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Columbia J-School

New York Lifts Ban on MMA Events.

Well, New York state has finally legalized professional mixed martial art events. The big news came yesterday, as the state assembly, where many prior bills have gone to die, finally passed it by an overwhelming majority. Without long-time opponent Sheldon Silver around to stop the bill from reaching the floor, the bill easily passed with bipartisan support.

… And only six years after I wrote my master’s thesis on the battle to lift the MMA ban in the state. Can’t say I didn’t get some mileage out of the whole thing:

Some fighting to legalize mixed martial arts in NY.

Suit Challenges Ban on Mixed Marts.

Judge Narrows Challenge to Ban on Mixed Martial Arts.

Fred Rogers (1928-2003)

Happy 85th birthday, Mr. Rogers! To commemorate this event, I thought I’d post an exercise I did in my RW1 class in Columbia J-School during the fall of 2009. We had to write his obituary as if he had passed the day before, and this ended up being one of my better written pieces that semester (and I produced it in less than 2 hours). It helped that I was clearly inspired. After all, I grew up watching Mr. Rogers and felt a special kinship with him because he was also from Pittsburgh. So long neighbor! We loved you just the way you were!

Written in October 2009:

The iconic cardigan sweaters will stay in the closet. The comfy indoor shoes will gather dust on the floor. No one will come through the front door to sing about what a beautiful day it is in the neighborhood before taking the audience on an educational and self-affirming trip through the Neighborhood of Make Believe. For almost four decades, audiences welcomed Mister Rogers into their living rooms where his positive messages and songs touched the lives of countless children. That soft, yet powerful voice, is no more.

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Suit Fights State Ban of Mixed Martial Arts

You usually don’t associate sports with the First Amendment. The UFC hopes the courts will do what the NY legislature has failed to do, thus far. On a personal note, this was the first time I’ve written about MMA since my J-School days.

Related posts:

Battleground State: The Battle to Legalize Mixed Martial Arts in New York.

Some fighting to legalize mixed martial arts in NY.

Battleground State: The Fight to Legalize MMA in New York (Part 6)

The Fighters

For Matt Serra, the former UFC Welterweight Champion, the worst part about training for a fight is having to give up pasta so that he can make the 170-pound welterweight limit. However, he loves to fight and can’t imagine himself doing anything else. “I’ve been studying jiu-jitsu since I was 19-years old, and I’m 35 now. I practice everything, but there’s something about jiu-jitsu that I love. It’s based on leverage and technique, and the fluidity of the moves from one transition to the other. I have a real love of the art of jiu jitsu, and I took to it like a fish to water,” said Serra, who won a gold medal at the 1999 Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Pan American championships.

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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.

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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.”

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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Tea for Three?

The first person I called after Governor Charlie Crist announced he will run for the Senate as an independent was Dean Barkley of Minnesota. Mr. Barkley knows all about the obstacles facing a third-party candidate. A member of Ross Perot’s Reform Party, he served out the final months of the late Paul Wellstone’s Senate term. Running in 2008 as an independent, he won 15% of the vote despite raising a shade over $160,000. “I’m very glad Crist did it,” Barkley told me when I reached him by phone. “I don’t really care what his reasons are. It shows that the window for an independent movement is getting bigger and bigger. Most centrists or moderates don’t like either party. They’re basically exasperated with both.”

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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.”

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Blast from the Past: Return of the Concept Album

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

Once upon a time, concept albums were hip. It was a long time ago, back when the shower curtain wasn’t the only piece of vinyl in your house, and the only CDs were the ones issued by banks. If you were bored of singing the standard pop ditties about love, cars and having fun, then concept albums were the way to go. Artists like Pink Floyd, the Who and David Bowie wrote about serious issues like war, madness and consumerism and elevated themselves as artists.

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