Friday, December 12, 2008
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...
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
These ten great MMA matches are right off the top of my head...hardly written in stone. I’ll stick with the two heavyweights of MMA productions: The UFC and the late, great Pride FC. I’ve seen so many great fights over the years, it was very difficult to whittle them down 10, let alone in order, so I’ll just spit out my ten random picks, in no particular order at all.
1) Phil Baroni vs. Ikuhisa “The Punk Minowa” 1 in Pride FC, 2005
I swear this thing looked just like Rocky 1, except that Minowa is no Apollo Creed. After Round One, which included some takedowns by both fighters, both decided to just stand and duke it out. In Round Two, they stood in the pocket and traded bombs (most of which connected). They both forgot about leg kicks.
Baroni and Minowa were on a mission. Nearly every punch landed. The normally subdued Japanese crowd was going nuts! The last 30 seconds saw both fighters on spaghetti legs, but they were still trading bombs like Popeye and Bluto.
Finally, midway through Round Two, Baroni landed a weary left-right combo that put Minowa down for keeps.
2) Antonio “Minotauro” Nogueira vs. Mirko Cro cop Filipovic in Pride FC, 2003
It was a match made in Heaven—an undefeated stand-up striker versus a grappling submission specialist. In Round One, Big Nog had a lot of trouble with Cro Cop’s lightening fast sprawl. And Cro Cop found out early that his vicious left leg kicks weren’t stopping a determained Nog from moving forward.
When Nog started getting takedowns, he found Cro Cop’s submission defense surprisingly competent. Big Nog never stopped trying though, and he finally arm-barred Cro Cop early in the Round Two. (It was to be Cro Cop’s first loss).
3) Royce Gracie vs. Dan Severn in UFC IV, 1994
Yes, to the untrained eye, a snooze-fest...but riveting to anyone with ground-attack knowledge. Gracie was undefeated and winner of UFC I and II (He was unable to continue in the UFC III tournament after defeating Kimo Leopoldo).
A much decorated wrestler, Dan Severn, breezed through his first two opponents. Gracie was extended to over four-minutes by a crafty Kenpo specialist, Keith Hackney. Severn outweighed Gracie by 80-pounds.
Within a minute of the opening bell, Severn shot in and took Gracie down (not that Gracie minded). And for 16-minutes Severn lay in Gracie’s guard trying to choke, punch, head-butt, and elbow his tiny opponent, but landing nothing significant. At last Gracie pulled a sneaky triangle choke, and Severn finally tapped.
4) Royce Gracie vs. Kimo Leopoldo in UFC III, 1994
Gracie ducked the punch and they both clinched. Gracie pulled guard, and from then on it was non-stop movement. Gracie got the full mount, but Kimo reversed it. Kimo never stopped trying for the knock out, and Gracie was fighting for his life. Finally, Gracie arm-barred Kimo at the 4:40 mark.
5) Fedor Emelianenko vs. Kazuyuki “Iron Head” Fujita in Pride FC, 2003
This one was supposed to be a no-brainer. What Japanese pro wrestler deserves to be in the same ring with Fedor?
But, at the bell, Fujita stands and trades with Fedor! Then a Fajita left hook puts Fedor on Queer Street! Amazingly, a staggering Fedor didn’t go down and out. Instead, he kept his cool and clinched Fajita up until the cobwebs wore off. He then took down Fajita and tapped him with a clean rear naked choke four-minutes into the Round One.
After the fight, Fedor was still wobbly. Talk about a close call!
6) Takanori Gomi vs. Luiz Azeredo in Pride FC, 2005
Gomi “The Fireball Kid” and Azeredo traded punches from the opening bell like dueling airplane propellers. The action was non-stop, and I don’t recall the referee breaking them once. Then at about the six-minute mark of Round One, Gomi knocked Azeredo out cold with a combination.
As if the fight itself wasn’t exciting enough, after the referee waved Gomi off, he proved himself a classless punk by jumping on his unconscious opponent and he continued striking him while being pulled off by the ref and eventually by both corners.
A mini riot broke out in the ring. And Gomi was still trying desperately to strike Azeredo! Finally, they pulled Gomi out of the ring and calm was restored. Suspiciously, he was not disqualified.
7) Chuck Liddell vs. Alistair Overeem in Pride FC, 2003
How could this fight not be exciting? Not much to say here except that they both delivered. These two strikers were looking to end matters early. Alistair built a comfortable lead with his vicious knee-strikes. Things weren't looking good for Chuck, but he was striking back with bad intentions. Nobody took a break in this nail-biting barn-burner.
Midway through Round One, Chuck caught Overeem along the ropes with punches in bunches. The referee waved Chuck off as Alistair slumped to the canvas.
8) Fedor vs. Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic in Pride FC 2005
This long anticipated matchup was slightly tarnished in that, purportedly, Fedor came into the fight with a broken right hand. But both fighters brought their “A” game.
