VICE Sports feed for https://sports.vice.comenTue, 16 Jan 2018 01:42:11 +0000<![CDATA[Mighty Boban Dances Majestically to 'Chicken Noodle Soup']]>, 16 Jan 2018 01:42:11 +0000It's hard to tell why Boban Marjanović is dancing to the 2007 banger "Chicken Noodle Soup," but good goddamn are we glad it happened. The 7'3" Serbian gangled his way through the track, in the company of his teammate Tobias Harris, and it was a spectacle to behold.

It's always nice to see a couple of teammates getting along so well. Let's just hope these boys are sober enough to play the Bulls tomorrow night. Soda on the side.

kznxnmLiam Daniel PierceSean Newellchicken noodle soupnbaDetroit Pistonstobias harrisshenanigansboban marjanovic
<![CDATA[Positive Sign Girl is the Hero We Need Right Now]]>, 16 Jan 2018 01:41:49 +0000Listen, people. We've spent a lot of time this past year pouring out too much hate. And that's not healthy. Maybe we should just take a step back and recognize that it's OK to be nice every now and then. And maybe put out a sign intended to make people feel good.

Enter: "Positive Sign Girl."

Positive Sign Girl was rocking her super-posi sign at the Washington Capitals game against the Carolina Hurricanes last night, and we're not mad. In fact, we're pleased. We need more positivity in our world and we're hoping she is the one to bring it.

While her real name is Reilly Evans, she is down with being known as Positive Sign Girl. We decided to track down this fountain of good vibes and she told us she crafted the sign while she was on the Metro to the game. “I’m a pretty cynical person, surprisingly," Evans said. "Trash talking is a big part of sports, but I felt like doing something different. Because everyone on the ice—opponent or not—is incredibly talented, really.”

After holding up the sign against the glass, Reilly caught the attention of a couple of Caps players, and Evgeny Kuznetsov slapped a puck her way in appreciation. She described him as "one of my personal favorites." So positivity works, people.

She was also seen holding the same sign exactly one month ago at a Capitals-Colorado Avalanche game, too. So this could be a thing. Please God, let this be a thing. Inject the positivity straight into our veins, Positive Sign Girl.

This woman is rocking positive vibes like she's in a 90's pop music video. Sometimes, instead of trashing people we don't know whose job it is to entertain us, perhaps we should just step back and recognize that truly, they are all talented. Thank you, Positive Sign Girl. Your joy is infectious.

59wjk3Liam Daniel PierceSean NewellNHLHockeySignswashington capitalssign girl
<![CDATA[The Tactical Guide to Jeremy Stephens vs. Doo Ho Choi]]>, 16 Jan 2018 01:41:18 +0000For the second time in the past few years, South Korea’s mandatory military service laws are a hot topic in mixed martial arts. In 2013, Chan Sung Jung—a great finisher with his fists, knees and submissions—was riding a three-fight winning streak in the UFC featherweight division when he got thrown into a title fight with the great Jose Aldo. After injuring himself in that fight, Jung took some time off before announcing his intention to fulfill his military service in 2014. Jung returned to the cage in February 2017. Next in line is Doo Ho Choi.

A thunderous puncher who became a fan favorite within his first two UFC bouts, Choi declared earlier this week that he desires a title shot before he begins his mandatory service. It would certainly be fascinating to see what kind of case a UFC title could make, and the idea isn't too far-fetched. Olympic and Asian Games medalists have been allowed to complete a few weeks of basic training and return to their athletic careers, while the South Korean air force used to have an elite StarCraft team to keep the country's top gamers in action.

A run at the title inside 2018 seems like a long shot for Choi, though. After riding a wave of momentum after three first-round knockouts in the UFC, he was handed a punishing loss in his most recent bout against the grizzled veteran Cub Swanson. It was a fight-of-the-year candidate and both men took a beating, but it did more harm to the unstoppable aura of Choi, who, as Swanson’s team famously asserted, couldn’t fight while backing up.

This weekend, Choi meets one of the UFC’s longest-serving featherweights, Jeremy Stephens, in what is predictably being booked as a "he who lands first, wins" kind of match.

The Cross Counter and the Inside Right

A right straight didn’t used to be "the cross." The cross referred to "crossing" an opponent’s straight blow. He jabs, you slip inside and throw your right hand across the top. Could be an overhand, could be a slightly curving straight blow, but if it connects on the temple or jawline as he is extending, it has a great chance of sending him reeling. The overhand is the most common punch in MMA and in many cases the least effective, but time it so that it is crossing the opponent’s jab and you might just have a one-punch knockout on your hands.

The inside right you will see less often. Here is the great Edwin Haislet’s description from Boxing:

“As the opponent leads a left jab, quickly turn the body to the left, bringing the right shoulder forward to the center line. From this point drive the right hand into complete extension. The left lead slips to the outside of the right arm. The left hand is held in the position of guard. A short step to the left, shifting the weight over a straight left leg may be used to obtain more power.”

Edwin Haislet

While both the cross counter and the inside right involve slipping to the left, you will notice that the inside right, as Haislet shows it, requires the fighter to get his right shoulder inside of the opponent’s left. This slight angle creates the ideal line for the right straight, and you will see fighters set up the same line when using the left hook to line up a right straight.

