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Monday, March 28, 2011

Anthony Robles

                                            SMART MONEY

Wrestling, according to former national champ and Lehigh coach, Greg Strobel, is often simply about "solving the problem" : If his arms are over your arm, you cut away, circling under them and face the guy; If they're under your arms, you work under them, circle out and away, face him. Problem. Solution.

While much of the country, hearing of Arizona State's Anthony Robles for the first time, are blown away at his winning the 125 lb Division I NCAA title,  the wrestling community, if not explicitly having stated it, knew when the two-time high school state champ and senior national titleist was a high school senior, that he could cause his college competition major problems.

The problem for them is, first off, a very technical one: A takedown or reversal requires control and the establishment of control occurs when a wrestler gets behind his opponent and covers his hips. Or  he throws the other guy to his back. Robles, born without a right leg and, more importantly, with no hip bone, offers his opponents a strike zone cut in half.  Throwing the overpowering Robles for control is not really an option, either.

Secondly, is a practical problem: With the missing leg, Robles has some 25-30 lbs  more muscle than his competitors, evenly spread throughout his body; his bulldog stance-chest and arms forward, sole leg shielded - forces the  other man to first take on Robles where they most certainly are out gunned (his upper-body resembles that of a put-together 165lber...which further explains why throwing him is out of the question). They engage him and they are faced with a strength they can't adapt to, and he conducts his own stuff and spin for control.

Most significantly, the problem began for Robles' opponents when they ceased being one for him. Confined to a sitting position or, at times, sprinters' stance, certainly limited his developing a more advanced arsenal of single and double-leg attacks, but it also narrowed his focus: no matter how many hours his competition put into acquiring more sophisticated technique, it would still need to get by Robles' limited but unshakable defense.


In the classic bully comeuppance scenario, Big Joey flips Seymour's tray in the middle of a packed cafeteria, sending Turkey Fricasee flying all over his new Rugby Shirt and glasses.  Inexplicably, and finally, Seymour explodes: He becomes a charging windmill. Joey, with arms by his side (why would he have a fighting stance? That suggests he takes Seymour seriously?), is stung by a glancing fist to the tip of his nose.

Thrust into sudden, unexpected action, Joey gasps to get oxygen circulating. He tires as he tries to take hold of the spastic Seymour and is knicked several more times before a teacher breaks it up.

He tries to smile at the absurdity of the little nerd's outburst, but the squint ekes out a tear from the nose sting  (don't want to look like I'm crying).  Seymour claws to get at him over the teacher's shoulder.  Joey isn't hurt, but he's out of sorts: his breathing, his nose, his eyes and even his shirt( he didn't realize is torn at the collar).

"That blood? Joey's bleeding." Someone says about a hanging drop on his nose.

Word spreads and while no one says the Bully got his ass-kicked, they note that he "didn't look good" or "it was a tie" or "Seymour held his own" or, even, "Seymour just spazzed out". With all of these, things did not turn out for the Bully as he wanted; it's a loss.

Joey lost the fight because his objective was abstract, and so, unattainable: Impress my buddies. How? Isn't impressing them with his coolness in conflict with a fighter's seriousness of mind? Joey had picked a fight that couldn't be won. Seymour's objective was painfully concrete: Swing as hard and as fast as you can. He couldn't help but obtain his objective (and ironically by extension, Joey's objective, too).

The high school All-Star, prep national champ out of Blair Academy can't help but have an abstract objective ("The sky's the limit with this kid...!"): His talent, his wrestling savvy are what all are banking on, not a singular technique, and it is a safe bet that, yes,  his high school success can translate  into college success...but not always and frequently not into national titles. Technique changes, evolves; the high school star can't rely on his old signature power move with stronger competition; being "the best" requires speculation and development and experimentation that can lead the wrestler down the wrong path, or compromise one strength for what they hope is more bankable asset.

Limited by how much technique could be added to his arsenal, Robles' objective was unalterable and simple: stop my opponent from getting behind me. As such, he  never veered from his fighter's stance to try something new or something that he needed to "become the best." As his objective and his stance were never in conflict, he couldn't be misled, he couldn't compromise his strength for a distant one of promise: he held his, and it accrued interest.


