. It’s rare that a non-title fight gets the Pay-Per-View treatment, and McGregor already has been the headliner for 5 out of the top 6 Pay-Per-View UFC fights of all time. Time will tell for the numbers on this past fight, but I suspect it was no slouch either. Dana White estimates over a million (which would make it top 15 all time)

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All-time top Pay-Per-View buys for the UFC

Personally, I like seeing McGregor succeed. “A rising tide lifts all boats,” is an adage that I think can be applied here for all of combat sports (yes, including boxing). I want to see him fight Khabib again. I want to see him fight Masvidal as a welterweight. I want to see a McGregor v. Diaz 10. Conor, he’s not a perfect fighter. He’s not like Floyd. But this weekend should be proof that he doesn’t need to be. He’s thrilling to watch, win, lose or draw.

Kyle Lowry: My Hero

Yeah, I know. They lost.

But there’s something that must be said about warriors. Homage must be paid to those courageous enough to fight. Kyle Lowry is coming off one of his worst shooting post-seasons of his career. He’s putting up terrible numbers after injuring his elbow in January and draining it in March. He was 0-5 from 3-point range before hitting this legendary* shot.

I add an asterisk because it would have been legendary if the Raptors ended up pulling off the victory. Because of the loss, his shooting woes are still the top story attached to his name. The story isn’t this amazing shot. It’s not the fact that he was willing to put the game on his shoulders, taking a shot that every statistician would have expected him to miss. He had nothing going for him but the will to win. So he put it on his back. That’s what a warrior does.

‘I would go 0-30 before I would go 0-9. 0-9 means you beat yourself, you psyched yourself out of the game… The only reason is because you’ve just now lost confidence in yourself.’ – Kobe Bryant

I’m by no means a Raptor fan. Drake is being a ridiculous clown on the sidelines and dropping purple from the uniforms was a mistake. But I admire the fight in guys like Kyle Lowry and I want them to be rewarded for inspiring belief in the rest of us. How can I not love a man who does this?

Reports say that he was in the gym until 1AM. Putting up shots by himself, no staff, getting his own rebounds until 1AM after a playoff game that went into overtime where he played almost 43 minutes. This is a man who takes responsibility for the wins and losses of his team, a man who understands his role as a leader of a group and puts the weight of these playoffs on his shoulders. How do I not root for this man?

They may not win, D-Wade is a hero too. And don’t get me started on the courage of Chris Bosh to get back on the court. But for the next few games, I’m taping a 7 on my chest and rooting for Kyle Lowry. His shot might not fall, but I know he won’t let me down.

One Month In

For those who don’t know about my home life, I can often be weird and obsessive. I will find a topic that interests me and I’ll binge watch/read/research. I’ve been slowly weaning myself off of detective novels (Chandler > Hammett, btw) and Humphrey Bogart movies and moving onto Japanese directors. It started mostly with Kurosawa, but I’ll be checking out some Ozu, Kinoshita, Mizoguchi and I want to include Chinese(ish) directors like Kar Wai, Chen and Woo.


I make lists like this.

Yesterday, I watched a gritty YouTube version of Hard Boiled (1992) where Tony Leung plays an undercover cop posing as an underworld strong-arm. Similar to Leo in Departed (2006), Leung has a scene where he discusses the stresses of being two people. In a way, the scene echoes a lingering feeling that I’ve had for this first month of full-time ministry. I have this sneaking suspicion that one of these days, I’ll be discovered. People will find out that I’d rather go to a Kid Cudi concert than a Hillsong one (actual situation this February), I’d rather read Murakami than C.S. Lewis, I listen to more Bill Simmons than John Piper (RIP Grantland). Parents will discover my tattoos and hide their children. A copy of my school transcript will leak, and the collective gasp will be heard all through Orange County.