Fedor was handling Mirko pretty well in stand-up striking, but I couldn’t help but wonder when Cro Cop was going to unleash his cannon of a left high kick. The fans didn’t have to wait long. And when his left kick started landing, Fedor’s body and face began bruising up in a hurry. Yet Fedor displayed better striking. And Cro Cop had no answer to Fedor’s ground came except that he was able to weather Fedor's ground-and-pound storms.
By round 3, Fedor rarely threw his right hand, and I’ve got to wonder what if? Without that busted hand, would the fight have gone the distance? Fedor couldn’t stop a very game Cro Cop, but he did win the decision very convincingly.
9) Frank Shamrock vs. Tito Ortiz in UFC XXII, 1999
It’s the only fight I ever rooted for Frank to win because he’s not quite as classless as Tito. Great action-packed give-and-take fight here. I was getting a bit worried because Tito was slowly pulling away by out-grappling Frank. It seemed to me that Tito had built a comfortable lead going into the Round Four.
Then, in Round Four, Frank surprised Tito with a right hand, and the next thing I know, Frank is standing and punching Tito’s big melon while Tito is turtling up on his hands and knees and tapping! Imagine that? Tito tapping from strikes?
I was quite the happy camper after that one! How fitting was that win after Tito donned that disgusting T-shirt after he defeated Frank’s Lion’s Den stable-mate, Jerry Bohlander?
10) Don Frye vs. Yoshihiro Takayama in Pride FC, 2002
Okay. Look closely at the stare-down. Now tell me Yoshihiro didn’t look like Don Frye’s aunt. And a very ugly woman, I might add.
Nevertheless, he was a Japanese pro wrestler who Don Frye was supposed to dismantle. And he did just that. Only this was no ordinary MMA match. It was more like a hockey fight. And not just any hockey fight. This brawl reminded me of the old Islanders vs. Flyers games/fights when the Islanders were winning all those Stanley Cups.
These two went right hand crazy from the opening bell. They punched like like Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Robots! Takayama’s face soon looked like it greeted an 18-wheeler at 70 mph. And he was hideous to begin with!
After what seemed like an endless exchange, Frye took down Yoshihiro and landed a few more shots shots until the referee stopped it in the first round.
This is a fight that you should YouTube immediately.
These are definitely my Top 10 .... as of today ... as of *right now* today. These may change tomorrow; I'll let you know!
For the last 30-years or so my dreams usually involve having to decide whether to be brave and take a stand, or flee. Sometimes I come close to risking my neck, only to scram at the last second. Other times I'll stand my ground and battle it out. Occasionally, I have to murder a person or two. But I can explain, honest.
I have PTSD accompanied by ESR and unrelated organic major depression. That means If I stopped taking my psych meds, I would turn manic. The major depression thing was a gift from my mother. She was pure Highland Scottish. And and those people have been known to produce their share of fruitloops.
The screwball part of my brain was genetically predisposed. My grandmother was also a nutcase who passed it down the line. Who knows how far back it goes? And I'm not even part German. Those Germans, I don't know ... even their dogs are fucked up.
And my father? Just some Italian guy who was a low/mid level Cosa Nostra banana from Conn. He died of lead poisoning ... from a .22 to the back of his head. According to my data sources, he was just a mean fuck without any diagnosed mental illness. His mean genes didn't infiltrate my DNA.
Anyhow, the dreams. All but one killing was in self defense. In the sole premeditated murder, I choked the guy out until his soul zoomed to the heavens. All because he ratted me out. (That guy actually did rat me out in real life, but I only threatened to kill him). Apparently it worked because he never ratted me out again. The other killings had to happen because those people (often times soldiers) were looking to waste me first.
I average about two-murders a week. There have been months without a single death. Then all of a sudden, I'll mow down 15 or 20 men in a single dream.
Of course, not every altercation ends in death. In fact, most do not. Usually, a few people attack me and I have to punch, choke, or armbar my way out. See? Even in my dreams I try to stay away from fire arms.
We all have our crosses to bear, and I've got the dreams. I got off the hook easy though. I'm really a nice guy in real life. If you don't believe me, ask what I do for a living.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
A long time ago I worked for you at the ceramic store. And now you're dead. So I thought this might be a good time to pen an amusing little true story about boy-meets-girl...in 1973.
Of course not. It's just that due to unusual childhood circumstances, truths could not be revealed to me by traditional means, so I had to turn inward to seek it. Hence the classical music, international film dramas, and constant reading of encyclopedias and classic literature, rather than the standard forms of entertainment other kids my age preferred. All in search of the truth. So by virtue of happenstance, you could say I drew the inside post on premature knowledge.
This, then, is the accurate, sequential story about the long seasons of 1973 and beyond...
"He is not cute!" Yes, the whole setup was steeped in bizarre paradoxes.
So, "Good bye, kid," and she cried, but not too hard.