By In basketball, essay

Joint Resolution

It happened again one night when my fiancée and I were walking home from work. One second we were side by side, mid-conversation about our days, and suddenly she was alone in the darkness. I dropped abruptly, as though I’d been hit by a sniper. Andrea took a few steps before noticing I was on the ground behind her. I was holding my right ankle and biting back curses into muffled groans.

It wasn’t my first sprained ankle. The pain was familiar, the procedure instinctive. I untied my shoelaces, then retied them extra tightly to put pressure on the impending swelling. I pushed myself upright and took a few cautious steps, finding the pavement with my heel before rolling the rest of my foot flat to the ground. I limped and hobbled the rest of the walk home. We looked like an elderly couple whose wish to return to their youth had been granted, but were still stuck in the fragile habits of old age.

There was no reason for the accident, and there were no mitigating circumstances. The pavement was smooth—no cracks or uneven surfaces, no loose rocks or tree roots breaking up the concrete. Nor was darkness an issue. Between streetlights, headlights from passing cars, and the insomniac fluorescence beaming out of storefronts, I could see just fine. I have only the boring excuse of physical frailty. I’m 30 years old…

Read more at Human Parts

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By In Mixed Martial Arts

Two Ways To Be Number Two

Memory is seldom kind to second place. Google “second place sayings” and a litany of familiar sentiments emerge. Second is the first loser; no one remembers who came in second; either you’re first or you’re nothing. These are harsh ways to think of those who are better than every single person except for a single person.

The way we think about individual competitions is binary — there is a winner and at least one loser — so we tend to scale up that Boolean framework to encompass an entire field of competitors. It doesn’t matter if winning a silver medal means you beat 100 people. Silver is only as significant as the loss it necessitates. This is compounded in MMA, where number twos abound. Sometimes the number two fighter in the division is actually the number one fighter, but he or she simply hasn’t had the opportunity to prove it yet. Assuming the champion is in fact the ichiban, it’s still not entirely clear how to determine the second best. Is it the loser of the most recent title fight? Depends on who lost and how. While only one person can claim the number one spot in a division — or two if the Ultimate Fighting Championship thinks slapping an event with some interim gold will yield some increased green — any number of fighters, from proven veterans to untested prospects, could make the claim that they are the second best. You’ll be hard-pressed to hear anyone vocalize that, as second is the first loser, after all…

Read more at Sherdog

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By In Mixed Martial Arts

A Zombie Realized

Losses are typically more educational experiences than wins. If you win a fight, it may be because you fought well or because your opponent didn’t, though usually it’s some combination of the two. If you win because you fought well, there isn’t a whole lot to learn from that; it’s just a single display of skills and strategy against a single opponent on a single night. With some obvious exceptions, it’s hard to extrapolate much from that other than “keep doing what you’re doing.” Yet if you lose, even if your opponent excelled, there’s always something to learn, some nugget of insight to apply and improve upon for the next time.

Chan Sung Jung’s win against Renato Carneiro at UFC Fight Night 154 on Saturday in South Carolina was especially unenlightening. He didn’t just win; he won in under a minute, absorbing exactly zero strikes in the process. On top of that, it was only his third fight in the last six years, as he was sidelined with injuries and compulsory military service. In an increasingly competitive 145-pound division, it’s hard to figure out where “The Korean Zombie” fits. Blitzing “Moicano” in 58 seconds, impressive as it was, doesn’t make it any easier to know where he stacks up in the Jenga tower of the featherweight hierarchy. Losses, however, hold more secrets, and Jung’s four big-league Ls say a lot…

Read more at Sherdog

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By In book review

“The Science of Lost Futures” book review

Mark Twain famously wrote that “truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities.” It is as if Ryan Habermeyer, author of the BOA Short Fiction Prize-winning collection of stories The Science of Lost Futures, took this as a personal challenge. Habermeyer does not bother to stick to realistic possibilities, opting instead to stretch our capacity of acceptance.

Part fantasy satire and part sci-fi fairytale, the stories in this collection are, at face value, completely absurd. A giant foot washes ashore near a small town; a woman’s womb falls out of her body and proceeds to flop and squeal around the house; a mother contracts a rare disease that makes her think she’s a snow leopard; a boy adopts a pet Nazi. Twain himself would have to admit that reality can’t compete with such strangeness. Despite the hilarity of the stories, they are not absurd for absurdity’s sake—the outlandish premises provide emotionally subversive juxtapositions…

Read more at Harvard Review Online

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By In Mixed Martial Arts

Farewell to The Bad Guy

It’s a silly human foible to want to reduce everything to its most elemental parts. It’s a product of our innate impatience, inattention and existential self-absorption. We don’t want to trudge through the bogs of caveat-addled nuance — just get to the point, and make sure the point is somehow about me. This is why our primary exposure to complicated issues about immigration, foreign policy and economics is shouty three-minute news panels and why political campaigns are more concerned with aphoristic slogans than actual plans.

In MMA, this inclination has recently emerged as several high-profile fighters have retired. We look for shorthands and summaries to capture the entirety of a career, a decades-long journey of broadcasted wins and losses on fight night, as well as the unseen obstacles and untold trials in gyms and saunas. There was Jimi Manuwa, who took up the sport at 26 and made his pro debut two years later. He started his career undefeated for five years and 14 fights and knocked repeatedly on the door of the sport’s highest prize. He is now simply considered an exciting journeyman action fighter. Likewise, the career of Alexander Gustafsson — a trailblazer for modern European fighters and co-author of some of the most dramatic Ultimate Fighting Championship title fights ever, a man who took the two best light heavyweights of all-time to their absolute limits — is bowdlerized as “always a bridesmaid, never a bride” or “the best fighter that never won a title.”

It’s not that the Cliff’s Notes versions of their careers are inaccurate. Manuwa is, in fact, an exciting action fighter, and Gustafsson very well could be the best fighter to have never won a UFC belt. However, these abbreviated legacy appraisals are incomplete. It’s simply impossible to do justice to a life of fighting in a single sentence…

Read more at Sherdog

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