Now that I’m full-time it feels different. Perhaps the days are gone when I could karaoke IDFWU, enjoy moonlight cigars, or sneak off during a church camping trip to sleep alone by the beach. It feels like I have to step up and into the shoes of the men I’ve known who’ve held this position, none of whom enjoy BIg Sean. I’m not wired like the pastors I’ve known, and I’m still figuring out if that’s ok. There’s a fear that if people found out who I really am, they’d be disappointed, like “bruh, this dude isn’t even that holy, though.” It’s not just people’s view of me, but the idea that a weight of responsibility weighs on my unholy shoulders, not just part-time, but full-time is a scary thought.

I think I’m coming to grips with it.  I could write a long spiel on how I know that it’s God doing the work (thankfully), but today, I’m thinking about the rest of the squad. My comfort is that the fruit of my ministry isn’t based on me. Since I’ve arrived, I’ve had the privilege of laboring beside a great team of passionate, dedicated people; something I’ve found to exist in every church in every corner of the world. But even if I didn’t have these great folks, I know that I’m not, and won’t be, the focal point. I’m starting to think that this is the whole point. Maybe I’m just the inadequate guy who steps aside to make room for others.

My philosophy of ministry, a.k.a. modus operandi, a.k.a. weapon of choice has always been delegation (not because I’m lazy!) and creating opportunities for other talented, gifted people to do what they do. I don’t mind being someone who just gets out of the way.

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This year, if you take a look at the two powerhouse teams in the NBA, you see two very different narratives. In the West you have the Golden State Warriors, coached by Luke Walton while Steve Kerr recovered from back surgery. In the East, the Cleveland Cavaliers were coached by David Blatt until he was unceremoniously replaced by the guy Allen Iverson stepped over. People attribute Walton’s success in Golden State to the same quality that made him a great Laker; sitting quietly on the bench while the superstars win the game. On the flip side, Blatt was known to tout his own laurels from the Euroleague (LOL) and instill confidence in his coaching through extolling his own success and expertise.

I don’t mind being a Luke Walton (for one, he is very handsome in this photo). Let the kids be the Kobes and Currys. I mean, it’s clear that a lot of the teenagers I’ve met so far are better people than me. So I’m going to do what I can to let them shine as brightly as possible. When the time comes, I’ll protect them from the people who would try to dim that light but mostly, I’ll just get out of the way.

I don’t know what this means for my off the field antics, i.e. my love for Kanye West, Montecristos, tattoos, etc. I think it means that I must not become a stumbling block for these kids. I don’t think I have to stop being myself, but I’d be naive to think that I wouldn’t have to sacrifice in order to improve as a person. If that means giving up any and all of my preferences, I will. Just…can I listen to Waves, first?

In Search of Good Fighters

No one’s asked me what I think about Rousey/Holm, but no one asks me about a lot of things. Here are my reactions.


In Search Of Good Fighters
This Saturday, through a glass wall at Z-One diner on Staten Island, I watched the highlights to UFC 193. In the corner of my eye, I see Ronda Rousey get knocked out and Holly Holm raise her hands as they strap on the belt. Holly Holm, the winner and new women’s bantamweight champion.

My Brain
Before the memes emerged and the ridicule ensued, it’s important to understand how big a shock this was to the fans. Holm was at least a 10-1 underdog (a betting line that Holm’s team capitalized on) and Rousey has absolutely dominated her competition for the past three and a half years as champion. I mean, before this fight, only one of her bouts went past the first round. During this reign of dominance, Rousey has become UFC’s most marketable fighter and the face of the sport.

What we forgot is that Holly Holm is a 16-time World Champion boxer in 3 weight classes. She may not be as dominant as Rousey has been in MMA (with many of her fights going to scorecards), but she is a proven stand-up boxer with KO power and a three inch reach advantage. As we saw on Saturday, this is a very dangerous combination.

