July, 2019

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 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…

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