Archive for July, 2013


I appear on the Fight Network show Five Rounds to discuss Anderson Silva. Scroll to 17:05 to see my segment on the show:

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In 2006, boxer Clinton Woods, then the reigning IBF light-heavyweight champion, was being awarded the ‘Fighter of the Year’ award in Britain. Former boxer Alan Minter, a famed British middleweight champion who had faced Marvin Hagler, was slated to give a speech about the award-winner’s merits. Instead of speaking about Woods, Alan Minter stole the moment for himself.

Said Woods, “Minter stood up and went on a rant about his son’s (Ross) career and then started talking about his own fights. That would be fine under different circumstances – I think Ross is an improved fighter and Minter is a former world champion – but it wasn’t his moment, it was mine. He didn’t mention me once in a speech which was supposed to be about the winner of the Fighter of the Year!”

There’s a concept in yoga, one of five Yamas, called “Asteya.” It translates into non-stealing, which seems like a clear directive. But it can apply to much more than theft or fraud involving money, coin collections or hedge funds. Attention is something that can be stolen, as Clinton Woods’ story illustrates.

It should be a simple matter of etiquette that dictates social graces. Clearly, Alan Minter is a bitter old man or a narcissist, and there’s never any compromising with those types of people.

In any organization, group or social circle, there will be people pushing themselves to the forefront regardless of the context. The best example I can give of this happening to me has been when someone has criticized my writing without actually having read my work. How can you give an opinion on something where you don’t understand the ideas, rationale or lay of the land?

There’s no easy way to deal with this situation in sports, the entertainment business or corporations. As long as someone has power, a name or value, they are going to want to self-perpetuate their influence like a virus.

At one particular press conference, a Russian TV journalist went on a long-winded question that involved multiple pauses. Then his question had to be translated back to the English press. What he was doing to the room, participants, media– and even his own outlet– was painful to experience. I was glad to see the event staff roll their eyes and refuse to take any further questions from the Russian journalist.

How do we deal with people stealing attention from others? From promoting their own egotistical or self-important viewpoints and crowding the airwaves with static? In a Facebook era, with everyone feeling entitled to air random thoughts, grievances or opinions, it’s not going to be easy going forward.

A common question that I sometimes get asked is, “What got you into martial arts/MMA?” I usually answer “I got beat-up a lot in high school” and that always gets a few laughs. It’s not a completely serious or honest answer: While high school was unpleasant at times, and I had my fair share of bullies, they weren’t always in the typecast mold like Nelson Muntz from The Simpsons or the Cobra Kai dudes from The Karate Kid.

Another important consideration is that bullying isn’t something that ends in high school. There are bad experiences in college, hostile workplaces, or toxic relationships. There are times when ordinary people become victims of the personalities around them, so much so that movies like Revenge of the Nerds and Office Space have comedic takes on adults confronting and dealing with bullying (even if the bully happens to be a no-good printer).

One experience happened to me, of all times and places, when I was performing in a FR!NGE Festival play in University. For whatever reason, one of the girls in our group began to say nasty things about my acting during rehearsals.

Did I actually do something to solicit her comments? Maybe tell a joke that got taken the wrong way, or inadvertently criticize her own skills? I don’t remember saying or doing anything that could have been misconstrued to her, but if I did, it would have been better if she’d confronted me directly instead of making every moment I spent on set miserable and uncomfortable.

For my part, I didn’t respond by confronting her, or asking the director to talk to her. Because she was criticizing my acting, I felt that the only defense was to be a great actor. If I did respond to her comments, I felt that I’d be validating her criticism on some level. Maybe this was just a cop-out by me. It certainly wasn’t the only one.

I didn’t like the atmosphere  missed a couple rehearsals or showed up late to others. This might not sound serious, given that the FR!NGE Festival is meant to be low-key entertainment and fun, but college is only a couple of years removed from high school. For the dress rehearsal, I showed up hungover with no voice– inspiring fear to the director and my cast-mates, as I would close the show with a little song.

Push came to shove on the night of the performance when we were slotted for the evening’s finale. While my bully certainly felt superior to me throughout our rehearsals and had played up the ability of our cast-mates (in comparison to me), something became apparent literally seconds into our play: I was killing it.

The sell-out audience of a couple hundred students and parents had been bored to tears by the mediocre and uninspired performances that had preceded us. When you’re 20ish, you can be a little pretentious and have a false view of how entertaining your work is. For many of the plays, this was the case.

95 to 98 percent of comedy comes down to timing and tone– a pause here, a sarcastic twist there. On this night, I was switched “ON” and broke through the audience’s mask of pretend enjoyment. Even my previous night’s hangover was no bother as I hit every note on that final song. After the play, people were congratulating me for hours, saying that I’d rocked it.

As for my bully, she dejectedly chimed in with praise, as well. There had been no ambiguity over who the star was (until the awards show for the FR!NGE Festival, but that’s another story of political intrigue/corruption. Apparently the event organizers felt no shame in giving each other or their best friends the honorary awards for best play/performance/etc) and she had to admit that she had been wrong about me from the very start.

I never became friends in real life or on Facebook with this girl. I just felt uncomfortable being around someone who had acted maliciously; that ugliness is hard to forget. She became irrelevant once I stopped having physical proximity to her in college, and once I was done acting, she had zero power to criticize me.

I don’t want to say too much about what became of my former bully after college. I saw her in a Facebook photo today– that’s what made me think of this story. I could say “It didn’t end well for her,” but that would be another misnomer: It probably wasn’t going well for her in college, either.

***

While I have a few other stories about bullying, they are just stories. There isn’t necessarily a life lesson or learning experience here. In fact, I would have rather never have been in a compromising position to begin with. Still, I’ll start sharing a little more, if anything, because I’m sure many people can relate.

Here’s a good video that gives an overview of a series of studies conducted at Berkley University that demonstrates how those who are wealthier have less empathy or act unethically.

It certainly reminds me of how those with inherent advantages selfishly attribute their standing to actual skill.

Honda Indy in Toronto

This weekend marks a double-header consisting of two IndyCar races in Toronto at the improvised street track downtown. Did a feature on Canadian driver James Hinchcliffe for Toro magazine.

I will also continue to liveblog events from the day’s race at MSN.ca. Check out tomorrow’s blog at ThePassingLane.ca.