This brings us to Doo Ho Choi’s peculiar right hand. Part straight, part overhand, part cross, and part inside right. Notice how whenever Choi throws his right hand, he leans well off to his left and often his right shoulder is considerably higher than his left. Sometimes he’ll throw what looks like a straight punch, extending at the elbow, but where Haislet’s inside right has the counter-fighter’s elbow tight to the ribs, Choi’s elbow will be the highest point on his body. Timing his right hand over the top of his opponent’s left, or down the inside of it, Choi has scored a number of remarkable knockouts.

The problems come when the exchange goes beyond the first punch. While Choi is capable of showing tighter control of his balance—as on the right straight that put down Thiago Tavares—more often he is working on the counter and throws all of his weight onto his lead leg as soon as he thinks he can land. This leaning right hand leaves him off balance and slow to either return to his stance or come back with the left hook. Cub Swanson did well getting the better of Choi in longer exchanges and trades.

Notice how much of Choi’s weight is ahead of his lead leg and how far he is leaning forward of his hips.

Choi’s left hook is decently powerful, too, and he hurt Sam Sicilia with it, but the lag time between his right hand and his left hook is considerable. A catch-and-pitch left hook would likely cause Choi all kinds of trouble. A nice example of this idea came at K-1’s recent heavyweight grand prix (yes, they actually are still doing those). "Mr. Cool" Ibrahim El Bouni starched his quarter- and semi-final opponents with his left hook after opening a flurry with his right hand. He hurt Antonio Plazibat with it in the final, until Plazibat decided to put his guard up, take the first punch that El Bouni threw on his guard, and use that as his trigger to fire back with the left hook. After clipping El Bouni a couple of times, Plazibat had the Moroccan knockout artist afraid to open up and was able to work more confidently to secure a decision victory.

However one-note Choi’s offense, his timing and power have proven enough to take out a number of passable featherweight talents. This makes him an interesting contrast to his opponent—a man who has all the power in the world, a lot of different looks, and who still cannot consistently stop his opponents.

Knockout Artistry and the Low, Low Kick

Jeremy Stephens is a bizarre fighter. He’s still marketed as a knockout artist even though his knockout percentage is mediocre, scoring just four in the last decade. Like Rashad Evans, Stephens' two key knockouts are played on repeat to create a hype package for UFC events—the mileage they have gotten out of that uppercut against Rafael dos Anjos in 2008 is quite astounding. In 25 fights with the UFC, he has scored just seven knockouts in total. He also has a habit of seeming like he’s finally "gotten it together," putting on a blinder against a decent opponent, and then looking completely out of place in his next fight.

After a decision loss to now-champ Max Holloway in December 2016, Stephens looked better than he ever had before when he welcomed Renan Barao to featherweight. A loss to the brilliant Frankie Edgar followed, but then Stephens—as the No. 5 ranked featherweight in the world—took on the unranked Renato Moicano. Stephens looked absolutely baffled as the Brazilian circled away from him, kicking and denying exchanges, and timing takedowns when Stephens overcommitted to the chase. Most recently, Stephens met a returning Gilbert Melendez—once considered a lightweight great—and battered him up and down after hobbling his leg in the first round.

Watching Stephens fight, it becomes apparent that he might do better if all his matches were fought in a parking space. As soon as his opponent starts moving, he is lost.

One trick that Stephens has picked up in recent years, and which subsequently appeared on every UFC card of 2017, is the low, low kick. To see the value of kicking below the knee, consider what the main dangers are in kicking the leg to begin with. When kicking the thigh, all the opponent needs do is set his weight and bend the lead leg into the kick and the kicker’s shin will ride up into his hip pocket, ready for the takedown.

Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic has aptly described another downside. When he was asked why he didn’t throw low kicks, Cro Cop pointed out that it only takes one good high kick or body kick to finish a fight, but it only takes one bad low kick to crack a bone and be significantly handicapped for the rest of the fight. Where broken low kicks on checks are still considered freak accidents by some, they happen to even elite kickboxers when they mistime their kicks.

The nature of checking low kicks is that the higher on the shin you take them, the less of the kick you will feel and the more it is going to hurt your opponent. In training, many good kickboxers will exaggerate their checks, lifting their check high and taking kicks on the middle of the shin even when wearing shin pads, but come fight time a little raise and turn is all it takes to place the hardest part of the leg directly into the opponent’s mid-to-lower shin.

You can do check a kick by picking up the lead leg, or even just by getting onto the ball of the foot and turning the shin out if you’re feeling very economical. You can’t, however, lower your leg if the opponent decides to kick low. When a fighter kicks below the knee, he is almost guaranteed to avoid the worst of it. So essentially, fighters are now choosing a guaranteed-to-be-rough shin-on-shin connection—ideally the side of the shin or even the calf—instead of a riskier shot at the tender meat of the thigh.

There doesn’t yet seem to be a decent way to check a low, low kick. The best means of dealing with it is, as with low line straight kicks, to withdraw the leg and move in through the wake of the kick. Raising the leg to check the low, low kick simply allows the opponent to kick the more sensitive lower shin, as it flaps on the end of a lever.

When Stephens had Melendez standing in front of him, he worked very well in combinations and searched for as many body shots and low kicks as he did home-run uppercuts and swings. It seems unlikely that this late in his career Stephens will tighten everything up and become the perfect technician, but we do seem to be a good distance removed from the guy who went charging chin first after Yves Edwards and got laid out with check hooks.

