Battleground State: The Fight to Legalize MMA in New York (Part 5)

The Pundit

Bert Sugar is one of the world’s foremost authorities on boxing. A member of the Boxing Hall of Fame, Sugar has written over 60 books, including some on boxing; has edited The Ring, Boxing Illustrated and Fight Game magazines, and was named “The Greatest Boxing Writer of the 20th Century” by the International Veterans Boxing Association. The quick-witted and sharp-tongued Sugar, known as much for his one-liners as for his trademark fedora and cigar, has some strong opinions about MMA, but still thinks it should be legalized.

(more…)

Battleground State: The Fight to Legalize MMA in New York (Part 4)

The Politician

In Ratner’s eyes, the man holding the people of New York hostage is State Assemblyman Bob Reilly, a Democrat from Colonie. Reilly has been a steadfast opponent of legalizing MMA in New York and believes it is his responsibility to make sure MMA remains an illegal, outlaw sport. “First and foremost, it is a violent sport,” said Reilly. “It’s like pornography. Like the Supreme Court says, you know it when you see it. For example, I watched an event recently because I felt obligated to. One fellow was sitting on another’s chest and hit him in the head at least 14 times.”

(more…)

Battleground State: The Fight to Legalize MMA in New York (Part 3)

The Lobbyist

Marc Ratner spent 21 years with the Nevada State Athletic Commission, including 14 as its executive director. In the mid-1990s, when MMA was in its infancy, Ratner spoke out against it, saying that it would never be allowed in Las Vegas. In 2006, however, Ratner accepted a job with the UFC as its vice president of regulatory affairs. “I had the best regulatory job in the world,” said Ratner. “But what intrigued me about the UFC was that it was a brand new sport. I wanted to be on the ground floor, to be a pioneer and try to get it legalized. You can’t do that in basketball or boxing, since those sports have been around so long.”

(more…)

Battleground State: The Fight to Legalize MMA in New York (Part 2)

The Evolution

In many ways, the biggest knockout punch in MMA history didn’t come from Randy Couture, Tito Ortiz, Chuck Liddell, or any other of the sport’s biggest names, but from a United States senator. In 1996, Senator John McCain condemned the sport as “human cock-fighting” and sent letters to all 50 governors, urging them to ban MMA events in their states. McCain’s plea worked to a considerable degree as 36 states enacted bans, and the UFC nearly went out of business. However, in a 2007 interview with National Public Radio, McCain changed his tune, offering reserved praise for MMA. “They have cleaned up the sport to the point, at least in my view, where it is not human cockfighting any more. I think they’ve made significant progress. They haven’t made me a fan, but they have made progress,” said McCain.

(more…)

Battleground State: The Fight to Legalize MMA in New York (Part 1)

It’s a frigid February evening in New York City, and yet scores of fans have braved the cold weather to gather at the midtown Manhattan Hooters bar in order to watch the latest Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) pay-per-view event entitled “UFC 109: Relentless.” Indeed, it’s so cold that most of the waitresses wear long-sleeved shirts instead of their usual tank-tops.

(more…)

Here Comes the Boss! Quick, Hit the Button!

Originally published at: Columbia News Service. (Archived here)

Also published in the Berkshire Eagle – April 29, 2010.

Country music has taught us how to deal with heartbreak, that it’s OK to be on a first-name basis with Jack Daniels and Jim Beam, and that bosses are mean. Johnny Paycheck hated his boss so much that he told him to “Take this job and shove it.” Dolly Parton railed against the drudgery of working “9 to 5” for a boss who was out to get her.

Maybe they would have been happier if they had had the “boss button.”

(more…)

Fantasy Sports Don’t Mean a Thing Without That Ring

From Columbia News Service. (Archived here)

When Ben Roethlisberger won his second Super Bowl in 2009, he won more than the right to touch the shiny Vince Lombardi trophy for a few moments before handing it off to someone else. He won a 14-karat gold ring that weighed 3.7 ounces, had 63 diamonds in it and was so large that his surname easily fit across the side of it. Its value is well in excess of $5,000.