My Heart
I’m happy for Holm, but I’m disappointed by the loss. Ever since binge-watching Ultimate Fighter: Rousey vs. Tate, I’ve been a big Rousey fan. Throughout the show, I saw Rousey put her best fighters against Tate’s best fighters. Best vs. Best, head to head. Tate was more calculated, pitting her best against Rousey’s worst, or taking advantage of injuries on Team Rousey’s side. Rousey’s wasn’t a winning strategy, but what I saw was the competitive fire of a fighter. She looks the opponent in the eye and she aims to take them down. She’s a killer.

She’s criticized for her confidence (read: arrogance), but I think she’s cut from the same cloth that makes me love the Kobe’s and Russell Westbrooks of the world (I mean, look at her walkout). She’s here to kill or be killed, and that abrasive personality combined with her Olympic pedigree makes her the UFC’s flagship fighter.

People will talk about how Rousey got distracted by the fame. She was posing for magazines and making movies, but what I see in the ring is a fighter. She went toe to toe with Bethe Correia, a proven striker, and knocked her out. Then she tried to outbox a boxer in Holly Holm. It didn’t pay off, but you have to admit, she has the mentality of our favorite athletes. She is the one who tries to dunk on the biggest guy on the court, fight the baddest dude in the yard, take on the biggest challenge available.

This loss was ugly, and what comes next will define Rousey’s career. Rousey has been fearless, but until now, she hasn’t been given reason to fear and a brutal knockout can change a fighter’s mentality. She will either be a fraud, having taken advantage of weak competition in the early stages of a fledgling sport, or she will live up to her title as champion and prove her character, belt or no-belt. I hope she comes back swinging; win, lose or draw, come back swinging, kicking and clawing, On her next trip down to the octagon, I hope we see in her eyes what we have always seen, the indomitable will of a fighter.

TBE: Will Floyd’s Retirement Save Boxing and Doom Boxers?


May 2nd

     Do you remember where you were on May 2nd? I was in Philadelphia, standing awkwardly in the apartment of an MMA trainer and his friends, of whom I was not one. After running around the city desperately, attempting to bribe waitresses and altogether failing miserably, we finally found a place to watch the fight. Five years too late, Floyd Mayweather Jr. fought Manny Pacquiao in front of a sold-out MGM Grand arena and a record shattering millions of viewers on Pay-Per-View.

     To the general public, this fight was a colossal flop. It seemed like the public paid Floyd over a quarter-billion dollars to make fools out of them and a certain Filipino south-paw. But that may be because for most of the world, it was their first time watching Floyd. For those familiar, we saw Floyd do what he always did; box We saw a defensive genius put on a clinic for one of the highest-paced, creative punchers in history. 


Had to resist posting memes about Floyd running away.

    The only problem, this wasn’t the fight people wanted to see. People want to see hard punching blood-baths, like they see in Rocky movies. Floyd was instantly villified as a coward. Defense and winning on the scorecards isn’t the way boxing should be. America punished him by not watching his last fight against Andre Berto, restricting his purse to a lowly eight figures and keeping his career earnings short of the billion dollar mark. Womp Womp.

     In one year, the world saw two of Floyd’s biggest criticisms, his style and his choice in opponents. Now that boxing is heading into a post-Floyd era, how will it respond?

Boxing Without Floyd


     Floyd’s departure creates a vacuum and the question rises, who will be the next big fighter? Will Manny make a return to the top after rehabbing his “injured” shoulder? What about Danny ‘Swift’ Garcia, undefeated six-toed welterweight from Philly? Adrien Broner, successor to Floyd’s most-hated-boxer title? What about Deontay Wilder, the first American heavy weight in a long time? (The answer to all of those is no. Danny cherry picks opponents. AB isn’t actually good enough. Deontay will never beat Klitschko).


Those gloves and shorts were white when the fight began.

     The darling of the boxing world is the same fighter I’m going to watch this weekend: Gennady Gennadyevich Golovkin. Triple G is a hard punching Kazakh middleweight with the disposition that the public is looking for, he’s a fighter. He’s here to put on a “big drama show,” and he continually reminds us that he is not here to dance, he is not here to play a game, but he’s here to fight. And the stats back it up. He has a knockout percentage of 90.9%, the highest in the history of his weight division, KO-ing 30 of his 33 professional opponents.