Hypothetical Game Plans

For Stephens, it is probably worth going after Choi’s lead leg, but Choi isn’t a very laterally mobile fighter anyway. He's more into a long stance and linear movement. That could pair very well with Stephens’ low kicks, but Choi is always waiting to step down the center with his right hand. It doesn’t matter how hard the kick connects if you eat a stiff right hand while you’re on one leg. Feints are not a regular fixture in the Jeremy Stephens toolbox, but against a man who is waiting on a hair trigger to drop the right hand—and who throws himself out of position so completely when he does—feints would be an invaluable weapon. Feinting Choi into throwing would make landing the low kicks far easier as he retreated from his missed counter into his stance, and if Choi’s finger comes off the trigger after a few feints, Stephens can step in and get more aggressive.

Stephens’ body work is actually very good. If he went to it more there is a good chance he’d pick up more finishes. Against such a one-trick counter puncher, this would be the perfect fight to pull out the jab-and-duck, initiating an exchange only to drop under Choi’s punches and begin hammering the body. With Choi’s right flank so completely exposed for such a lengthy period after his right hand, the left hook to the liver could be a killer.

The great example we always use to illustrate the jab-and-duck is Roberto Duran. He could get in, hit the body, and get out like nobody in the game. It all stemmed from using the jab as the trigger for his opponent’s counters, and already being in motion when he started firing. And of course it doesn’t have to be a duck. You can slip anyway you want as long as you’re not where the opponent thought you were going to be.

Choi’s takedown defense has only been tested a little in the UFC. Cub Swanson was able to mount him and give him trouble on the ground, but the two had exchanged a few headache-makers at that point. Should Stephens find himself struggling with Choi's speed, pushing the fight to the fence and making a grind of it might be a good idea, and one he should go to earlier rather than later in order to reap the benefits. Pushing off out of the clinch and looking to land low kicks along the fence is an underused strategy. It's part of what makes Justin Gaethje so dangerous, and it could serve Stephens well here.

For Choi, now would be the time to apply some lateral movement, because it makes fighting Stephens so much easier. If Stephens is constantly moving and turning, he cannot wind his punches up behind him. Furthermore, his impatience can lead to him walking in completely square, making for easy takedowns or, more appropriately, giving Choi the chance to shoot a straight tight up the center.

Choi feigns the jab in every single fight but rarely ever throws it. Stephens has added some neater counter punches to his game in recent years, but he will move his head the first punch that his opponent shows him. This is where the jab is so useful for a good boxer—it is a flicking, noncommittal blow that makes the opponent show his intentions before the jabber ever has to open up. Jabbing Stephens into pulling his head back for the pull right hand that he has used recently would leave him in dire straits should Choi’s right hand follow.

One important point in this fight for Choi is to stay off the fence. Stephens is no Rafael dos Anjos; he isn’t going to mercilessly take advantage of every moment along the fence, and in fact he let Renato Moicano escape while awkwardly trying to find a swing at his head, but he will still go for broke if he sees his man hit the fence.

This is a peculiar main event. Choi is looking to rebound and regain some momentum, but aside from Yves Edwards in 2012, Stephens has never been knocked out—and that Edwards knockout was more Stephens’ aggression and Edwards’ timing than Edwards’ power or Stephens’ chin. If Stephens has proved anything in his lengthy, hot-and-cold career, it is that he can take a licking and keep on ticking. Choi has gone the distance once since 2011, and that was the loss against Cub Swanson. For all his swinging for the fences, Stephens doesn’t seem to lose heart when he can’t get the knockout. For a young, highly touted knockout artist like Choi, though, that is a very real possibility.

Jack wrote the hit biography Notorious: The Life and Fights of Conor McGregor and scouts prospects at The Fight Primer .

ev5qgpJack SlackSean NewellMMAUFCdoo ho choijeremy stephens
<![CDATA[Klay Thompson's Dad Laments the Pitiful State of Arm Muscles in the Modern NBA]]>, 16 Jan 2018 01:40:55 +0000This weekend on the internet, Mychal Thompson, two time NBA Champion, Showtime-era star forward on the Lakers, current broadcaster, father of Klay and Trayce, took to Twitter to lament the status of arm sculpture in the modern NBA:

A lot of ex-athletes like to let out a lusty “IN MY DAY” from time to time. Most of them are bullshit, but this one, lamenting the guns that seem to have been banned from the game…this one is probably true. Take a long, hard look at some of the cannons these ragtag pirate ship-dudes think they’re getting away with:

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Muscles in active posture, alive and large. Not showy certainly, we do not see the galaxies in their crevices as we do when we see David Robinson, but, I think, still beautiful in their own way, an attainable ideal for the citizenries of Greece and America alike. Even if the silken, toned beeflord—a beauty to admire, for certain—is on his way out, the human body lives and thrives in sport nevertheless, even if it’s beauty is a little more subtle. We celebrate the flabby sportsman of the future.

bjy5dmCorbin SmithEric Nusbaumcarmelo anthonyBasketballnbaMusclesArmsklay thompsonmarc gasolcorey maggettemychel thompson
<![CDATA[We Should All Be Rooting for America's Team, the Jacksonville Jaguars]]>, 16 Jan 2018 01:40:36 +0000We are all Jacksonville Jaguars.