The overriding rule of any wrestling room is: the wrestle-off decides the team. Whatever the coach's considered opinion or the team captain's leanings, in the days before the first meet, they are put aside and the entire team  watches (usually with an understanding that support is general and applies to both wrestlers) and whoever scores the most points or pins gets the spot. There are no "cuts" from the team.

I know of no coach who has spent any time in the grind who has not benefitted from the inherent check on their ego; wrestling room walls are lined with the honored names of district, regional and state champions who, if they had been subjected to the first-glance rule of team cuts , would have run winter track.

The drills and exercises, techniques and strategies ultimately are only suggestions. Of course,  wisdom acquired through experience gives the coach an eye for these "comers," but it is a sport, as all fighting arts are, of freaks (and for freaks...of strength, etc). It is a sport where vagaries in temperament or physical oddities are assets: the boy with duckish, "girly" hips and linguini arms can't do a pull-up, but can roll his opponent from anywhere; the gangly plugger is double-jointed and can reverse out of the strongest competitor's advances; the shy boy who walks quietly through the halls with few friends gets hold of the other guy's leg and with no better place to be will endure fatigue and cross-faces to outpoint the favored son.

It is a sport where (as Ellison first called them)  "smart money" hits the canvass on a regular basis, and reminds us as Tommy Lee Jones' character put it in "No Country For Old Men": "Even in the contest of man and steer, nothing is certain."

At 3:23 of his 1976 New Jersey State Finals Match, future Olympian and World Cup Champ is Gene Mills is chided for employing what the commentator found to be " a violation of sound wrestling principles."

 At the time, half-nelsons were thought most effective when thrown on a flattened opponent. Not blessed (or cursed) with a bull's body, Mills wasn't best at bumping the wrestler out of his base and to his belly, so his competition  stayed up. Faced with an opponent on all fours, he used his long arms to sink the half from there, and, he and the rest of the wrestling world discovered, from this position the offensive wrestler's near knee created a wedge in the resistant wrestler's body, immobilized his hips (note: without your hips under you, you're nothing) and he went over easier. Had he been built like a linebacker, the world might never have known the innovation.

Mills' variation on the half helped bring him two NCAA Titles, Two world cup belts, a pan am games gold and a career record of 1356-46-1 (not too shabby).  More, half-nelsons are today almost uniformly taught in way that in 1976 would have been called a "bad tactic"; it is now called "The Mills Half."


In the big matches and fights- center stage of nationals, Main Event in Atlantic City, etc- the fighter is reminded to "stay within themselves"; it is not the time to reinvent your style or game-plan ( some abject contrarians will argue "but some great fighters have let it all hang out in the finals..." True. And that's their personality, style and game plan. It's not time for them to be conservative).

A reminder is needed as the fighter, under the lights, may be tempted to cover up, mask themselves. Inevitably, though, it is all revealed, and some of the most talented wrestlers are exposed each year  in earlier rounds. Under the lights, your limitations are obvious and glaring. It is the courage to take what you've been given and work with it that most impresses and gets the job done.

No matter how talented, no matter how higly touted and whatever  pedigree, the center lights bring out our limitations and  painfully reminds us of  the inequitable distribution of skill. We all, in whatever design you believe, have been nipped here, stunted there, saddle with this or that and we are left to go with what we have. And fighters throughout the years have found the democracy of the ring made an ideal home.

A friend, a world-traveler, had told me that I should consider a cruise she had taken through the Meditteranean and into the Adriatic. From the Islands of Italy to the old coastal cities first across the Adriatic.
   "Serbia? Croatia? The former Yugoslavia?"
   "Yes, it's beautiful."
   "Why not Kabul, too?" I joked. "Haven't those places been ravaged?"
   "Yes," She said, "But they are beautiful because they don't deny their those ravages."

Anthony Robles stood center circle, arm raised, and we celebrated, not because in his stunning achievement we forgot his limitations, but because, like all fighting champions by varying degrees, he faced his ravages.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

See, Man? Analysis!


