Tag Archives: Sports

Sheep to the Slaughter

4 Jan

sheep-to-slaughter

Filipe got into boxing as a way to get back into shape when he turned thirty. As a high school athlete and college wrestler he stayed in good shape without trying too much until around twenty eight years of age. He had been completely inactive for a few years. When he saw himself shirtless in a photo, he shuttered. “Time to get active again” he thought. He tried going back to his old lifting routine from his high school and college days. It bored him. He found himself dreading his gym days. When he was younger it was so much more fun. Then again, the results came fast and he was always surrounded by friends.

One day as he shuffled into the gym he saw a sign for private boxing classes. He went right to the receptionist and asked about them. A week later, with a brand new pair of gloves and boxing shoes he showed up for a freebie class. An hour later, in much more pain than when he started, he was in love. Boxing turned into Muay Thai, that turned into Jiu Jitsu and a love for martial arts was born.

Felipe got a job offer in another city. Upon arrival, there was a lot to take care of and no time to train. He would get in twenty minute workouts in his garage. He would skip some rope and hit the heavy bag for a few rounds followed by some calisthenics. He was by no means a real fighter, but he was trained by good instructors so he moved with good form.

*   *   *   *

“How we gonna get another fighter on such short notice coach?” Angel asked. He had just received the news that his next opponent dropped out due to an injury.

“Don´t worry, one drops out another steps up” Samuel said knowing full well that was not true in this case. Angel was a dangerous fighter, sure to go pro one day. It was hard to find someone willing to step in the ring with him in the amateur ranks full of hobbyists. “Don´t worry he repeated”

*   *   *   *

One day Samuel was out walking his dog when he heard the familiar thump of a shin on a heavy bag. Thump. Thump. Thump. He noticed a fairly in shape guy kicking a heavy bag in his garage.

“Turn your hip over more. You´ll get more power” Samuel said as he approached the man.

Filipe took his advice. THUMP. “My last coach always had to remind me” Felipe said smiling at the stranger. “Do you train?” he asked.

“I´m actually a trainer, my name is Samuel, nice to meet you” he said.

“Felipe, nice to meet you. That´s really cool. I´m new here. Can you recommend a good gym?” he said.

“Yeah sure, the city´s full of them. How about you come over to where I work?” he asked.

“Great! I´d like that” he answered.

“How much do you weigh by the way?” Samuel asked pretty much already knowing the answer.

“I go up and down a little but I hover around 175” Felipe answered as he took a card from Samuel´s hand.

“Address is right there. Come any time after 6. I´ll be there” Samuel said already working out a plan in his head.

“I´ll be there” Felipe answered.

*   *   *   *

“You just be quiet and let me do the talking, alright?” Samuel said.

“Sure, but I don´t think some guy off the street will just take a fight with a week´s notice” Angel said with a worried look on his face.

“Hey Samuel!” Felipe said as he walked through the door with a big smile on his face. He was truly excited to have found a new place to train.

“Hey buddy, why don´t you get changed, wrap your hands and warm up. I´ll hold some mitts for you” he answered.

Filipe did just that and about twenty minutes later he was in the center of the ring doing as Samuel asked.

“Jab, jab, hook” Samuel ordered. Felipe obeyed.

Angel looked on. His heart sank. Sure this guy could move but he was so clearly amateur. For sure he would not take a fight let alone with such little time. Furthermore, it made him feel bad, the idea of beating up a civilian. There was no honor in that.

Felipe wrapped up his work out, said goodbye to everyone whom he had endeared himself to greatly. Everyone at the gym truly liked his contagiously positive attitude.

“What do you think?” Samuel asked Angel.

“You´re not even still thinking about me fighting him after that! I´ll kill him. Won´t even be fair. I don´t like this” Angel answered.

“It´s an easy W. All fighters do it to pad their record. This fell from heaven” he answered.

“God ain´t delivering no sheep to the slaughter anymore, Sam” Angel said, worried that all his fight prep will have been for naught simple because his real opponent hurt himself training. There was not another event for over six months for him to compete in.

“Then take it easy on him. Just move around with him, touch him up enough to get a W” he said.

“I ain´t never gonna go pro like that. You know that” Angel said. He was right. In this town, the promoters want knock outs. To get noticed, you must be ferocious.

“It´ll keep you active kid” Samuel said. Samuel was very convincing. So much so that he convinced Angel to go through with it. He also convinced Felipe to as well. It was a constant goal of Felipe to compete and besides, Samuel told him it was a charity MMA event and everyone was going to go light. It was more of an exhibition than an actual fight. Samuel told him he might get tagged a few times but he could take it to the ground and no one would get really hurt.

