Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Groupies that keep you up all night

NBA Draft logo

In the evening of Thursday June 25, 60 young basketball players will be initiated into the highly exclusive basketball fraternity known around the world as the National Basketball Association. Players and their families, friends and business associates will be celebrating.

So will the groupies, hangers on and leeches and whoever is determinted to make a quick buck or 15 minutes of fame off of those potential millionaires.

That's not to say that the players - when many inevitably mess up - will be without blame. In fact, with their impressionability and lack of control, they're ultimately responsible - and even more to blame - for their mistakes than the so-called cash money grubbers out in the market.

Take, for example, Dirk Nowitzki. Even the Great White Hope of our generation couldn't withstand the advances of the even greater Cristal Taylor, she of the fraudulent schemes and 1,001 aliases.

If Dirk Diggler's ultimate professional goal was to have a wildly successful NBA career and eventually win a title, Cristal's was to have a wild time with Dirk and eventually get her hands on some of his riches. If Cristal is indeed pregnant with his kid, as she has insisted, then she would've achieved her objective even better than Dirk has.

(UPDATE: According to prison medical records released to Dirk's attorney, Cristal is not pregnant).

Dirk, in the process, whether it was his intention or not, ended up selling his soul.

Let's not kid ourselves. Groupies and nuthangers are the least of the worries for the newly minted members of the NBA. The real enemy is within, and when the young draftees sign over their rights to an NBA team, what will result for most is a vicious cycle of broken dreams and emptiness.

Groupies : The Least of a Player's Worries
courtesy of Global Sports Fraternity

Basketball being a team game, it takes a much more complex combination of factors coming together to help a player succeed than in an individual sport like boxing. Not only must the player be good himself, but his set of skills must match his teammates' and his coach's system, in order for him to contribute. For that reason, it's infinitely more important in team sports for the franchise to have an unyielding vision of success.

Unfortunately, most NBA teams are mediocre to downright bad. And most young players will be joining these teams.

There's nothing more damaging to a young NBA player's career than being surrounded by coaching and managerial impotence. If a groupie approaches you, you can at least try to resist the temptation. If you manage to make some illegitimate babies, at least you can pay child support with the money you make.

But to an NBA player, his franchise is his life - and a club that can't offer life to its constituents could spell death to the baller's career.

I still follow the NBA Draft, but don't get into it like I used to. The reason is that much of it's ultimately nonsense. What matters in the end is the top-down vision of an owner, not how talented an individual player is.

This has applied and will continue to apply to anyone. Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Tim Duncan, Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant were beneficiaries who sold their souls to the right buyers. Rather than living day-to-day, trying to score big game to secure their next big payday, these icons were provided enough by their clubs so that they could concentrate on becoming champions and ambassadors.

Most others weren't so lucky - and we'll see if fortune follows the talent of precocious youngsters like Blake Griffin, Ricky Rubio and Brandon Jennings.

For their own sake, I hope guys like Griffin, Rubio and Jennings turn out to be like Liu Kang, who was able to team up with two helpful protagonists, Sonya Blade and Johnny Cage, to avenge his brother's death and loss of soul to the evil Shang Tsung in the movie Mortal Kombat.

I want to see a great general manager or head coach implement his vision one element at a time, rather than see a run-of-the-miller watch over his back and impose his job insecurity on a young prospect. The latter is like building a new town without a development plan, and hoping the next new edifice will bring salvation to your city.

Because ultimately, the transaction of souls takes place on the streets, not in the churches.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Between Man-Crush and Love

You may have felt the fear in Miguel Cotto's eyes, but don't call him a coward.

You may have sensed the anxiety in Miguel Cotto's body language, but don't call him a wuss.

You may have seen Miguel Cotto's blood dripping out of his eyebrow, but the fight wasn't over.

You may have seen Miguel Cotto running away from Joshua Clottey to wipe the blood off his face, but don't say he wasn't a warrior.

The fear, the tension, the pain, the blood and the flight?

That's what it means to be human.

The Courage?

Simply Superhuman.

For the first time in my life, I truly understood what a man-crush was when I saw Miguel Cotto fight nine rounds with a severe cut over his left eyebrow to win a split decision over Joshua Clottey.

For the first time in my life, I truly understood what a man-crush was when I saw Miguel Cotto complete his long comeback from a vicious beating at the hands of Antonio Margarito - possibly with loaded gloves - by overcoming a crucible almost as brutal.

For the first time in my life, I truly understood what a man-crush was when Miguel Cotto simply fought on although he could've sent the fight to the judges' scorecards. After all, he had knocked Joshua Clottey down at the end of the first round with a hard jab and was leading on points. I agree with Large from No Mas that courage and toughness is such a part of Cotto's existence that calling it a night likely never even crossed his mind.

