Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Evan Tanner, R.I.P.

I discovered the UFC after a very necessary romantic break up left me with a one bedroom apartment in Harlem, just under a couple hundred dollars in what used to be a shared bank account, and a not-so-great paying job to buoy the lot. What I also had was a Blockbuster card and, thanks to the low ebb of that buoy, a bevy of free evenings. And Blockbuster, being the Shoney's of cinophelia, had such treats as Black Ninja IV, Ghost Dad, and--in perfect keeping with its bread-and-circus MO--real-life bloodsport in the form of the UFC.

Now, Ghost Dad and BN4 would both have driven me to violence, whereas the UFC expended the energy behind that furious urge to break teeth and bone with one's bare hands successfully and dependably. Clearly, the latter was the healthiest way to invest my $4.23.

Among the first fighters I came across and learned to admire was Evan Tanner. He and Randy Couture (among a few others) had a kind of bonhomie to their presence in the Octagon--a love of the fellow man they were beating the holy crap out of--that impressed me deeply. Couture's was based in an All-American sense of sportsmanship. Tanner's was more a Zen thing--an unalloyed joy in the here-and-now, no matter how painful the present moment might be.

I realize that I'm coming to this wake several months late, but after occasionally wondering where the man is now I discovered that he's gone. As was his wont, he went in search of life's most extreme conditions and--to his credit and our loss--he found them.

Watching the elan with which he both gave (did he ever!) and took (really, did he ever!) a beating, I always had the sense that his spirit was at peace. So I'll content myself to say goodbye to his body solely.

Evan Tanner, R.I.P.

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