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Sports Desk
by N. L. Wilbur
2008-10-25 11:21:37
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I had to have my girlfriend repeat the question when she asked whether or not I wanted to head downtown Saturday night to attend a wine tasting-slash-cage fighting event.

Even after repeating the question I still couldn't conceptualize such an amalgamation of brassiness and brawn. Images came to mind of 70-year-old butlers in bow ties and black suits with English accents sitting on stools inside a fenced-off boxing ring and sipping on glasses of Château Margaux.

"I'm not drinking any bloody merlot!" one shouts, and then the white gloves come off.

But then again, after the XFL, the widening of NASCAR racetracks, American versions of bull fighting, of course hockey, and even the majority of pornography these days, one has to consider that the tides have turned and the blood-thirsty juveniles of our great nation are finally getting bored with the added twists of violence to everything we once took pride in -- mostly guilt-free.

Are we finally returning to a classy genre of true sport where hand-to-hand combat required stamina and skill, training and real toughness, rather than just a lucky blow amid a hailstorm of misguided fists and flailing elbows? Could wine bring all that back?

We are living in hard economic times, as we're so often reminded, and with countless numbers of the type of spectators who regularly attend these kinds of events now having to make cuts to their weekend entertainment budgets, it's border-line genius to reach out in such a way. Surely wine could bring in at least some crowds that otherwise would not be turned on by the sight of a bunch of half-naked baboons rolling around on the boxing ring mat for sixty seconds before one of them is forced to tap out before his arm snaps off between the jelly thighs of his opponent.

I couldn't help but make a connection here to the recent displays of baboonery at McCain-Palin rallies. I wondered if the wine tasting adage to their campaign rallies would have an effect on the riled masses who crawl out of their bomb shelters, check their AK-47s at the door and exercise the God-given right to claiming their 15 seconds of fame -- and supporting an equally insane ticket -- by shouting things like "terrorist," "socialist" and "kill him" when the opponent's name is mentioned. I feel wine would not help these "activists," because I assume the majority of them have been sober at the rally events to date, although I could be wrong. (I definitely couldn't attend one sober.)


We met up with Anita's cousin Michael downtown about 5:30 and confirmed with him that we had not been misinformed about the joint offerings of this amateur event, then headed to the hotel -- myself still a bit skeptical.

At the door, the hotel manager dangled three bracelets just out of reach as she barked through a well-rehearsed lecture on cage fighting etiquette, which included the number of drinks we were allowed, how long we would have to consume the first before requesting a second, third and fourth, and at what point we will be cut off; smoking areas; the no-camera rule and, how could I forget, the hotel's "no tolerance for violence" policy. Quick! Someone hand me a dictionary so I can look up the word "irony."

Three hours earlier I'd snuck into the theater with a pint of whiskey for the debut of Oliver Stone's "W." The liquor was a requisite to consuming eight of the most terrorizing years of American modern history as they were portrayed in a condensed three-hour version on the big screen, but the pint also proved useful in swallowing the "nothing goes" doctrine set before me by this old hag. I was hanging on the threat of a quickly evaporating buzz by the time we'd reached the hotel, but it was enough to slow the retention of that whole mess of nonsense this woman spewed before finally handing over our bracelets and letting us loose inside.

Like I said -- or if I haven't said it already I should have -- I'd never witnessed one of these deprecating spectacles, or attended a wine tasting, but I learned quickly they're not kidding about the "tasting" part. They skimped me every time I tipped my plastic cup toward the wine steward. We couldn't wander more than 15 feet from the picnic table because after one sip we were empty. The whole night looked spoiled when they kicked us out for having too many X's on our bracelet after "tasting" a spoonful of each of the Russian Rieslings, the Scandinavian Syrahs and three Castillian Chiantis.

We were still a half-hour out from the opening ceremony when we took a vote and agreed to inspect the hotel bar, and, in the mean time, check the score on the LSU-South Carolina game. It was 17 to 10 at halftime, after the Tigers had given up two touchdowns in the first three minutes of the second quarter, a performance I can't help but note was similar in its pitiful defensive strategy of the washed-up John McCain in his 0-for-2 presidential debate appearances.

By the time we found the bar, the Tigers had rallied, sacked first-time starting quarterback Stephen Garcia six times and went on to hold the Gamecocks, no commentary needed, to just 42 yards in the fourth quarter -- a "game-changer" that unfortunately had no resemblance to the geriatric GOP candidate's barely breathing race for the White House; Barack Obama may be comparable as the first-time quarterback, but he needs no hail marys, Hail Marys or even bloody marys to hold onto this ever-mounting lead through Election Day.

Even the bartender, a grumpy bastard if I've ever seen one, was in on the manager's rules of maintaining civility through the hotel's first-time hosting of this cage fight, and he reminded us of the status quo of Albuquerque's MCM Elegante hotel once more when we ordered a round of whiskey shots and three Long Island iced teas. He marked my bracelet with seven X's because, he said, the Long Islands contain the equivalent of five shots, and because I finished half of Anita's, my own and the Long Island in less than five minutes, the beer gardeners inside would need to know when to stop serving me.

It was then that we began devising a plan to escape the abolitionists and swindle our way into three new X-free bracelets, but I'll get into that in a moment.

The bartender said there was a 14 drink maximum, a claim I couldn't remember the old hotel management hag making when we'd first arrived, but this was no old bastard to fuss with, so we downed the teas, tipped him a quarter, left the bar and spent the next fifteen minutes wandering through the halls of the 100 rooms wondering why we'd bothered. Skimpy pours on the wine, a heckling bartender that make Raiders fans look like San Francisco peace rally attendees, and shackles around our wrists that seem to say "No, you will not have this much fun tonight."

