In this issue of Banter M:
Kendrick Lamar’s Sound and Fury - Chez Pazienza hails Kendrick Lamar's electrifying performance at the Grammys, and heralds the young rapper's message to black, and white America as a game changer.
How the GOP is Accusing Bernie Sanders, a 74-year-old Jew, of Being the Next Adolf Hitler - Bob Cesca uncovers and dismantles the GOP's latest disgusting attempt to equate progressive socialist Bernie Sanders with fascism.
Peyton Manning's Jock Privilege: Why None of Us Should Name Our Kids After Athletes - Jamie Frevele goes after Manning for his appalling behavior towards women, and claims he is benefiting from not only white privilege, but jock privilege.
Ronda Rousey and The Price of Perfection - Ben Cohen discusses MMA superstar Ronda Rousey's admission that she contemplated suicide after losing to Holly Holm, and argues there is something inherently wrong with a society that rewards the relentless pursuit of success and drives people to despair when they inevitably fail. .
Kendrick Lamar’s Sound and Fury
by Chez Pazienza
Stunning. Electrifying. Incendiary. Seismic. Flat out brilliant. It’s tough to find the precise word to describe Kendrick Lamar’s performance at the Grammys earlier this week, there are so many superlatives to choose from. It would be easy to say that nothing like it has every happened in Grammy history, but honestly that’s not high praise given that more than any other annual awards, the Grammys have proven themselves to be hopelessly out of touch with both the times and the best music happening in the genres the awards claim to try to honor. The Grammys suck. There are just no two ways about it. That’s not some aloof hipster or indie music snob sentiment -- it’s an absolute fact. For confirmation, just look at the end-of-year “best of” lists from music critics across a broad spectrum and compare their choices to what you see nominated for Grammys not long after. Rarely the two shall meet for any length of time.
But Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly was something different. Something special. It was a record impossible for any to deny: audiences, critics or the Recording Academy. From its opening “needle drop” sound effect, followed by the slow fade-in sample from Boris Gardiner’s 1974 Caribbean-funk deep track Every Nigger Is a Star, to the forlorn closing call-out to “Pac,” TPAB is simply a flat-out, stone-cold masterpiece from beginning to end. It wasn’t just the best album of 2015; it should stand as one of the best, most unique hip-hop records of all-time, both a throwback to the jazz influenced hip-hop of the early 90s and a vast improvement on it, as embracing as it is of the freeform, hyperkinetic, near-hallucinatory sound of jazz improv. It’s a near-constant display of push-and-pull duality, with Kendrick going introspective to question his place as an artist making hip-hop -- and the lure of the fame that’s garnered him -- as well as examining the external forces that impact his life as a black man in the year 2015. As Jezebel rightly noted, To Pimp a Butterfly is an unapologetically “black” album -- an overwhelmingly “black” album, one that doesn’t hide from its own socio-political connotations.
It’s an eminently powerful, undeniably deep and layered artistic triumph. It’s pure bravura record-making. It’s hip-hop’s The Walland its Coltrane’s A Love Supreme at the same time.
But here’s the thing: If you’re white, To Pimp a Butterfly isn’t easy listening -- and it shouldn’t be. On the contrary, it should beuneasy listening. It’s such an obdurate expression of black angst and turmoil, both within and without, that if you can somehow turn that off, you’re just not getting it and shouldn’t be bothering in the first place. Kendrick left no doubt about this during his performance earlier this week, making his medley of two songs from TPAB and a brand new one a triptych of black uncertainty, joy and anger. If you’re white and you can put on, say, Alright -- the massive single from TPAB and the unofficial theme song of the Black Lives Matter movement -- and simply “sing along,” it almost seems like a kind of heresy. This was what I thought when I was saw Kendrick perform the song as his encore at an intimate show here in Los Angeles back in November. While L.A. is Kendrick’s hometown, the Wiltern Theater, where the show was held, is a far cry from the Compton streets on which Kendrick Lamar grew up. The freeway that divides Mid-city and South Central may as well be a demilitarized zone. The crowd at Kendrick’s “secret show,” tickets for which were nearly impossible to get for those not in-the-know, was further to the white end of the spectrum than it was to the people-of-color end. There were various races and ethnicities there, of course, as L.A. is so diverse, but this was a largely middle-class to high-end crowd.
And yet once Kendrick began the chant of “We gon’ be alright!” it carried through for more than seven minutes, with the crowd on its feet chanting back at him. With no musical accompaniment at all, only Kendrick egging them on, everyone in the audience shouted the chorus of the song, over and over again. It was wonderfully cathartic, but at the same time confusing when you considered that only a select subset of the audience was who Kendrick was talking about when he wrote the song and its joyous and defiant chorus. To the best of my knowledge, the collective “we” he was referring to wasn’t everyone -- it was black Americans specifically, or at the very least people of color. It’s black people he’s talking about when he says, “We been hurt, been down before,” and when he proclaims that, “we hate po-po, wanna kill us dead in the street fo’ sho’.” But the hook of the song is so catchy and the lyrics are so innately powerful that it can’t help but feel like an anthem for all, even though it absolutely isn’t. So I stood there wondering whether it was even my place to sing along. I could tangentially and intellectually appreciate where Kendrick was coming from, but I had no idea how to feel what he was actually going through. I’m a white male. I’ll never truly understand what it’s like to be black in America and I won’t pretend I do. But the music -- this music helps me to and it always has.