The subjective nature of good vs. evil goes out the window in next week's AFC title game. The Patriots are villainous cheaters with a player, coach, and owner that consider Donald Trump a friend, while the Jaguars are best known as the team that can't afford to finish the paint jobs on their helmets. Tom Brady is a snake-oil salesman peddling magic water and pajamas; Blake Bortles drinks from the tap and sleeps in a T-shirt he got for free at a bar in 2013.

No team in sports history has ever been more worthy of a neutral fan's love and support than the Jaguars. They saved us from Patriots-Steelers, which was sure to end with Chris Boswell missing a game-tying extra point after 23 desperation laterals with no time left made it a one-point game. Nobody has to choke back puke while cheering for Ben Roethlisberger because of the Jaguars.

The Jaguars are fun. Not, like, obvious fun. They run the ball a ton, rely on defense, and Bortles will make you think you could have been an NFL quarterback if your parents had bought you a football instead of a flute when you were seven. The Jaguars are a likable version of Rudy; the Patriots are Hannibal Lecter with fewer redeeming qualities.

You probably haven't thought about the Jaguars since the 1990s, if at all. You have no reason to hate them. You have no reason to wish them ill. You forgot they existed until a couple weeks ago. To root against the Jaguars would be like rooting against your coffee table or wind. They are the people's contender. They rose from the muck to challenge Sports Satan. Get on board, there's plenty of room.

What have two decades of the Patriots' dominance yielded in terms of personality? Has anyone besides Vince Wilfork ever said anything interesting? Rob Gronkowski dropping his forearm on the head of a prone Bills player this season cancels out his giddiness over hearing someone say "69." The coach is a prick and the star player is an uninteresting quarterback who has a personal doctor that claims he can cure cancer and concussions.

No team has talked as much wonderful shit after a win in sports history as the Jaguars did Sunday. Gaze upon all this gold!

"What's your mom say when you say something stupid? She put a bar of soap in your mouth, right? But we ain't your momma. We're your stepdad. We're going to hit you in the mouth," linebacker Lerentee McCray told USA TODAY Sports.

And even when a player attempted to be magnanimous, a teammate was there to pick up the slack:

How do you not crave one more week of that? How are you not frothing for quotes after the Jaguars go into Foxboro and gut the Patriots? "We heard the Patriots were good but I didn't see it. Maybe they should have cheated again. Yeah, that's right. I said again. Maybe they should have deflated more footballs for Tom. It's easy to play until you're 40 when you and your Sith Lord-lookin' ass coach break the rules for two decades."

The Jaguars give zero shits. They have been bullied for so long that they became a literal punch line on a network television show. This is your team. This is us.

When you throw in your lot with the Patriots, you do so with celebrity fans like Trump and Mark Wahlberg; when you get behind the Jaguars, you stand with... um... remember the woman that growled into the camera that time? Her. Who represents your ideal America more? Two wannabe tough guys that think they could have prevented 9/11? Or Roberta, a homeless woman who loved the Jaguars unconditionally through their darkest times?

And here's the thing—the Jaguars can actually beat the Patriots and make the Super Bowl, as I said in October!

You wouldn't be hitching your wagon to a lost cause. When the New York Giants shocked the undefeated Patriots in Super Bowl XLII, they were bigger underdogs (12 points) than what the Jaguars are facing (8.5 points) to start the week. The Giants had Tom Coughlin employed as a coach; the Jaguars have Coughlin employed as an executive vice president. Bortles is Eli Manning with 40 percent less Aw Shucks.

The Jaguars also have something the Giants had 10 years ago—an elite defense, one that's better than what Coughlin had when he was a coach with the Giants. That sounds ridiculous after the Jaguars allowed 42 points to the Steelers but half of it was attained on fourth down prayers and during garbage time. Life will be easier against a team that lacks Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell, especially if Gronkowski eats too many Tide pods the night before the game.

Besides, the Jaguars already went to New England in the preseason and defeated the best quarterback on the Patriots roster this season—Jimmy Garoppolo.

Forget the Cowboys—the Jaguars are America's Team. The Jaguars embody our desire to pull ourselves out of an impossibly bleak situation and feel alive again; the Patriots are everything wrong with the world, the epitome of a perpetual ruling class with an embarrassment of ill-gotten gains that's immune from punishment for its crimes. The Patriots are the British Empire and we are a colony of Bortleses firing our mostly inaccurate muskets in an attempt to win our sports freedom.

Let us stand united against tyranny this Sunday. Let us create a level of losing for Patriots fans that can't be measured. Let us experience happiness together.

bjy3vzDave LozoChris TomanNFLFootballTom BradyNew England PatriotsNFL playoffsJacksonville Jaguarsblake bortles
<![CDATA[After Coming Out as a Transgender Athlete, Jessica Platt Is Ready to Inspire]]>, 16 Jan 2018 01:40:09 +0000For Jessica Platt, the sports world has not always been the most inclusive environment. That community, though, played a significant role in her decision to embrace her identity on a public stage.

Platt, a professional hockey player who came out as a transgender woman on social media last week, can be an example for someone else. And one example, as she discovered, can be all it takes.

Platt, a 28-year-old defenceman with the Toronto Furies of the Canadian Women's Hockey League, had just one person in the hockey world with whom to identify. Harrison Browne, of the National Women's Hockey League, who came out as a transgender man last year—the first professional athlete in North America to do so—was a direct influence on her, though their lives and stories are as unique as any other’s.

