By In Social Media

The Complexities of Grieving Someone You Didn’t Know

A push alert on my phone on Sunday notified me that Kobe Bryant died. It was morbidly appropriate: an impersonal message meant for countless people, sent directly to me on a personal device telling me that someone I had never met but felt like I knew was gone. I was in a glum funk for the rest of the day.

Basketball was my first athletic love, and it has been my longest. It shaped how I think about life and provided me with a perpetual sense of belonging. My earliest memories were of Michael Jordan, but by then, he was already established and nearing the end of his prime years. Kobe was the player of mygeneration. He wasn’t necessarily my favorite player, but he was one of them, and he defined the era that allowed me to feel like the game was also mine, not a loan or a hand-me-down.

I know that this is an MMA column and that Bryant was a basketball player. Though he was involved in some unique moments of the sport, his connection is larger and more essential…

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By In Social Media

On Fighters as Role Models

A bit from Dave Chappelle’s 2017 standup special “The Age of Spin” came to mind last week. A year before the standup special aired, Manny Pacquiao drew the ire of fans and sponsors alike by saying homosexuals were “worse than animals.” Chappelle called the comments outlandish, but then pointed out that a large part of the Filipino economy was composed of women working abroad and sending money back home. The men left behind, he said, were emasculated.

“And then, suddenly, a boxer rises from amongst them and reinstates their manhood with his motherf—–’ fists,” Chappelle said. “This is not the guy who you’re supposed to ask what he thinks about homosexuals. He’s not your champ.”

The punchline elides the fact that Pacquiao was running for a seat in the senate, so asking him about his stance on gay marriage was appropriate given the context; it’s not like someone randomly asked him in the gym what he thought about gay people after a few rounds of sparring. Yet there is still a resonant truth at the heart of the joke: Some people simply aren’t in a position to be a moral guide or clarifying voice on certain issues. Asking a religiously conservative professional fighter from a developing nation if he thinks gay people should be allowed to live a normal life is about as sensible as asking a mailman how to operate on a malignant tumor or asking a military contractor how to end a war. Nothing in their background allows them to find an answer worth hearing…

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By In Mixed Martial Arts

An Ode to the Undercard

Ever since the first Ultimate Fighting Championship event in 1993, part of the inherent allure of mixed martial arts has been rooting for the underdog. This is not endemic to MMA—it goes back at least a few thousand years to David flinging pebbles at Goliath—but it is built into it in ways that are prevalent. Thanks to Royce Gracie’s scrawny feats of badassery, no other sport is as organically defined by smaller competitors defeating bigger ones.

However, cheering for the underdog is not solely a matter of betting odds, though that is its most obvious manifestation. To my mind, cheering for the underdog means cheering for the fighters of whom less is expected, the fighters who elicit less fanfare and attention in the run-up to the fight. The underdog-house, so to speak, is more commonly known as the undercard. The further down on the card you go, the bigger the underdog.

This expanded definition is not just a result of my affinity for the term “underdog-house,” fun as it is. There is also a demonstrable justification for it. Not only do the low-rung fighters typically make a literal fraction of what the headliners make, but they also get a lot less performance bonus love. For the Average Joes on the rise, that extra $50,000 is both a substantial multiplication of their fight purse and a perpetually unreachable achievement…

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By In Mixed Martial Arts

Low Hopes for McGregor’s Redemption

It wasn’t long ago when the MMA world seemingly hung onto every word flung out of Conor McGregor’s mouth. Witty retorts at press conferences became viral memes, Twitter jabs became top news stories and his wildest ambitions were trash-talked into reality. No one fought like him, no one was paid like him and he made sure everyone knew both of those facts every time he had a mic in his face. The only thing more insatiable than his propensity to talk about himself was the general public’s desire to hear him talk about himself.

