Wednesday, February 01, 2006

The Trooper

I've been a fighter. It started with my father, as did so many things, when he tossed us all in that bullshit ring he doctored up in the basement, taped some gloves on our hands, and taught us the rudiments. Jab. Cross. Hook. Combo. Keep your fuckin' hands up, Rip!

This was eventually taken through the doors of a gym in the Bronx, where I trained to compete, under the auspices of the Police Athletic League. I did fairly well. Won some, lost a few, never got knocked down, never got stopped, and never got knocked out. I'm proud of that. I made my way successfully, with a lot of other shit going on in my life, in what I consider the purest sport of all. What I remember most, though, is summoning up the balls to actually get in the ring, in front of all those people, and fight. That's the part that stays with you.

Which is why I want, finally, to acknowledge something I was fortunate enough to be a part of last year.

Many of you know my friend "Clint" as a character on this blog. He's a fucking character, by anyone's standards, but he's also one of the most solid human beings on this planet, and as good a friend as a schmuck like me could ever hope to have. Cue the violins -- I have to go beat off. Excuse me for a moment.

Clint is also a fighter, and a much better, much more experienced one than I am. He stuck with the game, long after I had given it up to pursue other less painful sports like college football. Stuck with it long past the point of utility. Stuck with it even though he knew he'd never turn pro. Kept training. Took his share of fights, won most of them, then stopped competing in order to get his career going.

He stayed in the gym, though, because fight training's the way he gets his exercise. Worked in obscurity for years, training for the hell of training, the way it should be. Gave lessons, and sacrificed his time and effort so younger guys could learn the proper way to do things and go make their bones the way he once did. Never asked for shit, either. Just kept going to the dungeon every night after work, broke a sweat, and showed the others how it was done.

Last winter, Clint decided it was time for a fight. A real one. Maybe the time he spent in Iraq made him loopy. Nobody knew. I understood, though. He needed it. One last shot at something before age prevented it from happening.

So, for the better part of ten weeks, the guy quit smoking. Didn't touch a drop of his beloved Glenlivet. Trained like an animal, like a fucking kid again, and got himself into a shape nobody'd seen him in since he was twenty. Got into a ring, in front of a couple thousand people in a monstrosity of a catering hall in Manhattan, after a nine year layoff, and squared off with a guy young enough to be his nephew.

And you know what? The motherfucker won, and won big.

Seeing that shady snake oil salesman with a beer in one hand, a Marlboro in the other, and a "W" in his pocket was one of the greatest things I've ever seen in sports. And it took me over a year to write about it, but I just wanted to say I respected the living hell out of that.

One last thing....

The recent nastiness between me and another person with a blog is over. I have said my piece on the bullshit written about me, and have no further comment. Other people who came to my defense, however, have been left to twist in the wind -- you know exactly who I'm talking about if you read both blogs -- and that's my fault, because I hadn't meant to involve others in what should have remained a private conflict. That it was taken public by the other party is no longer my concern.

What I would ask is that if you are inclined to email this particular person -- on behalf of me, or the person I had been in conflict with -- to refrain from doing so. You've been given one version of events, and you've been told to consider the source, and that admonition, if you are a rational person, should be enough to preclude you from sending hate mail to a third party who was only coming to my defense in a lighthearted manner, and never wanted to be involved in the first place.

Thank you.