WBO Welterweight Fight: Miguel Cotto v Joshua Clottey

I know how it feels to love a woman. I know how it feels to love family. But maybe love is love. The man-crush I felt from watching Miguel Cotto didn't feel all that different from when you give your heart and soul to a woman or family.

Maybe I felt the man-crush on Miguel Cotto because his warrior heroics inside the ring and class outside are values that I try to live by.

Maybe I felt the man-crush on Miguel Cotto because I admire the way he triumphs over his frailties through honest perseverance.

I could finally understand with my heart and soul why Puerto Ricans go crazy for their hero.

But maybe love is love. When you love a woman or family, you accept the whole : the good and bad. You don't expect it back from them, but you're willing to take the ultimate sacrifice if it means saving them. When things go well, you want them to have all the joy. And when things don't, you want to spare them all the pain.

Miguel Cotto may or may not get a chance to fight Manny Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather, Jr., much less beat them. He may even get his ass handed to him.

What I do know, though, is that he'll fight with all his heart and soul. He has shown throughout his career that he loves his profession, his fans and the Puerto Rican people too much not to.

And no matter what happens, I'll always thank Miguel Cotto for showing me for the first time in my life what a man-crush is.

"Can't We Be Sweethearts" by The Cleftones

Saturday, June 13, 2009

How to snag a hottie

The Legendary Ass of Victoria Vannucci
Victoria Vannucci's butt is stuff of legend.
from Hombre Argentina May 2009

Like I mentioned in my previous piece, Miguel Cotto is a tough hombre. The same applies to his upcoming opponent Joshua Clottey.

And Vanessa Vannucci (who is getting featured repeatedly on HotNonPorn.com) is a super hottie from Argentina whom many men the world over would love to get into the pants of :

Miguel Cotto and Joshua Clottey may not be vying for the attention of Victoria Vannucci, but they might as well be, because stepping into the ring to face off an opponent ready to take your head off at any moment is the ultimate test of manhood.* And manhood is what women like.

I can see the girls going crazy for Cotto even if he weren't a fighter. His intense, wordless, minimalistic demeanor makes him a mysterious tough guy. He's got class.

In the somewhat publicized fight between Cotto and his uncle Evangelista, Miguel Cotto didn't kick Evangelista's ass until said uncle threw a cement block at him and ended up smashing his 2009 Jaguar. And this uncle punched Cotto in the face and followed him home to fight some more after the initial scuffle. And he refuses to talk about the incident in public, saying it's a family affair. That's called self-control.

I don't think Joshua Clottey would be as popular as Cotto, but he'd do fine with the ladies nevertheless. He seems to have a quirky and unintentionally funny way of subtly expressing himself and that's a good thing to have.

How would things go inside the ring though? Who will the dime called the WBO welterweight title choose? What must Miguel Cotto and Joshua Clottey do to snag the hottie?

Perhaps what I think is Clottey's quirkiness manifests itself in his game. He's got a 5-10 reach at a height of 5-8 but his best weapons are his tight left hook and uppercut. He steps in and out of range with his high guard in place in case he gets hit. He could circle and utilize his long-range weapons (jab and cross) better. His fighting is counterintuitive, but he's a top welterweight who's fighting for a title on the eve of the National Puerto Rican Day Parade, so something has to be working right for him.

Cotto doesn't fight counterintuitively, but he's a mystery inside the ring as he is outside : Such a tough guy but not the best ring general; all about business but not a great defensive technician; an aggressive attacker with just enough boxing skill to not have to rely entirely on brawling.

Between quirk and mystery, I'd have to take the mystery on this one. Miguel Cotto's reach is just 5-7, but at least he circles and jabs. At least he moves laterally and puts together nice combinations. Joshua Clottey is like a poor man's Winky Wright with that high guard, but I can't see him scoring enough points to best the Puerto Rican hero. Cotto is no Paul Williams, but at least he's ferocious when on the offensive. Against a methodical Clottey, that and his decent boxing will be enough to get him a unanimous decision victory.

Not only will Cotto get his wife (WBO belt), he will also get his mistress (the proud pro-Puerto Rican crowd).

Victoria Vannucci's bush

Monday, June 8, 2009

Sexy Piece of Ass

* Credit for photos used in this piece go to Hombre, via Foro De Mujeres Famosas Argentinas.

Amazing Argentine Ass of Maribel Fernandez
Amazing Argentine Ass of Maribel Fernandez

"Sports Guy" Bill Simmons, one of my favorite sportswriters, said recently about beloved Boston Red Sox first baseman "Big Papi" David Ortiz's decline :

Beefy sluggers are like porn stars, wrestlers, NBA centers and trophy wives: When it goes, it goes. You know right away.

