I think it’s great that so many people are now discovering mixed martial arts. Increased interest equals increased airtime and exposure, which then leads to better pay for fighters, bigger shows, and better all around competition.
That’s all good stuff. I can remember when UFC results never made the L.A. Times’ sports page, while somehow the X-games was taken seriously. (I bet now you’re wishing you had read my emails instead of blindly backing ABC’s attempt to make pro skateboarding seem entertaining, aren’t you ESPN? Right? Hello?)
That’s why I’m all for sports columnists writing about MMA now. But there is one type of article I’m already very sick of. Rather than try and describe this kind of article to you, just take a look at the first few paragraphs from a recent story in Florida’s Sun Sentinel newspaper:
Considering I’m at the upper edges of the sport’s demographic, was this an unsettling confirmation of a grown man suspended in adolescent stages of development?
More troublesome: Was this some dark desire to see humans pummeling each other until they bleed from the face? Or perhaps it was as simple as there was nothing else on television, and mixed martial arts programs seem to be everywhere now.
For whatever reason, MMA started appearing on my television a few months back, and to my surprise, I kind of liked it.
Now, it’s hard for me to really get angry about this article, since it is, essentially, a positive one. But if there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s overcoming these types of obstacles to get angry anyway.
What annoys me here is the tone. It’s almost apologetic, as if the writer is saying, ‘I know this sport is totally barbaric and juvenile, but I like it anyway.’ It’s cloying and condescending. The way this particular writer disingenuously questions his own motives for wanting to see a violent sport is particularly grating. Does he ask himself the same questions about football or boxing?
I also don’t like how these writers tend to act as if MMA is this new thing they’ve discovered. For those of us who have been watching it since you had to buy the VHS tapes off the internet and watch them in somebody’s parents’ basement, it’s just maddening.
Just because you only recently learned about something, complacent sports columnists of America, that doesn’t make it new. I mean, I just learned that there is an oppressive military regime governing Myanmar (note to Pres. Bush, they don’t call it Burma anymore), but that doesn’t mean the whole thing just started when I found out about it.
I was talking this over with another MMA writer at the IFL Finals last week, and he seemed similarly annoyed with these articles. He estimated that we had another six months to a year of them before it became generally accepted that sports fans knew about MMA, at which point the discourse could move on.
But I find it troubling that even now that MMA has gained mainstream exposure it still gets treated as an aberration. Maybe it bothers me because while I see MMA as a natural evolution in combat sports, the media too often treats it like a trend that will soon die out.
Take this down, sports columnists. Rollerblading was a trend. Hypercolor t-shirts were a trend. MMA is a sport. You’d think people paid to know about stuff like this would have figured that out by now. But then you’d also think the President of the United States would know what he’s talking about before opening his mouth at the U.N.
So much for thinking.