The room is lit only by the blue of a TV. A thick, DEPRAVED MAN, 38, sits by himself watching a PORNO. He is unshaved and has messy hair.

Perhaps, capping off a night of drinking.

ON TV- Two girls moan as they attack Pool Boy.

The TV is burrowed in a WALL or CABINET, a la PEEP SHOW.

On the table next to the man are the contents of his emptied pockets: a roll of breath mints, some crinkled bills and loose change, etc.

He watches with mouth open and locked-jawed. His chest and shoulders vibrate with the RAPID MOVEMENTS of his unseen left hand.

Faster! Faster! Lip bite! And...


He collects his breath and his left- RINGED!- hand reaches for the stuff on the table.

                                                                                                                      CUT TO:

He walks through dimly lit corridor of what could be a PARKING GARAGE (but is not). His overcoat collar is raised.

He looks behind himself and all around, in shame in some way of what he's done...

OR is he?


Man enters the darkened waiting room. An attractive woman in pajamas sleeps in a small chair.

Man kisses her cheek and she opens her eyes.

                   Hey you.

                   All set.

                          NURSE (O.S.)
                   Mrs. Maclean?

They look over to see the NURSE with a clipboard.

                   The specimen is ready. Come on.
                   Say Nurse, how were my numbers? Was it a good sample?

Nurse didn't hear or is ignoring him. The woman is excited, HOPEFUL. She turns back and kisses him.

                    Pray, right?

                    Just relax. And know I love you.

She skips off and follows nurse.

The man watches. He loves her. He crosses his arms and closes eyes. We hold on the (now) SWEET MAN.

                                                             FADE TO BLACK

I. How was it that the man above went from "Ugh, he's so gross" to "Ah, he's so sweet" in only several lines? And couldn't the gross man and sweet man be the very same man, only on different nights?

Where are all your libertarian "let live" values when it comes to me jerking my bird?

All I know is that it's nice to be on the other, head-tilting sympathetic side; and not only is there a side, but a whole science devoted to it.
II. "Okay, I think you have everything you need...just enjoy yourself." She says and closes the door.

Enjoy myself? Really? That's allowed? Well, I take in the room and there's so much: magazines, videos, a vat of Vaseline with an easy-pump top.

Unsure, I drop my pants (it's a step in the right direction, no?) and do a penguin walk over to the leather leisure chair. The magazine stack sits on  a table next to the chair.

I sit in the chair and begin sifting through the magazines: Playboy is on top; Hustler next; Swank; Barely Legal; Shaved and so on. (There's a logic to everything, isn't there? ) I take an issue of a magazine showcasing ladies of South America and begin flipping.

I'm reminded of when I was a college sophomore and Playboy came to Boston for its "Girls of Women's College" edition. The local news covered protests...

"This is degrading to women!" (especially, ugly women)
"They're here to learn!"

And one very indignant woman from a Gay/Lesbian Alliance who spat fiercely: "Women are being objectified so men can masturbate!"

Here I am being given carte blanche to stroke away to contorting women from all over the world  as long as I deliver it into a plastic cup for insemination, but I'm a villain if I enjoy it in my own home?

How does this good woman from the alliance think when she decides to have a child, after picking a donor who suits her sensibilities, how does she think he'd be titillated enough to fill such a cup? Would watching Ellen do her stupid filler dance giggle him to climax?

The hypocrite! And what about the top drawer of her bureau and its dirty little secrets? "Objectifying women"? What about the male model whose fourteen inch, thick-veined penis was molded to create your strap-on of choice? How would you imagine he feels?

(I can tell you: Just awful! And betrayed! They told me it was for an anatomy textbook!)

Ah, well the magazine is ruined for me.

I hit the lights, grab the remote and lean back.

It's mid-movie and between money-shots, so I reflect...

Despite the warning that alcohol wasn't a good thing the nights before giving a specimen, I stop at the British pub on the way home and have a half dozen or so of my favorite, Boddington's Pub Ale (the cream of Manchester, England, as it were).

The doctor's warnings that alcohol "raised body temperature" and "created an adverse" environment for sperm disappeared as I nodded to The Specials.