Well, this isn't about porn stars or wrestlers or NBA centers or trophy wives. This is about the decline of some of the most exciting fighters in MMA, the sport's sexy pieces of ass.

In particular, this is about how this weekend's Strikeforce and WEC events were metaphors for the end of the eras of several trophy wives of MMA that provided thrills to MMA fans for the last few years.

For three years, Urijah Faber was one of the more recognizable faces of MMA, dominating his peers with 13 straight wins. He was the face - and future - of WEC.

His rabbit-out-of-the-hat moves, relentless pressure and flashy personality made him a world class fighter who was as celebrity as a featherweight mixed martial artist could get.

Then, it's no surprise that even after getting dropped and pummeled by Mike Brown at WEC 36, Zuffa decided to give Faber the benefit of the doubt.

They went ahead with his rematch against Jens Pulver, although both were demolished at the same event. The company also promoted Faber-Brown 2 via a Urijah-oriented campaign, although it was Brown who had looked impressive in his title reign.

It's all good. Zuffa made the right decision. In spite of his second loss in a row to Mike Brown, in which Brown dominated the high-kicking, back-turning California Kid with his methodical boxing, high guard, clinch- and mount-punching, Urijah Faber is a world class fighter who is not washed up.

Due to the foundation he has laid down over the years, as long as he can beat guys like Jose Aldo and Leonard Garcia, Faber will stay in the hunt. Hell, I'd even like to see him in catchweight fights against explosive fighters like Miguel Torres or Clay Guida.

It's just that Urijah Faber's reign as top dog of the WEC and MMA's featherweight division is officially over.

It's just that if the foreplay-sex-cuddle Mike Brown couldn't answer his porno flick audition judges' doubts even after he convincingly defended his title against Leonard Garcia, he left no doubt as to his manhood by unanimously decisioning the porn star-esque Faber in their rematch.

It's really sad to see a fighter go. In other sports, a washed up athlete just stinks. In combat sports, he gets brutally knocked out or beaten down.

To a man, to get his ass kicked by another is the ultimate blow to his ego - and perhaps that's why a downed fighter continues to fight to regain lost glory. Although it becomes clear he must retire, he continues to fight, subjecting himself to a vicious cycle of beatdowns, damaged pride and dead brain cells.

After what happened to them at Strikeforce on Saturday night, I would advise Andrei Arlovski and Scott Smith to get out of the fight game at their earliest convenience.

I thought Arlovski would put his boxing training under the tutelage of Freddie Roach and Michael Moorer to good use, but he just stood in front of Brett Rogers, neither jabbing nor sidestepping. All Arlovski's weak low kick did was piss off Rogers to the point where The Grim wanted to rip The Pitbull's head off, which he did in 22 seconds.

Scott Smith's gutsy way of fighting looks sexy on TV, but as he found out once again against Nick Diaz, it doesn't do any good for his career or senses.

With a Roy Jones-like stance Nick Diaz picked Smith apart on his feet, teeing off on his head with jabs and body with shovel hooks. One third-round body shot in particular dropped Smith, setting up Diaz's fight-ending rear naked choke.

As Andrei Arlovski and Scott Smith found out, flashy power and trading blows make fighters popular, but in the end, coming up short on the guile department is a surefire career path to becoming trophy wives : spouses who're treasured mostly for their sexy asses.

Te quiero, papi.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Evolutionary Dead End

Those whose best interests clash with yours will whack you.
from Casino

Music : "House of the Rising Sun" by The Animals

Different people have different styles. Different people come from different backgrounds. And different people have different interests and are placed in different circumstances.

Sometimes, different people co-exist. Other times, there must be a clash of civilizations - like when you put two gladiators inside a cage.

The intrigue behind this Saturday's (June 6) Strikeforce event (10 PM ET, Showtime) is the clash for the survival of the interests of the fighters and camps in the top 3 fights on the card :

1. Gracie Jiu-Jitsu via Jake Shields : When Royce Gracie first appeared on the MMA scene, he confounded fighters and fans alike with his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. It worked for a while, but MMA has evolved to the point where being a one-dimensional submission specialist gets you knocked out. Hell, you even see BJJ experts like Jorge Gurgel choosing to slug it out rather than take the fight to the ground.

Jake Shields represents a highly evolved form in the continuum of the Gracie school of fighting, having a rudimentary striking but one of the most advanced grappling arsenals in MMA. His "strikes" are nothing but paws to feel out the distance between himself and his opponent and set up his takedowns.

Shields' takedowns happen in the blink of an eye, and once he gets his opponents down, he passes guard and mounts like he's teaching white belts. He pounds from up top, but again, these punches are nothing more than setups to his submissions.

He may not be well-rounded, but Jake Shields has shown more than enough ability to take care of himself with grappling/wrestling alone, like he did against Paul Daley.