McGregor was not the first to drop good one-liners—at pressers or online—and he certainly wasn’t the first to pursue a cross-combat superfight, though admittedly the Randy Couture-James Toney fight is about as comparable as Proper Twelve is to Yamazaki. What made McGregor different, however, was how he transcended the sport. His rise to stardom was a perfect storm of merit and fortune. His run from 2013-16 was sensational, no doubt, but it also occurred while the rest of the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s biggest stars faded rapidly from sight. Ronda Rousey retired ignominiously; Brock Lesnar’s brief return was a forgettable win that became a forgettable no-contest after his post-fight urine melted the test cup; and Jon Jones oscillated between legal trouble, USADA trouble and off-and-on performances in the cage. McGregor was arguably the biggest star in the sport even with those three in the mix, and in their absence, he was undoubtedly the face of MMA to the wider sports-viewing audience.

Yet things started to change after the “Money Fight” with Floyd Mayweather Jr. in August 2017…

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By In Best of year

Quality Reads from 2019

Throughout the year I read a lot of stories online, posting my favorites on Twitter and Facebook at the end of each month (or, more accurately, somewhere between the beginning and middle of the following month).

Here’s a year-end list of my picks, whittled down to the stories that stood out the most.

December
The Decade Comic Book Nerds Became Our Cultural Overlords by Alex Pappademas, GEN
Deep-Sea Mining and the Race to the Bottom of the Ocean by Wil S. Hylton, The Atlantic
Alienated, Alone And Angry: What The Digital Revolution Really Did To Us by Joseph Bernstein, BuzzFeed

November
We Are Living in Hideo Kojima’s Dystopian Nightmare. Can He Save Us? by Gene Park, Washington Post

October
He Never Intended To Become A Political Dissident, But Then He Started Beating Up Tai Chi Masters by Lauren Teixeira, Deadspin
The Glass Floor is Keeping America’s Richest Idiots at the Top by Michael Hobbes, HuffPost
Bong Joon-ho is Weaponizing the Blockbuster by Inkoo Kang, Slate
True Ghost Story by Tim Kreider, Human Parts

September
Donald Trump Is Not Going To Let This Hurricane Thing Go by David Roth, Deadspin
Malcolm Gladwell Reaches His Tipping Point by Andrew Ferguson, The Atlantic

August
The Anthropocene is a Joke by Peter Brannen, The Atlantic
The Adults In The Room by Megan Greenwell, Deadspin
Dear Gun-Rights Advocates: Hey, Congratulations! by Tim Kreider, GEN

July
Manly Wedding Rings for Tough Guys Who are Dudes by Dan Brooks, The Outline
I Was a Fast-Food Worker. Let Me Tell You About Burnout by Emily Guendelsberger, Vox
An Epidemic of Disbelief by Barbara Bradley Hagerty, The Atlantic

June
Why Should Immigrants Respect Our Borders? The West Never Respected Theirs by Suketu Mehta, The New York Times
The Man Who Was Upset by David Roth, The New Republic
Redemption Songs by Krish Raghav, Topic Magazine

May
Teenage Pricks by Alex Pareene, The Baffler
The Night the Lights Went Out by Drew Magary, Deadspin
The Pink by Andrea Long Chu, n+1

April
I Get One Last Lent With My Mami. I’m Using it to Learn Our Family’s Capirotada Recipe by Gustavo Arellano, LA Times
They Don’t Make ‘Em Like They Used To by Albert Burneko, Deadspin
Why We Spend Our Brief Lives Indoors, Alone, and Typing by Tim Kreider, Medium

March
The Making of the Fox News White House by Jane Mayer, The New Yorker
As pigs await slaughter, strangers offer water, love, and comfort to the doomed by Gustavo Arellano, LA Times
After the Tsunami by Matthew Komatsu, Longreads
Psycho Analysis by Andrea Long Chu, Bookforum

February
Student Debt is Dragging a Whole Generation Down by Anne Helen Petersen, Buzzfeed News
What the Crow Knows by Ross Andersen, The Atlantic
The Trauma Floor by Casey Newton, The Verge

January
Impeach Donald Trump by Yoni Appelbaum, The Atlantic
You Can’t Get There From Here by David Roth, Deadspin
The Secrets of Lyndon Johnson’s Archives by Robert Caro, The New Yorker

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