"Stop your messing around!...Ru-oo-dy, a message to you!"

I finish a beer and it hits me: This was really irresponsible of me. Unable to cope with the guilt, I have a couple more pints and move on to Oasis.

"'Don't look back in Anger', I heard her say..."

I make it home and slip into my bedroom where my wife is already asleep. I crouch to kiss her goodnight and she stirs:

"You coming to bed?"
"Soon" I stage-whisper, backpedalling out.
"Take it easy." I hear, closing the door.

There's no Bods in the 'frig (they only come in four-packs). So, I settle for an Amstel Light left from a party. I pop and sip. It'll do. In a preemptive effort to conserve energy and pass out in my clothes, I grab the two remaining Amstels and the opener and plop on the couch.

Pleasant, I say. The buzz. Music from the '60's station. The moonlight coming in from the skylight. A cold beer in hand, two more in waiting. What could make this more perfect?

Why a hand down my pants, of course?

I tried, but after a few moments it didn't feel right. I told my hand so:

"Listen, I've had a long day. Not tonight." Pulling him away.
"'S hell that's supposed to mean?" He slurred.
"It's mind's not in it." I begged.
"Well...I ain't here for your mind." He laughed and grabbed hold. And I admit, I was weak to him; I always am. But everyone has a breaking point, I guess, and he pushed me to mine.
"You know how much you like it...who owns it, baby?"
"Excuse me?" I snap, sitting up.
"What? No, uh" He stammered.
"For your information: I and I alone 'own it'"
"I know, it was just the heat of a moment" He appealed to me (roles quickly reversed).
"I know what it was. And if you ever want to have another moment with me, you'll learn some respect."
"Sorry." He said, but it was too late.
"And let me tell you: You ain't all that. You can easily be replaced." I told him, holding up my left hand.
"You wouldn't? But you couldn't...?"
"Good night." I told him, as he groused his way to my pocket, "Son of..."

I nearly choked with pride at my new-found strength.

But as the movie cut to the next scene where a woman was giving herself a languorous breast examination, my pride did me little good. Like Jell-O stirred and left to its own devices, what my right hand (the bastard) had started had now congealed in the base of my bottle neck.

Even when the masseuse is interrupted by a pony-tailed gardener who boldly asks if he can "help out" and proceeds to mount her, I can only do so much and the daunting task only bears down harder on the experience.

When I finally go, it is painful and without sound. I hit the lights and rather than a healthy pooling of stuff at the bottom of the container, a dribble is making a slow roll down the side.

I cover the container and opening a interconnecting aluminum cabinet I hear the lab attendants talking about how inauthentic Mexican Food is in Boston.  Something about that strike me as funny, so I laugh and go to raise my pants. But my ass is stuck to the chair.

I wonder what it is that holds my ass to chair? And how many other naked asses had been stuck there before?

III. Several weeks later at my Doctor's office to get the results. He repeated his spiel about the effects of alcohol on body temperature, and how I should be retested in a month or so. And then he slid the sheets, the relevant numbers highlighted.

My balls, as it turned out, were Calcutta: Temperatures in excess of one hundred, its fourteen million residents, ravaged by the influence of British and later Dutch occupation, were not functioning as best they should.

And fourteen million?

To put some perspective on how low that is: When Alexander Hamilton's body was exhumed several years ago, scientists discovered that Aaron Burr's bullet had eighteen million.

But the doctor quickly put me at ease by showing me a picture of his expansive family and telling me not to "sweat the little things."

He then handed me pamphlets, Kleenex, a copy of The Sun Also Rises, a breath mint (though, I failed to see the connection entirely) before scooting my "nearly important ass" (I think that's what he said; he has a Swiss Accent) out the door.

I was so nervous as I approached my home that I had to circle the block, muttering words of encouragement...

I am no less a man...(technically, though, I think I am)

I have lots of great things to offer...(My Rice Krispie Treats are nothing short of spectacular)

And maybe a miracle could happen?...(we all know how secure the promise of miracle makes a woman feel).

Finally, I pulled and met my wife in the kitchen nook.