"Seeing how people reacted to [Browne] kind of gave me more of an idea of how people might react to me," Platt told VICE Sports. "We've sent a couple of messages back and forth and he's been supportive of me. He's a fantastic person."

Browne, who went public in October 2016, tweeted that Platt was "saving lives" with her announcement.

"I was doing this in the hopes of positively affecting some people's lives, maybe being a role model," Platt said. "It didn't cross my mind just how much of an effect I could have."

In the days since, support for her has come from all sides, both on and off the ice.

"My main support has come from friends and family who I've been talking to about potentially doing this," she said. "I was in contact with a couple of people from the CWHL, bouncing ideas off each other. I think I'm very lucky to be able to tell my story.

"The hockey world has been great. Women's hockey is a very special community where everyone believes that if you can play, you have the right to play. My team has been pretty much the best that I could have asked [for]. Our fans have been supportive toward me on social media."

A welcoming atmosphere can be hard to find, harder still as a young person in team sports.

"Growing up, I was quite shy unless I got to know you real well," said Platt, who grew up in Sarnia, Ontario, and played hockey her whole life. "During high school I started questioning my identity. I didn't know too many people who were questioning themselves like I was. I didn't really know it was an option. I started falling out of sync with people. When I was playing hockey, and just in general, I didn't really identify with the super-masculine bro culture kind-of-thing. I tended to keep more to myself.

"Playing on the ice was never an issue, it was mostly the culture surrounding it and people's attitudes."

The CWHL was the first North American league to work with the You Can Play organization when it signed on in 2012. Leagues, management, and coaches can sometimes be gatekeepers to inclusivity but Platt has only found acceptance from Furies staff.

"She's talked about not having role models when she was young and she hopes that she can be that," said head coach Jeff Flanagan. "The opportunity for women in the CWHL to be positive role models for young girls is enormous. On our team, we've got engineers, teachers, women in management positions. Parents can say to their kids, 'You can do that, too.'"

Flanagan is also a teacher and said he's had experience with trans students in the school environment that have prepared him well in being able to support Platt in any way he can.

"One of the more difficult aspects of coaching is making sure your players are in a good spot so that they can perform athletically," he said. "What drew us to having Jessica on the team was her work level. She's in fantastic shape. Her ability to change her game after making a mistake and getting feedback has been very good. She's improving every day."

Platt left hockey after school only to unintentionally find it again years later. While working at a training facility in Waterloo, Ontario, she helped to teach learn-to-skate and hockey skills classes to young children.

"Passing that on to a younger generation kind of lit a fire under me," she said. "I eventually found a summer league to play in when I felt comfortable with myself."

At the end of that summer (2016), she signed up for the CWHL draft and was selected by the Furies to join their extended roster. She played four games last season before turning into a full-time roster player this year. Her first goal in women's pro hockey came in Montreal against the defending-champion Les Canadiennes.

"My message is to not be afraid to be yourself."

"I felt like I accomplished something great," she said. "Not a lot of people make it to the CWHL and even then, it's so hard to score. The puck is in my stall at the rink to remind me I can do it. I feel I've accomplished what I set out to do and I think I can only get better now."

Being in the public eye, Platt has the opportunity to reach a larger number of people than if she came out privately. In some ways, she said, it's easier coming out while being in the spotlight.

"People are telling me that I"m helping them," Platt said. "I have solid evidence that I'm doing some good. I know it's not easy for a lot of people. Everyone's coming-out process is different. It could also be easier for [people outside public view] because there's no potential for a media backlash. You never know if anything bad is going to happen.

"My message is to not be afraid to be yourself. There's potential for happiness. I know it sounds cliche but it gets better. I never gave up and everything is absolutely amazing for me right now."

The Furies will play in Sarnia this Saturday as part of the Hockey Day In Canada festival, giving Platt a chance to return to her hometown feeling more like her true self than ever before. She's already told practically everyone she knows in town to come watch.

"I've reached a point in my life where I'm happy with and confident in who I am. I thought I would be able to help some people if I could lend my voice and give them someone to relate to," she said. "Someone to give them a solid example, that they can live their life how they were meant to, and follow their dream as well."

qvwn3wJoe PackChris TomanHockeyHarrison BrownecwhlCanadian Women's Hockey League Jessica PlattToronto Furies Transgender athlete
<![CDATA[A Q&A With Mike Perry, MMA Fighter and Animal Impersonator ]]>, 19 Dec 2017 23:23:30 +0000Like falling asleep with the TV on and failing to discern your own dreams from what happened in an early morning Friends rerun, there’s a surrealistic quality to the things UFC welterweight Mike Perry says and does that makes you question whether they actually occurred at all.

An interviewer once asked him about the meaning of his nickname—Platinum—to which he replied, “If we wanted to set up a satellite to talk to God, we’d probably make it out of platinum so it could reach across the universe, and the energy would stretch far beyond anything we’ve ever known.”

In September, he celebrated in the cage with an eerily accurate pantomime of a strutting rooster.

Recently, he showed up in Poland dressed like prime Joey Fatone, and Photoshopped himself into a Kung Fu Panda movie poster.