Listening to To Pimp a Butterfly, I’m reminded of what it felt like the first time I heard Public Enemy burst from the speakers of my car stereo. I’d never experienced anything like it. As a white kid, it may have been my first real introduction to the rage black Americans were right to feel at their centuries of subjugation by supposedly “superior” races. The aural assault of P.E. was a shock to the system: it was visceral, unrelenting, unforgiving and overwhelming. While Kendrick employs some of the same tactics on TPAB, it’s the album’s undeniable sense of confusion and even melancholy -- Kendrick’s sadness at what’s been lost inside himself and as part of the larger struggle -- that somehow makes the record even more biting. It’s the deeply personal aspect of it that helps it cut closer to the bone. There’s so much emotion there that those who don’t understand on a direct level what it’s like to be black in America can at the very least feel what Kendrick is trying to convey about the daily traumas and trials, factors that impact this artist in ways that have made his art transcendent. Music does that, even when the views of friends and loved ones and news reports and your own supposedly evolved consciousness doesn’t quite do the trick.
For the third act of Kendrick Lamar’s three-part Grammy performance, after he shuffled and electrically stuttered through The Blacker the Berry -- with its “You hate me, don’t you? You hate my people, your plan is to terminate my culture” exhortation -- and did a literally fiery take on Alright, he stood in place to slam a new track on both the Grammy audience and the rest of us. It was a monster, placing the 2012 killing of Trayvon Martin front and center as a pivotal moment for him and black culture in general. “That was me yelling for help when he drowned in his blood,” he spat. “Why didn’t he defend himself? Why couldn’t he throw a punch? And for our community do you know what this does?” And that was it right there: a question posed to those who can’t possibly understand. Who can’t fathom why black Americans in the year 2016 feel the way they do. People like me. People who aren’t gunned down in the street by angry, scared white men who then go on to be told they did nothing wrong by a system of oppression that controls the justice apparatus in this country and which has its own self-perpetuating, 24/7 bullhorn in Fox News. People who don’t have to loudly, desperately proclaim they gon’ be alright -- because they always just are.
In one performance, in one spectacular album, in one singular voice Kendrick Lamar is both comforting black America white telling white America something it so undeniably needs to hear. The former is listening. The latter should be as well.
How the GOP is Accusing Bernie Sanders, a 74-year-old Jew, of Being the Next Adolf Hitler
by Bob Cesca
If you're hankering for a taste of what a general election contest would look like between prospective Democratic nominee Bernie Sanders and prospective Republican nominee -- take your pick, let's say Trump -- then read on.
Specifically, one of the myriad lines of attack the GOP will use against Bernie is one we've heard before so it should come as no surprise to anyone. Bernie, it turns out, is a Nazi. That's right, the crumpled, somewhat nebbishy 74-year-old democratic socialist Jew... is a Nazi. This will absolutely become one of the heaviest cudgels used against Bernie, and among the GOP's ignoramus base, not to mention low-information undecided voters, it'll probably work because debunking it requires a basic knowledge of history and Americans are notoriously ignorant when it comes to such things. Hence, the impetus for the GOP to use it.
How do we know they'll do this to Bernie?
Because it's happening already.
Yes, the Nazi gambit completely tramples Godwin's Law, but it doesn't matter. They rolled this one out against Barack Obama back in 2009 when it appeared socialism might re-emerge as part of the White House's response to the Great Recession. The likelihood that a mixed-race liberal who supports same-sex marriage and civil rights is a Nazi is, of course, insanely ludicrous. There's simply no way Obama is a Nazi (duh!) and it's kind of soul crushing to have to say it, but it's true. And it's an even bigger stretch to suggest that a Jew from Brooklyn is one, too. But they're off and away, accusing Bernie of being a Nazi.
--USA Today Column Portrays Sanders As An Extension Of "The National Socialism Of Adolf Hitler."
--National Review's Williamson Compares Sanders' Ideology To The Nazis.
--Fox News Column: Sanders And Hitler Both "Used The Same Weapon Of Choice In An Attempt To Become The Most Powerful Man In The World."
--Washington Times Op-Ed Connects Sanders To "The National Socialist (Nazi) Model In Germany And Italy."
--Washington Times Contributor Connects Sanders To Nazi Ideology.
--Breitbart.com Editor John Nolte: "Like Hitler, Bernie Sanders Is An Old White Socialist."