What I had been nervous about? She understood perfectly. And in exchanges so darling that I have to save them as cold openings for when I'm asked to do a "King of Queens" spec, she told me everything would be all right.

"I just need to relax, I know." I said.
"No, that's wrong." She shot back.
"What? But the doctor-"
"Was wrong."
"The lady at the clinic-"
"Was wrong."
"Was wrong."

She then explained to me that the problem was, sure that I drank too much and ate like I was on food stamp buying spree, but also: I was just too relaxed. If I was ever to get up to the suggest twenty million, was going to have to tighten up.

She was right...and I implemented change right away.

IV. From that moment on, I swore that I  would worry and overthink each step I took as I had in my angst-ridden, headboard-splattering days of adolescence.

Sure, thirty minutes on the treadmill after a circuit or two on the Cybex machines had lower my blood pressure, but it was heavy deadlift for short, plate-crashing sets that sent a surge to my loins. My sperm needed a good model with exact, powerful movements, not one who dawdled about with a steady heart rate.

I  even gave up Boddington's and put Natural Light, staple of all frat houses, on tap- 24-7.

On the ride to the clinic, I deliberately cut off a guy in a pick-up truck and flipped him the bird, as I peeled out, "Taking Care of Business", BTO style.

When the Lady brought me to the room and again, seeing that I had everything I needed, told me "to relax and enjoy." I told her, "No way, Missy. That's not the way it's done."

The door closed and I treated it like it was 1987 and I've made it back before the rest of my family from Sunday Mass.

"Hello? Someone just come in?" I even called in the not yet darkened room.

While I had all the time in the world, it was the physical act of rushing that triggered sensory recall, so I didn't even take the time to undo my belt but pulled the guy out just into working range. Dumping a crumpled tube sock on the floor in front of me, I felt at home again. I was tempted to tape my brother's Larry Bird poster to the wall, and pull my mother out of retirement to knock at the door: "Paul, it's a nice day gonna waste it in there?"

I ignored the new stack of magazines and video, shunning these intimacy aids for my own inspiration: I pulled from my back pocket a wrinkled high-gloss magazine photo ripped from a dirty magazine at Walgreens circa 1984. So worn from it days between mattresses or quickly stuffed beneath a pillow or extorted by vandals, its gloss peeled, but 'ol "Maisy Mae' s tip-toe car washing routine started me up. I imagined, as I did when I first had the photo, that Maisy was Jess Collotta (not her real name, but pretty fucking close) sitting in front of me in Ms. Venti's French Class, leaning on our elbows to better taken in our Nos Amis text book.

With Maisy, I pulled a "telephone list" as my friend and I called the list men make of all their conquests (note: "telephone list" as the original list had been written on the unsuspecting envelope of an AT&T bill).

The lists were broken down into columns: first base, second base, etc. But one column was for "other" such as dirty talk, and that overanalysis of fleeting moments was exactly what did the trick...

-"How do you like that?"
-"I can't believe we're doing this...but I'm so glad we are."
-"This will help you sleep tonight..."

Oh man...

-"Oh, and there's more, baby..."
-" Do you mind if I do this while I...?"


And like that, my toes curled and I huffed deeply. And in my hand, was the container, heavier and what I could gauge, a comfortable 98.6.

I had done all I could. Now it was up to my chicken salad-eating friends in the white coats to let me know...?



It is thriving, pleasant metropolis. Happy SPERM zoom the city streets and multi-layered expressway, floating like saucers; think: The Jetsons.

Sperm say "hello" to one another, jog, carry groceries, etc.  Child sperm with bows in their hair use their flagellae as jump rope and skip down the street.


TWO WORKER SPERM in painter's overalls put the finishing touches on the new sign.

"A Wonderful Place to Live" is the town slogan.

The painter finishes painting over POPULATION: 14 Million. He paints over the "14" with white and writes: 87.

They look at the handiwork, chomping cigar butts.

                                   87 million? Say, that's something.

                                   Sure is.

                                   Wonderful place to live.

                                   Sure is.

They swim off and we hold on the sign. "87 Million."

                                                                                                          FADE OUT