*   *   *   *

On the day of the fight, Felipe was a little nervous but very excited. He posted about it on the internet and gave the link where the fight would be broadcast online. He was truly going to realize a dream.

Angel on the other hand felt sick. On one hand, he could just move around with Felipe, showcase his technique, take him to the ground and try to submit him without really hurting him. But that would not advance his career in the slightest.

It was time, no turning back at this point. The two men walked to the cage. As it clanged shut, Angel had a bad feeling. Felipe had butterflies in his stomach but was enjoying the moment.

The two men were given instructions by the ref and they were sent to their respective corners. Samuel told Angel to go with his gut and do what he thought was right. Felipe´s corner, and friend and employee of Samuel told him to move around and take it to the ground if it got hairy.

The two men met in the center of the cage. They touched gloves. Immediately Felipe felt the sting of a solid jab but it had only been thrown half speed. It didn´t hurt that much. His confidence grew. He was loving this. He tried to throw a jab of his own and was quickly countered. That one stung a little more. He tried to throw a combo he worked on with his coach a few days ago. The first two punched missed completely but Angel wasn´t expecting a third from this amateur and it caught him well. It even rocked him a little.

Angel threw a kick to the body but caught the point of Felipe´s elbow. He didn´t feel the pain in the moment but his frustration grew as did his rage. “Fuck this” he thought. He closed the distance. He put Felipe in a clinch. With both hands behind Felipe´s neck he launched a knee to his solar plexus. Felipe blocked it. Instinctively, with Felipe´s hands lowered he quickly launched another knee up higher. This time it connected.

Angel had never felt anything like this before. It was as if his knee made contact with a bag of rotten oranges, just smush. His knee had gone right into the eye socket of Felipe easily crushing all the fragile bones in the orbital socket. Felipe fell as if a sniper had got him right behind the head.

Angel could barely make out the shapes around him. The world was a blur. All he saw at his feet was an abstract outline of a man with a halo of red growing around his head. As the ref got between him and the thing on the floor waving both hands in the air the only thought that he clearly could make out was “God forgive me”

 

 

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Game Over!

8 Jul

footvolley

Foot volley, which is a mixture of soccer and volley ball is a way of life in Guarã, a small city in a remote part of the Amazon valley in Brazil. Players use their legs, feet and head to get the ball over a net. It sounds like a fun way to pass the time and it can be, just not in Guarã. There, winning a game can mean you get to live another day or will be burned alive bound by old car tires and doused in gasoline. It harks back to the worst days of the Roman empire but instead of Caesars presiding over the tournaments, there are drug dealers deciding the fates of athletes.

If parents see that their child is particularly good at foot volley, they sometimes will sell all their possessions to ensure their child has a bus ticket, one way, out of Guarã. The child will sometimes grow up in the company of relatives without their parents because the parents are too poor to make the bus fare to get themselves out. In some cases, parents end up dead for sending away a good prospect.

José had no parents to care for him or to sell possessions to get him out of Guarã. José lived on the street in a pack of about 10 boys. He was the best of around 4 really good players. When they weren´t playing foot volley, training foot volley or trying to get something to eat from the trash, the pack was usually either sniffing glue or trying to get their hands on it. Not José. Some time ago, José found some text books in the trash while looking for dinner. José was taught to read by the church and he was grateful and did not want their gift to go in vain.

José had won so much that he had built himself quite the name in Guarã. He was like a local celebrity. He was forced to go to the big outdoor “funk parties” as they were called, thrown by the local drug dealers. He was paraded around like a mascot. He despised them all. He despised the drug dealers who he saw as poisoning the community. He despised the party goers and useless people lowered even further in his eyes for idolizing such horrid people. He despised the cops who were easily bribed by the drug bosses and would abuse street children in every sense of the word for their own pleasure.

One night José lay in his concrete bed, in reality a sewer tunnel opening, trying to get the images out of his head of what he saw that day. He had won a major day long tournament closed with not only the murder of every loser but their depraved torture as well. José had seen a lot up to this point but this was worse than anything he had seen. His mind went back and forth from the torture to the faces of the spectators who watched in ecstasy and cheered on the torturers. He was forced to watch from a rickety homemade throne that was spray painted gold and had worn purple pillows fixed to it to make it look like a real king´s chair.

As he laid there, tears rolling down his eyes, he smelled smoke. It was not the usual smell of bonfires which were frequent during the nights after a tournament. It had a more chemical smell. He went out from his makeshift bedroom and climbed an electrical tower. A few thatched roofed houses were on fire. There was little to no response, probably because of the level of intoxication of the people. For the most part of the population, they were passed out drunk.