     This weekend GGG fights David Lemieux, another hard puncher with a KO percentage of 89%. The fight is sure to be an exciting one and universally predicted to be a short one, ending with one of these men on the floor.


     Premier Boxing Championship is promoter Al Haymon’s Quixotic attempt to bring boxing back into the forefront of network television and the public eye. PBC is trying to circumvent the political nature of setting up fights by having a stronger political party internally. Having enough good fighters under Haymon and PBC means that the world gets a steady stream of quality competition and good fights.

    In addition, one of Floyd’s old nemeses, Oscar De la Hoya, founder of Golden Boy promotions, has also taken on a policy of putting together the best fights with the best fighters. De la Hoya believes that taking on the most exciting fight should also be the most professionally beneficial. His idea is simple: the best fighters should fight the best fighters.

    I’ve been the beneficiary of many such great fights this year. Not the least of which was Matthysse v. Provodnikov, a veritable war between two warriors. So what’s the problem with that? What’s wrong with more exciting fight styles? What’s wrong with more exciting match-ups? Well, nothing… if you’re the fan, or the press, or the promoters.

So what?

    It does, however, take it’s toll on the fighters. In a way, this attitude preys on the inherent machismo of fighters and uses them to create the most glorious spectacles. After his loss to Matthysse, Provodnikov instagrammed a photo of his urine, which was almost black with blood. In Matthysse’s most recent loss to Viktor Postol, he quit after being temporarily blinded. Gabriel Rosado, pictured above with GGG lost that fight due to a broken orbital bone and a lacerated pupil. All three of the fighters mentioned above (Matthysse, Provodnikov, Rosado) entered into great fights and fought with great courage, but their health is jeopardized with injuries and their careers will suffer due to the losses.


That’s not Coca Cola in that cup.

Fighting is dangerous, and there is something glorious about marching into war without consideration of the consequences. It’s glorious to wage war, to stand and to fight, to exchange fists until one man’s will bends. This is the nature of fighting; as well it should be. I wouldn’t have it any other way, and yet Floyd showed us that it could be done differently.

You may call him selfish, vain, arrogant or a number of things, but by fighting his defensive style, by building his undefeated win streak, he drew record purses and amassed one of the greatest fortunes that an athlete has ever seen. Floyd did what was best for himself, and in doing so, he protected his face, his mind, and his wallet. He also inadvertently paved the way for other fighters to try to do the same. Why should a fighter have to retire in poverty, or live the rest of his life with debilitating injuries? Why should a fighter have to be pummeled in order to prove himself? Is there still honor in being used by unappreciative masses for a short time then tossed aside?

Concluding Thoughts

    I think that boxing’s attitude’s will shift; they always have. And these questions are not unique to combat sports. You could easily ask these questions about football players, who get even less recognition and compensation. How much can we ask for from our gladiators? And what can we give them to make it worth their sacrifice?

     My gut instincts are no good. I want it all from our warriors. I want them to lay it all out, on the field or in the ring. I want them to fight through injuries and absorb great costs for honor and competition. I want these things because they move me, inspire me, humble me.

    I love Floyd Mayweather Jr. as a boxer, but I’m also glad that boxing is moving in a different direction. Democratization with PBC fights. Better competition with guys like Oscar De la Hoya leading the charge. Champions like Golovkin that kill or be killed. I don’t want them to hold back and I can’t make it up to them for what they give to us fans. What I will do is watch. Maybe the best I can do to honor them is bear witness to them, share those brief fleeting moments where they do what makes them great.

The NFL: For Love of the Game

For about 10 minutes today, I watched football. On a pirate website, with spotty church WiFi, I watched Tom Brady do what Tom Brady does. The sound was muted, no captions and for the first time since the start of the season, I watched a game played by professionals who train and sacrifice to be the best in the world at what they do.


