Can you do one or more things better than the vast majority of people?
They say all of us can. That's probably true, but how many of us actually discovered that one thing? I imagine that not everyone has, otherwise we'd all be famous or at least well known for something. I figured out early in life what my one thing is. Unfortunately, it's the stupidest (G-rated) talent in the world.
Why couldn't I be a great artist, or musician, or a great football player? Noooo ... it had to be arm-wrestling, of all things. How ridiculous. What can a guy do with arm-wrestling anyway? And who cares if he's good at it? The President of the United States isn't going invite a great arm-wrestler to the White House. There's no Pulitzer prize for it. Time Magazine isn't going run a cover feature on him. Hell, arm-wrestling isn't even in the Olympics! Canoeing and Figure Skating is. Canoeing and Figure Skating? What-the-fuck? But never mind; that's another story entirely.
Let's see ... I'm 52 now; my arm-wrestling career began at age-11. My stepfather got me started in it. He was a blue-collar construction worker who's worked with his hands all his life. He was strong but a mediocre arm-wrestler; I doubt he won many contests against his workmates.
The very first kid I arm-wrestled was my age and he had 20-pounds on me. I held him to a draw three-times. And that instilled in me the confidence to challenge every kid my size or bigger. Most were willing. I went undefeated until age-14. That opponent was the only person my size to ever beat me twice. He then moved away. Nobody my weight would beat me twice-in-a-row again. (I'd love to hunt that guy down for a rematch now).
On a rough guesstimate, I'd say I've arm-wrestled about 5,000 times, including a couple hundred rematches. And of those 5,000 or so, not a single opponent was lighter than me. In my mind that would have been cheating.
On another guesstimate, I'd say I lost somewhere between 300 and 600 times, and maybe 100-or-so draws. That means my lifetime winning percentage is probably no worse than .800 and maybe as high as .940. Not bad for a small-boned, underweight stick-boy who grew up never to exceed 176-pounds. And that on a hard but average six-foot frame.
I lost most of my matches while between the ages of 20 and 30-years-old. All that booze I was putting down had robbed my body of valuable vitamins and minerals. I had become a full-blown alcoholic. Also, I had no arm-wrestling technique whatsoever. Brute strength and the will to win got me a lot of wins, but determination alone would get me only so far. Plus I lost to or tied the same guy at least thirty consecutive times over the course of about five-years. (Those matches really dipped my overall win-loss record). I weighed between 140 and 150-pounds. He was a six-foot-five, 225-pound bouncer at The Blue Dolphin, one of the local local strip-joints.
Then, one day, I finally beat him. It was my finest victory up to that point. The following year I joined the Army. there, I met a real hodgepodge of strong GI's. Only one guy my weight would defeat me, but I avenged that loss in the rematch. I defeated or drew against the rest. By that time I developed a reputation, and off-base soldiers came to the NCO clubs to take me on for money.
After the Army, I continued to arm-wrestle in bars for bets. At a local college frat bar, I challenged two Monmouth University football linemen. They both went down fast, and they were so amazed that a 160-pound guy could beat them, they wound up buying me beer all night.
By age-35, I improved my cardio by learning the game of tennis. (It turned out that tennis and I were made for each other). And still weighing 160-pounds, I also perfected the ideal arm-wrestling technique for my body type.
Losing just wasn't happening anymore, and I took on all comers, no matter how much they weighed. Then I remembered that old TV program, Wide World of Sports as a kid. Occasionally, they aired the Professional Arm-wrestling Championships. And I had to wonder ... could I hang with the pros? Was I really a "freak of nature", as a guy once called me?
New Jersey isn't exactly a hotbed for pro arm-wrestling, but I put myself on the schedule mailing list... and waited. A few months later I found a flier in my mailbox. There was to be a New Jersey championship double elimination event in South Jersey. And it included a 160-pound weight class. The problem was: I was given only two-weeks notice. Not enough time to prepare, so I went in raw and untrained.
Unfortunately, the event was to be held at 9:00 PM. That meant I'd be drunk by that time. So I recruited my best friend as my impromptu chauffeur/bodyguard.
We arrived at a crowded and noisy nightclub. They were drilling the arm-wrestling table into the floor as we walked in the door.
...to be continued...