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By In basketball, essay

Basketball Taught Me How To Live

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…

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By In essay, Mixed Martial Arts

Joint Resolution

Shortly into his title fight against the most dominant champion in the history of the UFC, Henry Cejudo rolled his ankle. This was not any more helpful than it looks. Cejudo lifted his left leg to step forward but his foot didn’t cooperate, almost as if it were fighting the fact that he was in the cage against a man who had steamrolled him in half a round just two years prior. When he put his weight forward, Cejudo’s toe dragged on the mat. I will confess that I’m not sure what happened for the next 10 seconds or so because I was wincing in vicarious psychosomatic pain. When his ankle contorted the wrong way a second time, both painful experience and the sharp biting sensation in my ankle—a sympathetic pang from a not-dissimilar injury—told me it would be over soon. It had to be.

Ankles are strangely poetic as joints go. Athleticism in any sport that requires bipedalism depends almost entirely upon the flexible capacity of the ankle, without which fast-twitch agility and general explosiveness would be grounded in horizontal limits. Yet the ankle’s astonishing and vital functionality is also its vulnerability. Its ability to grant special, spectacular movement leaves it open to bend grotesquely in any number of opposite directions, to push too far past its natural range of motion. There is a safe sort of comfort in the stillness of a fixed joint. An ankle that’s doing too much is an ankle at risk…

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By In essay, Korea, Mixed Martial Arts

The Main Event

 

Front and center was a cage where men would soon punch each other for money. Seats inside Seoul’s cavernous Olympic Hall wrapped around it on two levels: cageside VIP tables for the type of people who wear suits to a cage fight, and open seating above it for everyone else. Behind the cage was a ramp that led up to a theater stage set up with gear for a rock band. Above, a jumbo screen showed silent highlight videos of older matches on a loop.

A pre-fight promotional video started. Clips of knockouts played as the lights dimmed. Band members crept to their positions through the shadows while the video showed mean-mugging men holding up their fists. The video culminated with resounding, ear-splitting English: “Top FC! Fighting! Champion!”

The screen went blank. A row of mortar-like pyrotechnics shot flames upward from the edge of the stage, and the band started screaming over the sounds of their instruments. They sounded like the kinds of bands most kids listen to in high school but are now embarrassed to think about–except all in Korean.

It was exactly the type of campy, weird high-production values that I wanted, but as the music pierced the on-stage flames and echoed through the auditorium, I didn’t quite feel there. I didn’t quite feel anywhere…”

 

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By In essay

Man’s Best Reflection

“When I first started dating my fiancé, before we had a dog, we discussed this hypothetical: if a dog that belonged to you and a human stranger were hanging in peril, and you only had the time and ability to save one of them, which is more deserving of rescue? At the time, I made a logically-framed argument, maintaining that humanity is fundamentally more valuable than the life of any other animal, that a person is capable of producing so much more good in the world than a dog is, and that the risk of the stranger being a complete monstrosity of a person after being saved from impending death would be minimal compared to the odds that he or she would be a valuable contributor to society. Her rebuttal: just wait until you get a dog.

I waited. We got a dog. She was right.

Not only would I now save my dog without so much as a flinching hesitation, I’d probably save a stranger’s dog before I’d save the stranger. Sure, having a dog of my own has helped change my mind, but there’s more to it than that. An honest inspection of humanity yields a much stronger argument. Dogs are better students of character than humans — they bark at those worth barking at, offer their belly to those deserving of intimacy — which begs the assumption that perhaps they are simply better than people…”

 

Read more at Medium

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By In essay, Mixed Martial Arts

Something in the Water: The Past and Present of Hawaii’s Warrior Spirit

“It’s in the water. It’s in the Hawaiian water.” — former EliteXC champion K.J. Noons
A faint glow pulses in liquid darkness like the first heartbeat in a mother’s womb. Ever rising, it reveals itself to be lava leaking upwards from beneath the Earth’s crust. Its searing heat clashes with water cold enough to freeze if not for its salinity. Solid earth forms and pushes upward. Miles of black, cold ocean weigh on it heavily, but it continues to ascend until it pierces open air.

Solid land stretches out on top of the ocean surface. Powerful waves rear up and sculpt the shoreline. Distinct islands drift away from each other, netting floating debris and hosting seabirds for brief rests along their transcontinental flights. Seeds nestle into the nutrient-rich volcanic soil, sprouting into a diverse, pullulating oasis, more untouched and isolated than anywhere else on the planet. The islands settle into their edges and wait. Seafaring Polynesians arrive, pragmatic with details and romantic with ambition, brave brilliant and foolish enough to voyage into the distant horizon with little more than their knowledge of submarine rivers and extraterrestrial bodies. They bring more animals and plants with them, and a new set of life takes root. They are the first to cultivate civilization from the naked, Edenic land.

Communities across the islands grow into large, independent societies.They remain divided until European explorers drop anchor. Armed with superior technology, a renowned warrior and son of a nobleman conquers and unites the islands. The Kingdom of Hawaiʻi breathes its first breath. Waves of immigration from Europe and America crash ashore, bringing with them a new religion and way of life. The new residents start plantations, businesses that require labor, prompting more immigration from Japan, China and the Philippines.

The Kingdom thrives, so much so that a group of businessmen backed by the United States military lock Queen Liliuʻokalani in her palace and institute their own government. This government, absent any Hawaiians, opts to become a U.S. territory and eventually the 50th state of America. She is the last monarch of her country, unceremoniously under house arrest while her nation slips away into foreign hands.

From Hawaiʻi’s underwater inception to its birth as a modern metropolis, the pacific waters, like an amniotic ocean, carried with them the physical struggle for new life. As that life has been created and recreated over time, the confluence of opposites — darkness and light, hot and cold, ocean and land, native and foreigner, struggle and survival — has defined the Hawaiian identity. Hawaiʻi is and always has been a land of conflict…

 

Read more at Sherdog

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