José thought quick. He knew how he could help. Help himself, help his city, help his country, help the world. He made his way to the police precinct which looked no different than the front office of a land fill. He went to the patio where the few broken down vehicles were parked. He grabbed two 20 liter canisters and went running. As he approached the burning huts he poured some of the liquid from the canisters into discarded water bottles and aluminum cans. He then proceeded to throw them near the flames.

Where the bottle and cans hit, great little explosions took place and the flames quickly spread. He was throwing containers of gasoline into the flames! He then moved on to huts that were not on fire and started to throw flaming soda cans onto the roofs. When they were sufficiently ablaze he went to the only houses in the village, slipshod building decorated by what looked like by psychopathic children, and started to fling his mini Molotov cocktails over the walls. In no time they were on fire as well.

José, satisfied with his work, started for the outskirts of the village. It was getting hot as the fire was spreading rapidly. He was surprised by the lack of commotion on the street. Surely some people were not so drunk as to burn to death without waking. He didn´t care either way. He made his way to the outskirts of the village, climbed a little foot hill and watch the fire do its cleansing.

If you’re gonna be dumb, you gotta be tough

20 Dec

boxing-ring-dark-empty

 

Alan´s grandfather was his hero. As he laid dying he gently pulled Alan toward him by his thin seven year old arm and whispered “Son, if you´re gonna be dumb, you gotta be tough”

Alan didn´t really understand what his grandfather meant by these words for some years. When he did discover what he meant he thought his grandfather was a genius. Then after a quick Google search, he realized he was really a plagiarizer on his deathbed, but nonetheless, the words packed wisdom.

Alan was a terrible student. He got low grades in all subjects except physical education.  He could barely read well into his Junior High years. Alan was like a powerful Massarati sports car being driven by learning disabled child. The good thing for Alan was that he recognized this early. He made up his mind. He was going to be tough.

By fifteen years of age, Alan was already the equivalent of a Jiu Jitsu purple belt and was deadly proficient in Muay Thai. His coach was trying to get him to sign up for a local MMA tournament. The problem for Alan was, inscriptions were only for adults above the age of twenty one. If Alan kept his mouth shut, he could pass for man of twenty five. He weighed 200 pounds with next to no body fat and stood at 6 feet one inch. When his coach suggested he get a fake ID to enter Alan heard his grandfather whisper “…..you gotta be tough…” and agreed.

Alan had to make a drastic weight cut. His coach wanted him to fight at 180 pounds. He would have to lose 20 pounds in a week. “….you gotta be tough….” echoed through his head as he starved himself and went on three mile runs wearing makeshift sweat suits made of trash bags.

On the day of weigh-ins, Alan´s breath reeked of death. That´s because his body was on the brink of crossing over.  He was extremely dehydrated and malnourished. He made weight, drank water and immediately threw it up. His scheduled opponent weighed in 5 pounds overweight. There were no other fighters in the 180 pound class so he was asked if he would still accept the fight. The whisper of “…you gotta be tough…” once again propelled him to agree. His opponent did not have a dead look in his eyes like Alan. Unlike Alan, he did a scientific weight cut under the watchful eye of hired professionals.

On fight day, Alan was only able to put 7 pounds back on, weighing in at 187 sickly looking pounds. His opponent on the other hand hydrated correctly and weighed in at 205 pounds and looked like a muscular Greek statue. Alan still did not feel well. His opponent, on the other hand, felt the universe pulsing through his finely tuned body. He was ready to go, Alan was not. “….you gotta be tough….” Alan lipped these words as he entered the cage.

The first round started with a hard shin right on Alan´s temple. He passed out immediately. The judge did not notice that he passed out and did not stop the fight. His opponent dove on him punching him in the face three times. Instead of finishing the fight as intended, these punches only served to wake Alan up. He went into auto pilot as his training kicked in. He was extremely hurt as he closed his guard around the waist of his opponent. His opponent was shocked that Alan survived this initial attack. Any mere mortal would have only woken up in the locker room. Little did he, or anybody know, Alan wasn´t really awake. He was extremely concussed. Though his eyes were open, his cpu was not really on.

His opponent found a hole between Alan´s guard and rained elbows so hard that Alan´s head bounced off the canvas. After about five of these the referee had enough.  He stopped the fight. As his opponent celebrated his brutal victory, nobody noticed the foam forming around Alan´s mouth or that his eyes were rolled into the back of his head. As his body convulsed, his mind started to float toward the halogen lights in the rafters. The rafters disappeared but the light remained constant if not brighter.

As is over being announced over the P.A. system Alan heard a familiar voice say “You sure were tough, son. But I am afraid I steered you wrong.”

“No pop-pop” Alan answered “I was tough, the way I was supposed to be”