When Mark Orlando won his fantasy football league in 2009, he won more than a trophy he had to return the following season. He won a stainless steel ring with the outline of a football on its face and nine cubic zirconia stones in it. Its value is approximately $50.

Both rings glitter and dazzle. Both rings are so bulky that they make lifting your hand a difficult task. And both rings are deeply treasured by their owners.

(more…)

If “Tessie” is Playing, the Red Sox Won

My first story for Columbia News Service. It was about how sports teams play certain songs when they win games. (Archived here)

Sports and rituals go hand in hand. Some players refuse to change their socks when they’re on hot streaks; others refuse to shave. Michael Jordan always wore his college shorts underneath his NBA uniform, Wade Boggs always dined on chicken, and former Detroit Tiger Mark Fidrych ate the dirt on the mound whenever he pitched.

Teams are no different. The Red Sox play “Sweet Caroline” during the eighth inning at every home game. For the Yankees, it’s “New York, New York” after every game, win or lose.

Some teams have taken it a step further and have rituals only for when they win.

(more…)

Philip Rivers Grants Wish

From the Archives: In honor of my least favorite quarterback in the NFL, I thought I’d recycle this article I wrote for a sports humor website a couple of years ago. I was inspired to write it after Philip Rivers taunted a bunch of Indy fans during the 2008 NFL Playoffs. Since the Colts and Chargers are the top two seeds in the AFC, maybe history will repeat itself this year?

Eight-year old Timmy McCormick was suffering from cancer and was told he had about year to live. He was in terrible pain and could barely muster the energy to get out of bed, let alone go outside to play with his friends. The only time he spent out of bed was to go to the bathroom to throw up, a side-effect of his chemotherapy. Timmy was depressed and in low spirits. He had lost all of his hair. He had no friends to play with. He had almost no shot at survival. Timmy did not have much to live for and both he and his family knew it.

The only time he seemed to be able to forget his pain and be happy was when he watched his beloved San Diego Chargers play football. His parents signed him up with the Make-A-Wish Foundation and Timmy, a loyal San Diego Chargers fan, only had one wish. He wanted to spend a day with the quarterback of the Chargers – his idol, Drew Brees.

Unfortunately, because of a long waiting list, as well as a backlog of wishes, Brees had signed with New Orleans by the time that Timmy’s wish request was processed. Timmy, still wanted to hang out with San Diego’s quarterback. So he readily agreed when the Make-A-Wish Foundation offered to send Philip Rivers. The Chargers quarterback met up with Timmy a few weeks ago in order to fulfill the boy’s wish. He came to Timmy’s house and gave Timmy some autographed balls, helmets, and jerseys. He also posed for some pictures with Timmy and threw the ball around with him in the backyard. However, what started as a joyous meeting between a young boy and his football role model quickly turned sour.

(more…)

Bike Polo: No Horses, No Rules

People often think of polo as a refined sport played by wealthy men on horseback. What happens when you replace the horses with bicycles, you throw out a lot of the rules, and you add some WWE-style showmanship? You get bike polo – a fast-paced and anarchic sport that’s gaining a cult following in the United States. Victor Li reports.

Thanks to Ellen London (Columbia J-School ’10) for the host intro.

UPDATE (3/18/10): There is a pic of me in action at the Hardcourt Bike Polo website. There’s a comment under it about me needing to get off the decaf, which I found to be pretty funny. If s/he only knew how much coffee I went through on any given day…

Doctor K is In

BRONX, NEW YORK – It’s Saturday, October 3 and Modell’s Sporting Goods store is having its grand reopening in Bay Plaza in the Bronx. There’s a long line out the front door as scores of people are waiting to get in, but they aren’t necessarily here for the free giveaways, special promotions, and big sales. Instead, many of them have braved the pouring rain for one reason only: to meet one of their baseball heroes.

“I came to meet Doc Gooden and get this ball signed,” said Rafael Rodriguez of the Bronx. “And not only that, to thank him for all he’s done for the Yankees. He’s been a great inspiration for these young kids.”

(more…)