In the grand scheme of things, domestic violence is unacceptable, corporal punishment—reprehensible. Next to real life issues, this game that I love is just a game. But for a few moments today, while sitting on the carpet of the lobby in QTEC, I was reminded of what this game is supposed to be. It’s supposed to show us courage, like when Brady runs ahead to block for Shane Vereen. The game is supposed to show us perseverance after dropped passes, missed tackles and interceptions. It’s supposed to give us a common language and let us be a part of something bigger than ourselves.

San Francisco 49ers v Arizona Cardinals

This game is a game meant to be shared by sons and fathers. It’s meant to be something that unites a family under a shared passion or a shared hatred for a division rival. The game is meant to have us shout in unison—the joy of a first down, the despair of a late pick six.

The issues are important, and football is just a game, but the NFL isn’t just be a business, a multi-billion dollar industry. It’s a spectacle we share with our families in the stands, at the tailgate or on a couch. The sport has power. There is something special in the way a community can rally behind a team. Sports can lift a city’s spirits when it’s been ravaged by a horrible hurricane…
Super Bowl XLIV

a violation of public safety…

or an act of terrorism.

Sports can let us know that it’s okay to keep living when everything in you tells you that you can’t. That’s why we hold it to such high standards. That’s why we want it’s players to be our role models. It’s because so many times, they can embody the breadth of human emotion, failure and triumph that we experience. Let’s push to use sports as a platform for awareness and social change, but let’s not fail to delight in it. Let’s never let a few individuals rob us of whatever magic it is that will have us high five strangers in the bleachers, strike up conversations in elevators, shout until our voices give out. Let us not lose our love of the game.

How TMZ Changed the Role of Sports in American Culture.


The NFL is being asked to do more than just wear pink for a month.

For those of you who haven’t heard about Ray Rice, this is the skinny:
FEB-MARCH – Ray Rice, a talented running back for the Baltimore Ravens, was tried earlier this year for domestic violence charges against his then-fiancee, now wife. There was surveillance footage at Revel, a (now-closed) casino in Atlantic City, from a hallway where Rice is shown dragging his unconscious fiancee out of an elevator.
JULY – The NFL suspends Rice for two games. The NFL is widely criticized, particularly because other drug-related suspensions (Josh Gordon) were far heavier.
AUGUST – Roger Goodell, NFL commissioner, admits that a mistake was made when deciding on Rice’s punishment. The NFL instates a policy that will have players facing a 6-month suspension for a first domestic violence offense, then a potential lifetime ban following that one.
SEPTEMBER 8 – Footage from INSIDE the elevator at Revel is released by TMZ. Ray Rice is shown punching Janay Palmer, his then-fiancee and knocking her unconscious. The Ravens cut Rice from the team. The NFL suspends him indefinitely.

There are plenty of developments for this story, including new revelations about if/when the NFL knew about the video. If there is evidence of a cover-up, Roger Goodell, arguably the most important man in North-American sports, could lose his job. All of this because of how a domestic violence case was handled.

What I discovered this week while listening to the endless rants of talking heads, was that the role of the NFL is different than what it used to be. The biggest controversies of the NFL in recent years have revolved around concussions, amount of games, and guaranteed contracts. These are all player matters. What I see with this Ray Rice case is that people are clamoring for the NFL to set the tone for the country in matters that revolve around more than just player safety and concerns. The people want the NFL to make a statement about domestic violence for the whole country.

The role of athletes and sports is evolving as media, and particularly sports media begins to increase in it’s grip on the 24-hour news cycle. The NFL is not just called to make examples out of players that make late-hits or use PEDs. Examples need to be made regarding off-the-field conduct including recreational drug use, driving drunk and domestic violence. The NFL is asked to not be a thermometer of public interest and outcry, but held accountable to it’s role as a thermostat, setting the tone for what is acceptable not just in player life, but life for all people in this country. The NFL is a behemoth, pulling in billions per year in revenue and dominating TV spot it chooses to be in. Now it’s being asked to use that influence for more than itself.