But fight sports reward original personalities to the exclusion of almost everything else, and Perry, through saying and doing things that force a second look, has a charisma his Conor McGregor-biting peers would kill for. Plus he fights like the second coming of Chuck Liddell, a hands-down-chin-up fighter who’s notched all of his 11 victories by some variation of knockout. On Saturday, December 16, he fights fellow top-ranked 170-pounder Santiago Ponzinibbio on UFC on Fox: Lawler vs. dos Anjos. Perry allowed Vice Sports passage into his brain. (Interview has been edited and condensed.)

Vice Sports: You made your UFC debut while you were on probation for burglary. Tell me more about the lifestyle you were living back then.

Mike Perry: Really, what that was was just ignorance in my past. I was playing Grand Theft Auto in real life. That tough guy thing—I’m gonna call that a persona because, now, I’m a real tough guy. I’ve got, like, a family of dogs and my girl and a house that I own, cars, and I gotta be responsible and pay bills. That shit makes you way stronger than if you’re just some little kid who thinks he’s tough and is out here trying to get money. That kid felt like he ain’t got nothing to lose even though he has his whole life ahead of him—he never had anything and doesn’t know where he’s gonna get his money for his next bills. But I’d fuck that kid up now, man. The guy I am now would fuck that kid up so bad.

What about fighting speaks to you and brings you satisfaction?

Other than it being really easy—it’s an easy way for me to make a living because I enjoy working out. This job probably has the least amount of reading and writing than other jobs, so I don’t have to do any homework, you know? Also, it’s so real, man. When I say real, I mean like growing vegetables and raising cattle and living life off the earth like we were supposed to. The original way of living. And if a motherfucker walked off in my village, and we didn’t know who he was, I’m the warrior that’s gonna destroy this motherfucker before he even gets an idea.

I was watching an interview with you from after your first fight in the UFC a little over a year and a half ago, and you seemed guarded, closed up, not so eager to talk. But since then you’ve grown really comfortable with the PR aspect of fighting. What changed?

All it is I’m able to be myself even more now. Maybe you’re right: maybe I was closed up, trying to hold some things in. Sometimes I feel like I can get a little out there and I needed people to pay attention and see what I’m capable of doing. [But] something in my head changed. When I talk, I talk to myself: I’m trying to listen to what I’m thinking about, out loud, so I can analyze and really see where I’m trying to go.

What does a perfect fight look like to you? Is it something with a lot of give and take, or a knockout inside of a minute?

It’s just who owns the night, who does the night belong to. It’s not just me and my opponent either. I gotta shine on the card. There’s 10 other fights, 20 other fighters on a card looking to shine. I can’t just win. I can’t just have a good fight. I gotta be tremendous.

You once said “Kids: don’t get tattoos on your face until you’re old enough and living your dreams.” What did you really mean by that?

There’s many reasons I have this tattoo on my face. One is to keep people away from me. Another is I got split, like, 12 days before my UFC debut—I took an elbow in training and I had this nasty line above my forehead from the stitches. I’ve always wanted a tattoo on my face. and I was like, man, now’s a better time than any to get the tattoo. So I went and got it, like fuck it, I got nothing to lose now, I got everything to gain, we gonna take over.

Has your life been different, or have people treated you differently, since you got your face tattooed?

Not at all, to be honest.

I’m assuming you didn’t do any film study, but what went into the rooster imitation you did?

Martial arts and animals go together—they go hand in hand. Each animal symbolizes a different style of martial arts, all different moves and techniques you can use to finish an opponent. The rooster was about, I just got in a little cock fight and pecked him to death. I gotta get more animals. More styles. More souls.

Do you have any other animals—from the farm, the zoo, wherever—that you have in mind for future impressions?

Yeah, I’ve been doing a T-rex and a velociraptor—getting prehistoric on these motherfuckers.

You’ve also said that you have “a really strong face.” Explain that.
I mean, I can take a shot. I’m Platinum, man—I absorb heat. I’m definitely willing to take a couple to give one. And I know how to move. I’m not getting hit like y’all think I’m getting hit. I’m so fast, as soon as that shit touches me I’m out the way [even if] it’s still grazing my face at the same time. Most of these motherfuckers don’t even know how to punch anyway.

gydjwxJeff HarderEric NusbaumMMAUFCFIGHTLANDRoostersMike Perry
<![CDATA[We Still Have No Idea What a Catch Is in the NFL]]>, 19 Dec 2017 23:22:27 +0000What is a catch? Are you a catch? Am I catch? Are we all living inside a catch right now? Is there a difference between a catch and the idea of a catch? When does a catch end and life begin? If a catch falls in the forest, and no one is there to see it make a football move, does the catch happen?

The NFL’s catch rule is exhausting. Every time I think I understand it, something like Jesse James’s overturned touchdown at the end of Sunday's Patriots-Steelers game happens. I saw the ball come loose but, with great hubris, I declared the play a catch, because clearly he had possession, turned to the end zone, and extended the ball across the goal line. Game over. Suck it, Patriots.

The NFL changed the call, Ben Roethlisberger lost his damn mind like everyone seems to do in crunch time against the Patriots, and the Steelers snatched defeat from the jaws of victory and overtime. The catch rule is so ridiculous that a video from the NFL explaining why the pass wasn’t completed opens with the phrase, “As we can see here, Roethlisberger completes a pass to James.”

This is the year satire died.

But I assure you, the reader, that I studied the catch rule thoroughly after Sunday’s events and am prepared to answer all questions about catches. That’s why I have created this helpful Q&A you can reference the next time an exotic and new circumstance appears in an NFL game. I love to entertain but sometimes I want to teach. Hopefully this doesn’t get too technical.