To the hardcore MMA fan, Shields is beautiful to watch, but I have a feeling that Robbie Lawler will use the coming opportunity to show that Jake Shields' method of fighting is merely an advanced form of an evolutionary dead end.

Lawler has great takedown defense and wrestling, and if Shields continues to fail to take him to the ground, Shields will have less and less endurance to counter Lawler's powerful strikes and deftness in the clinch.

The experience was mesmerizing while it lasted, but I think the legend of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu ends when Jake Shields gets knocked out by Robbie Lawler in Round 3 of their Strikeforce bout.

2. Andrei Arlovski : If Arlovski loses, this is pretty much the end of the road for him, as a knockout by Rogers will be the nail in the coffin of his glass chin.

Luckily for The Pitbull, he hits hard himself, and has improved his boxing tremendously since he started training with Freddie Roach. Having had more time to work with Roach - and preparing himself for his professional boxing debut in the process - he can probably take care of the one-dimensional Rogers with his hands and footwork alone.

Brett Rogers has knockout power but no technique; Andrei Arlovski - who gave Fedor Emelianenko quite a challenge before launching an inexplicable flying knee - is way above Rogers' head in just about every important MMA element (boxing, kickboxing, overall MMA skill, conditioning).

I expect Arlovski to get a feel for Rogers in the first round, then get a TKO victory over Rogers by the end of the second after taking him to school. He will save his career and buy himself time until his boxing skill develops enough to cover for his weak chin.

3. Scott Smith : Win or lose, Smith entertains. Unfortunately, he brawls and takes tremendous punishment even if he wins, like he did the last time against Benji Radach.

Fortunately, Scott Smith's fight against Nick Diaz will give him a break. Although only 30, Smith's days as a fighter are already numbered. He won't beat Nick Diaz either, but getting outboxed and then submitted in the second round by the light-punching jiu-jitsu expert will extend will restore about two fights to the career that was shortened by the wars with Lawler and Radach.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Between Legitimacy and Invisibility

"2 Legit 2 Quit" by Hammer

Hammer. Vanilla Ice. Coolio. Naughty by Nature. Dr. Dre. Snoop Dogg.

These are some of the artists that I listened to when I first started listening to hip hop music back in the early to-mid 1990's. Being a pre-teen and teen, I just listened to whatever was popular at the time - and enjoyed it.

As time went by, I started listening to "harder" acts such as Wu-Tang, Mobb Deep, Biggie, Boot Camp Click and Nas. I dug into hip hop's glorious past, incorporating classic material from legends such as Public Enemy, BDP/KRS-One, Gang Starr and Main Source into my listening regimen.

I didn't eschew mainstream hip hop like the Fugees or Jay-Z. But I fell in love with the underground, including acts like Company Flow, Kool Keith/Dr. Octagon, Mos Def and Talib Kweli, Jedi Mind Tricks, Prince Paul, DJ Shadow, Dan the Automator, The Roots, Common and Jurassic 5.

Just as my taste in music evolved, so has the way I observe MMA. When I was first exposed to MMA, the only names I knew were Royce Gracie, Ken Shamrock, Fedor Emelianenko, Big Nog - just the famous ones.

Urijah Faber represents the still-not-completely-dead youth angst that was dormant in my heart and soul when I became a hardcore follower of MMA.

I loved his bravado, flash and balls-out style of fighting. I liked Faber for precisely the reasons that he's a beloved fighter.

However, my much wilier, savvier current self - the type that now prefers a fighter like Lyoto Machida - thinks Mike Brown is too good and too legit for Faber to take his lost title back from. (WEC 41 : June 7 @ 9 PM ET, Versus).

It's not that Faber isn't world class; I still like the man, but Mike Brown is that good. You'll find hundreds of people with the same name in the phonebook of any major city in the US, but this guy stands out with his intelligent way of fighting.

While Faber can box, wrestle and handle himself on the ground, Brown just has a way of delivering non-telegraphic power punches without wasting much motion or energy. He carries this efficiency over to the wrestling and ground games.

Nothing has changed for WEC featherweight champion Mike Brown.
courtesy of WEC

Brown defended his WEC featherweight title by beating the crap out of Leonard Garcia. Before that, he smashed Faber himself to take his belt. And before he smashed Faber, he unanimously decisioned Jeff Curran to earn the opportunity to challenge Faber.

As Brown says in the Brown-Faber 2 preview video above, what more does he have to do?

Although it's hard to expect Mike Brown to dominate The California Kid as he did the first time, I think his efficient strength and strategy will carry him to a unanimous decision win over the flashier Urijah Faber in their rematch.

Perhaps then, will Mike Thomas Brown finally be able to win some legitimacy in the eyes of MMA fans and observers.

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