Outside in the tent it was even more chaotic. The security detail at this thing looked like a 200-strong group of hillbillies at a McCain rally, and it put Bush's troop surge in Iraq to shame.

The guards at the gate were so thorough in their pat-downs that they all but asked Anita to pull off her pants and reveal the color of her panties. I had a notepad in my pocket, for moments like this, and when I was required to read the bit about the old hag at the front desk, it took nearly 10 minutes before these retards had gathered enough "intelligence" to determine that I was an unpaid wannabe journalist without any clear shot of getting published from here to Tulsa.

Hundreds of leather-jacket bikers and golden-chained gangsters were swarming around the beer booths in a rage, stepping on each other's feet and cursing violently about having to walk around the building every time they wanted a cigarette. There were constant lines, but they weren't long enough that an hour had passed before finishing our two drinks by the time we were next up to order, so it took a bit of flirting and some hefty tipping to fill up each time.
All seemed to settle when we took our seats in the empty front row, where we stretched our legs, sipped from our cups of draft and admired the view. But not a minute passed before security detailers began ushering us toward the back, where giant red signs claimed "general admission seating" but where event staff had apparently forgotten to place any chairs. We stood the rest of the night.

I gave Michael two-to-one odds on all but the last fight. I was honest about my betting strategy, because really, I said, it's simple: Always go for the fat Hispanic, and if both fighters are fat Hispanics, drop the odds and I'd take whichever fighter Michael didn't want.

In reality, the white guys looked too pretty -- clean-shaven with bleached-blond tips and glowing smiles toward the crowd that said to me they were fighting more to win over the ladies than to smash in their opponents' faces and build my bankroll.

Probably the most resonating factor in my betting was the fact that most of the guys who perhaps looked a bit overweight were out of Jackson's gym, and upon seeing the Jackson's gym fighters who showed up to the wine tasting gig Saturday, there was no possible way -- either rational or emotional -- that I could bet on anybody else.

I learned in Vegas that there's no more lucrative strategy than to bet on a man who fights for the purse.

I've seen amateur boxers throw referees clear to the eight row for calling the fight because his eyes were swollen shut and he was swinging at shadows. Fame and fortune mean nothing to the little guys who don't fit the 95th-plus percentile of W. Bush's taxation policy demographic -- those who are willing to kill to make rent next month -- and I've never lost a bet on these poor bastards.

Michael had been paid the day before, and -- apparently distrusting the banks in this time of turmoil -- was carrying a wad of cash that seemed to built his courage with each new fight. I was told at my first professional boxing match that you can spot a sucker by the second round. He'll lose 50 bucks in the first and double-up every time thereafter. I also learned that these novices are fair game, especially when flaunting a wad of cash.

Having picked Gonzales in the second fight, I carried two-thirds of Michael's paycheck in my pocket, and as the third fight drew to a close, inside 60 seconds, I collected my winnings and offered to buy the next round.

The X's on our bracelets had morphed into a blur of black Sharpie ink, and after inspecting them and taking what seemed ages to apparently count the marks on our wrists, the beer stewardess informed us that our refill limit had expired.

I gave my best effort to contain the slurs and speak softly, and Michael even pulled out his plastic police badge at one point to try and sway the server, but all to no avail.

With an emphasis on the X, the girl shouted "Next!" and waved us to the fringes.

I pushed Michael toward the exit and relayed my plan to head toward the front of the hotel, smoke a cigarette on the way, and tear off our bracelets before we came around to the old biddy at the entrance, who surely would bore us to tears with her MCM Elegante etiquette policy, but who likely would not remember us as we asked for a couple of admission bracelets.

By the time we reached the front, a new lady was there, equally as old and ugly, and at least on par with the last bitch in her ability to misgauge the level of her guests' intoxication.

When she asked, "Have you been drinking tonight?" we shook our heads ferociously but said nothing. For five minutes we nodded and blinked heavily through the lecture, which made even less sense this time, then once again we gained entry to the tent, and the beer garden -- this time clad in X-less bracelets and a renewed sense of hope in humanity.

The wine tables were gone as we wondered the halls this third and final time, but the beer gardeners didn't bat an eye at our blank slates, and mere minutes before the fourth and final fight, we were handed two pints of domestic beer, just seconds before last call, and made our way through the crowd to our spot in the general admission seating area.

As the fighters pranced into the ring, both sporting bleach-blond-tipped hair and hopping around the cage swatting at the air like miniature Mike Tysons, I knew I was screwed. When Michael picked the fat one, my disappointment turned to doom.

I dropped the odds but took him up on the all-or-nothing offer, and after a mere 20 seconds of the fat one taking my man to the mat, landing a backhand to the ear and leveling a nicely shaven shin to the throat of my leftover selection, I was forced to hand back the 200 bucks I'd pulled off Michael and concede the evening as a draw.

I realized again what a wretched sport this was, and I cursed the losers who not only wouldn't make rent, but who would have to crawl home and admit to a wife or girlfriend that yes, they'd fought bravely in a half-minute cage fight, and yes, there was a quarantine zone where 20 or so drunken elderly folk sat to take in the event's dual offering of blood and the blood of Christ, but no, they did not win.

And neither did I.

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T. Pennington2008-10-25 22:28:56
Great art,keep them coming

mike2008-10-27 05:03:42
that is an awesome story need more of this guy's material. worth a good laugh

teena2008-10-27 05:04:49
wow that is a good story i wonder if it was a bit true? anyway good piece keep them coming

cage fighter2008-10-27 05:08:59
that is right it is a sport of skill and hard training! thanks nice art!

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