Let’s say a player catches a pass with two feet in bounds. Is that a catch?

I don’t know.

Let’s say a player catches a pass with two feet down but has the ball knocked out of his hands before he can move with it. Catch?

I don’t know.

OK, this seems easy. Let’s say he catches the ball, but as he’s going to the ground the ball pops loose on impact. Catch?

I don’t know.

What if a player secures the ball with two hands and, while falling to the ground, recites all the lyrics from Spacehog’s 1996 classic song “In the Meantime” before the ball comes loose on impact with the ground?

I don’t know.

What if after securing the catch, the first thing to touch the ground are the receiver’s balls, causing the receiver to scream, “Ouch, I sat on my balls!” before throwing the ball away in pain?

I don’t know.

What if the receiver catches the ball, takes three steps, attempts to hurdle a defender, is flipped so high into the air that he lands on top of the stadium, has to have a fire department come with a ladder to get him down, and, while he’s being carried down the ladder by a fireman, drops the ball into the stands.

I don’t know.

What if he was up on the stadium roof for an hour?

I don’t know.

What if a receiver catches the ball with his feet and gets two hands in bounds? Is that a catch?

I don’t know.

What if a receiver catches a pass in overtime, runs through the end zone, out of the stadium, across the street, into an airport, boards a plane, flies to Istanbul, meets a woman, dates her for six years, proposes marriage, gets married, moves back to America to accept a high school coaching job, coaches high school football for 40 years, receives a gym teacher of the year award, dies six years later, and is buried with the football he never put down for the rest of his life?


Even if the ball is in the coffin with him and lowered into the ground, where both he and the coffin decompose, causing the ball to touch the dirt hundreds of years from now?

Oh, I don’t know.

What if a player catches the ball, gets two feet down, eats the ball, then pukes the ball on the field before he takes a third step?

I don’t know.

What if instead of puking up the ball, he poops the ball out the next day at home?

I don’t know.

What if a player catches the ball and, before anyone can tackle or touch him, he pulls out a gun and points it at the football and threatens everyone to stay away or the football gets it, and after a 12-hour standoff with referees, gently places the football on the ground?

I don’t know.

What if a player makes a catch, takes two steps, fills out the official NFL catch paperwork to declare his relationship with the football, has it stamped and notarized, files the paperwork with the league office and NFLPA, then fills out an Intent To Make A Football Move document but drops the pen and not the football?

I don’t know.

What if a player catches the ball in mid-air and, before he can return to the earth’s surface, the planet’s core explodes, which causes the loss of gravity as we drift off into space, but some of the dirt from the field touches the receiver’s feet as the ball slips into a black hole?

I don’t know.

What if a receiver catches the ball and gets two feet down, but his feet land on the back of an official, and then he uses the ball as a pillow under the wounded official’s head?

I don’t know.

OK, fine, I get it. Nobody knows with any certainty. But what if any of these possibilities occurred for the Patriots?

Definitely a catch.

And against the Patriots?

Definitely not a catch.

qvwpzxDave LozoSean NewellNFLFootballNew England Patriotspittsburgh steelerscatchessteelers catch
<![CDATA[Colin Kaepernick and Steph Curry want to Join Diddy and Buy the Panthers]]>, 19 Dec 2017 23:21:59 +0000Over the weekend, Sports Illustrated revealed why the Carolina Panthers had launched an investigation into owner Jerry Richardson for "workplace misconduct." At least four former employees signed "'significant' monetary" settlements with the owner for a laundry list of offenses that ranged from unwanted sexual behavior to directing a racial slur at a former African American scout.

As the NFL announced that it would be taking over the team-led investigation, Richardson released a statement saying that he would be selling the team because it was "time to turn the franchise over to new ownership." He never acknowledged the investigation, or Sports Illustrated's reporting, but it seems pretty clear why now is the "time to turn the franchise over."

Owning an NFL team is essentially a license to print money, so naturally a lot of people are interested, including rap mogul Diddy. And Colin Kaepernick. And local son Steph Curry. Diddy has been tweeting and Instagramming about it since Richardson announced his intention to sell and made the bold statement that if he becomes owner, he will "immediately address the Colin Kaepernick situation" and bring him in to compete with Cam Newton for the starting position.

Richardson founded the team in 1993, paying $206 million to bring professional football to Charlotte. According to Forbes, the franchise is now worth $1 billion. That's uh, that's a lot of money. Diddy, however, has a lot of money. Also according to Forbes, his net worth is $820 million, making him the richest man in hip hop. Curry and Kaepernick don't have that kind of cash, but they could go the Derek Jeter route and invest a small portion to become a minority owner. If Diddy successfully bid on the team—a rather large if—he would become the first African American majority owner in the NFL.

If we have learned anything from this NFL season, and this particular moment in time in this country, Diddy becoming the first black owner of a football team is a desperately needed development. NFL owners have successfully co-opted Kaepernick's police brutality protests, waged war on their players' freedom to express themselves, and created work environments where a boss's sexual harassment was written off as "more of a creepy old man thing." Most importantly, the NFL needs a breath of fresh air, but also, Carolina's halftime shows would absolutely be the best in the league. Let's make this happen.

