Kicked in the balls. Blinding pain emanated from my crotch, sending my heartbeat throbbing up into my ears. The crowd’s jeers at my opponent’s blatant foul echoed all around me, and the cute chick in the front row giggled to her boyfriend that it sure looked like it hurt. Although in pain, I was more angry than anything else. The thought of quitting never entered my mind. But just as I was thinking, “What an asshole…” my thoughts were interrupted by something my coach had said to me at an after practice lunch. “In a fi ght, if the guy gets you in the balls, go out there and get him right back!”
My coach was no slime ball – never ripped me off, or killed anyone that I knew of, but for some reason I knew he had it right. It was probably all the throbbing. After careful thought, I signaled the ref that I was ready, touched gloves with the ball-punter, and proceeded to knee him in the balls straightaway. As he crumbled into a heap on the mat, I shrugged my shoulders and let out a loud and hearty laugh that even the cutie in the front row could hear over the chorus of laughter in the small crowded gym. Was it the right thing to do? Probably not. Was it funny? Absolutely. Still, two wrongs don’t make a right, and my mom would have been very disappointed in me. Now that we were on a level playing fi eld, the better man (me) won the fi ght and the tournament, collecting fi ve-hundred bucks, which went to the purchase of food for my malnourished ass.
Fast-forward through my career. The money gets bigger, but the desire to win wanes very little. Sure, now if I lose I can wipe the tears from my eyes with hundred dollar bills, but I’m still crying. No fi ghter worth his salt likes to lose. There gets to be a gray area where a fi ghter wants to do anything short of hiding a screwdriver in his jockstrap to get the victory.
The innate competitiveness that most athletes have is only the tip of the iceberg. If after losing a fi ght I said, “Hey that guy had a roll of quarters in his glove,” even if it was true, it doesn’t matter. Unless the ref pulls the stack of George Washington’s from his hand and it’s broadcast in high defi nition on every big screen in the arena, I just sound like a whiny bitch. He gets away with the whole thing, and I look like a big sissy; not only did I lose, but I cried foul after the fact.
This time, in an anonymous MEGA arena, in a mega city, in front of a mega crowd, in a mega show, for what was then mega money to me. The stakes are much higher, and I had done my best to prepare for this single fi ght, even going so far as to not have a wild sex party the night before the fi ght, in order to improve my focus. After a rough fi rst round, I met in the center for round two and got taken down. No biggie, my guard is good – I thought that maybe I could pull off the submission and get a “Dumbass of the Night” award or something. While locked in my tight guard, I noticed that I was having trouble keeping my opponent’s head down. I practiced shirtless with my training partners, and never had this much trouble keeping a guy from punching me. Was this guy über strong or something? Not exactly.
After a few more stiff elbows to my grillpiece, I felt the familiar slick I would get every day at kickboxing practice on my nose and eyes. My opponent, now up two rounds, was coated in Vaseline! Greasy bastard, I thought. I yelled to the ref, “Hey! He is greased up!” But much like anyone else watching me get pounded, he didn’t give a damn. This was followed by me taking another smash to the face. Yeah, ok for him, but I’m taking a beating over here and can’t hold onto the bastard.
Did I bitch about it afterwards? Nope. Why? What’s the point? Would it put the toothpaste back in the tube? As far as everyone saw, I lost the fi ght fair and square. Would it have made a difference if he weren’t greased up? Maybe, but probably not. He was the better man that night, plain and simple. He bent the rules, he didn’t break them, and when you get away with it, it isn’t called cheating.
Fighting is the root of all sports, and with any sport, all the spectator wants is his team or guy to win. No one likes a loser. Go to an MMA event, large or small, and watch two guys put on a technical match that doesn’t have a ton of excitement and watch how quickly the crowd turns into a Baptist choir of booing and chants of “You suck!” When your livelihood depends on whether your hand is raised at the end of the night, you’ll work the system to achieve that result.
Barry Bonds is catching the most fl ack on earth for allegedly taking steroids. Also on the fans’ most-hated list is home run king of the late 90s Mark McGwire, who admitted taking a hormone that at the time was perfectly legal. Also on the bad list is Flo Jo, who was jamming a syringe in her perfectly shaped booty, and breaking record after record while the international crowd cheered at the top of their lungs. But, “She’s been stripped of her gold medals! She is barred from Olympic competition for the rest of her life!”
Remember the bit I said about wiping your eyes with hundred dollar bills? Well, she is wiping her ass with million dollar checks. Her face on a Wheaties box took her from the hood to the hills, and no matter how sad she is about the fallout, she made her success happen at any cost.
This isn’t limited to the sports world. Everyone cheats. For every highly publicized Enron scandal, countless white-collar crimes slip right by the newspapers. When you own the freaking newspaper, you choose what is printed. The common man doesn’t care about these things. He is more concerned with batting averages, ERAs, and most of all home runs. The minute it comes out that there were questionable training practices, there is an uproar, and the athlete gets crucifi ed for the entire world to see. Meanwhile, the team owner has been evading taxes and robbing babies for their candy while quietly avoiding prosecution. The whole time, he’s poking the overgrown-muscle-boundclub- swinger with a cattle prod, cackling, “More homeruns! More wins! More championships! More money!” Win at any cost. As long as his team is winning, he doesn’t seem to care how it’s happening. Same as his political party, his favorite on American Idol, his daughter’s softball team. Just win.
I read that of a hundred Olympic athletes surveyed, ninety said that if there were a pill that would guarantee them a gold medal, but kill them in ten years, they’d take it. Goddamn! Anything to win! Anything. Keep those pills away from me, even if they don’t have a test for them. I hope I have a life after fi ghting. I only plan on kicking ass till forty or so, even though fi ghters seem to never retire, just take ever-longer breaks. When I pee in the cup, I’m worried that the cold medicine I took yesterday will show up, I’ll get on the bad guy list, and everyone will call me a cheater. Meanwhile, the dude that took the secret Balco blend will pee with the utmost confi dence because the commish doesn’t have the drop on the cheaters, while my boys get shot at in the deserts of Afghanistan and Iraq.
Sure, let’s talk America’s pastime and not America’s underprivileged youth sent to die in other countries. Glad to see we have our priorities straight. Speaking of priorities, I peed clean and won that fi ght, but lucky for me, they didn’t notice the screwdriver in my jockstrap. Hey, I didn’t get caught, so it wasn’t cheating. I won fair and square.