It may be a while before we find out who is actually in the running, however, because Richardson said he would no consider any bids/prospective ownership groups until after the Panthers play their last game of the season.

j5vqbdSean NewellNFLFootballDiddycarolina panthersColin Kaepernickjerry richardsonI wrote "diddy" a lot today
<![CDATA[Jinder Mahal's Nihilistic Run as a Top Guy is Over]]>, 19 Dec 2017 23:19:57 +0000At the end of Sunday’s Clash of Champions pay-per-view, Jinder Mahal tapped out. He was in the middle of the ring, his leg contorted in WWE champion AJ Styles’s Calf Crusher, veins bulging as he screamed in feigned pain and probably real discomfort. The referee rang the bell, the camera zoomed in on the triumphant Styles, and Mahal disappeared.

Men don’t tap out in WWE, at least not often, and when they do, it’s nearly always a marker of a shift in storyline. Someone backstage, likely but not necessarily Vince McMahon, sees giving up to a submission move as emasculating. This is why women tap all the time—Natalya tapped to Charlotte’s Figure Eight earlier in the evening—with no more import attached to it than to any other finishing move. There’s nothing to castrate with women, no fears of unmanliness looming over the sight of screaming and pounding on the mat. It is remarkably refreshing and a pleasant reminder that WWE’s men don’t (usually) tap edict is the aberration, not the historical rule.

A testament to the rarity is that I don’t recall the last time Styles won a big match with the Calf Crusher in WWE. That absence of submission wins for such a cool looking move says something about Styles’s place in WWE: well-regarded but not in the role of emasculator when compared to even John Cena with his poorly executed STF. There’s a limit to WWE’s idea of manliness which Styles can display; he’s already in the hole with his distractingly luxurious hair and flippy offense, so there’s no way he can rack up submission wins like a latter day Dean Malenko.

If the lack of submission wins means something a little diffuse about Styles’s place in the pecking order—guy everyone wants to wrestle, best pure wrestler in the company, but probably never the guy for McMahon and company—Mahal’s loss means something definite. He’s done as a top guy on Smackdown. Rusev, in speaking about his own submission finisher, the Accolade, on the WWE Network’s Ride Along show, casually stated that “it doesn’t work on top guys.” And he’s more right than he knows: there aren’t any submissions which work on the top guys in WWE. Submission losses are never just losses, even if the de-emphasis on the guy tapping out is temporary.

It’s rather stunning that Rusev’s Rule was simply blurted out like that, but the logic is true and clear. Submissions don’t work on top guys, a submission worked on Mahal, Mahal is not a top guy. Not anymore.

That much was obvious when he lost the WWE title to Styles on an episode of Smackdown in early November. For six months, Mahal ruled over Smackdown in an overlong, surprisingly dominant reign as champion. Every indication was that Mahal’s run at the top was to juice the attendance numbers for WWE’s autumn tour of India, with Mahal vanquishing Styles or Randy Orton in front of his “home” fans (Mahal is Canadian). Except that he lost the title to Styles shortly before the tour started, the number of shows was cut to one, and the expected title defenses turned into Mahal losing to Triple H before the two men danced in the middle of the ring.

Screen capture via WWE

It’s hardly novel at this point, but neither can it be stressed enough: nothing about Jinder Mahal’s run made sense. Not putting the title on him. Not giving him the better part of a year as champion. Not feeding him Nakamura and Orton. He’s an okay talker and a bad to mediocre wrestler who routinely messed up his really simply finishing move. His only good matches were with Styles, who is so good it’s tough to recall the last time he had a bad match with anyone.

That’s a harsh assessment, but it’s also okay to not be a great wrestler. There’s a midcard and roster of openers for a reason, and there’s absolutely no shame in being one of those wrestlers. Having those wrestlers is part of how the form works. To boot, Mahal seems like a genuinely nice guy who recognizes just how wild a ride the past year has been.

But he’s done and nothing came of it. You give the top title to someone for a variety of reasons, ranging from juicing business to performance to temporarily holding it to get it on someone else for storyline reasons. Ostensibly, Mahal’s run was for reason number one, except he never made it to India as champion. Reasons two and three are right out.

Which leaves a gnawing emptiness at the heart of Mahal’s title reign. It’s confused storytelling, yes, but also not a little nihilistic. Because in the end, what does it matter? My colleagues and I will be writing about WWE more weeks than not. People will watch WWE more often than not. Mahal’s run will be forgotten, unless a strange redemption arc is set up for the next trip to India (which is absolutely possible, if not probable).

WWE doesn’t have a monopoly in the industry anymore; the indies and New Japan have, against all expectations, offered a way for wrestlers to make money and for fans to see a variety of styles through streaming services.

What WWE does have, however, is a near monopoly on ease of access—something which may increase with the probable end of Net Neutrality, by the way, given Linda McMahon is part of the Trump administration. WWE is and always will be easy to access. People work more than they have in decades, with less disposable income. They’re busy, mentally and physically. Tapping into an obscure streaming service is tougher for a casual to medium-intensity fan than watching WWE every week, where they tell you over and over exactly how to access the Network in simple terms.

Mahal’s rise and fall over the past year may be more a testament to the power of monopoly of the spectacle than any hole in WWE’s storytelling or shortcomings in his ability as a wrestler. It may simply be that WWE didn’t give a shit because they don’t have to.

ne4v5dIan WilliamsSean NewellWRESTLINGWWENihilismAJ StylesbruisedayJinder Mahal