--Michael Savage [who supports Trump for president] Adapted Holocaust Poem To Attack Sanders.
--Alex Jones: Sanders Supporters Are Like People Who "Want To Elect Hitler."
--Townhall.com's Kurt Schlichter: "Sanders And His Socialist Pals Want To Deny" That Nazi Ideology "Best Encapsulates What They Are About."
They clearly didn't get the memo that the GOP is supposed to be helping Bernie during the primaries in order to hurt Clinton and keep the Democratic nomination process in a state of contention. Regardless, this Nazi business, whether directed at Obama or Sanders, might be the dumbest thing to come down the pike since Sarah Palin insisted that the role of the vice president was "position flexible," whatever that means. It's either born of ignorance or they're being deliberately ignorant in order to deceive their audiences. I tend to believe it's the latter.
The key to the GOP's argument is, naturally, the "socialist" label. As we witnessed in 2009, unhinged drama queens like Glenn Beck suggested that because "Nazi" stood for "National Socialist German Workers' Party," any nod to socialism in the United States, e.g. the stimulus act which successfully ended the recession, is a nod to Nazism and the portend of another holocaust against, well, everyone. Especially guys like Glenn Beck with his punch-me face.
Prior to 2009, the genesis of the Nazi attack was popularly launched by doughy conservative Jonah Goldberg who's book, Liberal Fascism, set the tone for oxymoronic labels intended to both ignite the GOP base and confound everyone else, from liberals to nonpartisan historians who repeatedly dispelled any connection between modern socialism and the "national socialism" of Hitler's Germany.
Again, Bernie is a Jew!
Regarding the debunking of this nonsense, Politifact was once again forced to go there when it should be obvious to anyone that just because "socialism" was in the title of the Nazi Party, it doesn't mean that Hitler and the Nazis of the 1930s and 1940s were in any way socialist like Bernie. Put another way, just because they're called "hot dogs" doesn't mean they contain actual dogs. Or, for that matter, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea is neither "Democratic" nor "Republican" because, well, it's North Korea.
Rice University historian Peter Caldwell told us the key word in the party’s name was "national" and the party’s focus was on building nationalism — a focus ultimately reflected in Hitler’s twisted vision of cleansing the country of residents, especially Jews, not considered of pure German blood. While socialists on the left celebrate democracy, Caldwell said, the word has a different meaning on the right — in this instance, he said, excluding people who are not part of the nation, hence rejecting Jews and communists and, in pre-World War II Germany, democracy itself.
Caldwell said the "misleading" tweet suggesting an alignment between Sanders’ professed democratic socialism and Hitler’s party would "have Hitler turning in his grave, wherever the grave is. The Nazis loudly opposed democracy, the first and foremost thing." Also, he said, "they were opposed to emancipating the workers, giving them the rights to vote and to organize" in unions.
Similarly, Barbara Miller Lane, a Bryn Mawr College professor and co-editor of a compilation of Nazi ideology before 1933, said by email: "The Nazis were NOT ‘democratic socialists,’ whatever that means. The Nazis were never democrats and never real socialists either." While there was a longstanding and distinguished Social Democratic Party in Germany from the 1870 to the 1920s, Lane wrote, the Nazis fought against it, and after 1933 imprisoned its leaders.
Lane added: "The Nazis opposed all traditional socialism, wanting to substitute something they called ‘German socialism’ or ‘Aryan socialism.’ This meant citizenship and privileges only for ‘Aryans’ (meaning non-Jews), concentration camps for others."
The article goes on to cite a variety of other historians who rightfully rejected the conflation between Nazis and democratic socialists like Bernie Sanders.
Once again, to quote Stephen Colbert, reality has a liberal bias. Reality, according to historical consensus, dictates that one version of the word has very little if anything to do with the other. It's not up for debate. There aren't two sides to the Nazi thing. There's literally no correlation between Bernie Sanders and fucking Hitler. But it's this brand of GOP verbal gymnastics are required in order to transform a Jew into a villain who exterminated six million Jews including Bernie's relatives. Godwin be damned.
But in terms of the Sanders campaign, it'll require massive financial resources and an ironclad rapid response team to merely field questions about Bernie's democratic socialism, much less debunking the GOP's inevitable Nazi gambit. Along these lines, in order to win, Sanders will need to run a nearly flawless campaign due to a multitude of questions marks about his politics, many of which are already baked into his platform. On top of swatting down accusations that his proposals are too idealistic to pass, even with a Democratic Congress, Bernie will need to be prepared for a swift-boating that'll make the effort against John Kerry in 2004 seem like a sensual back massage. For this, he'll need to compete on money while only taking cash from individual donors. He'll also need to avoid painting a dismal picture of the economic landscape emerging from a sitting Democratic president -- but this ship has already sailed, with Bernie routinely describing the Obama economy as a hellscape for most Americans, even though, statistically, it's not. And on top of all that, it'll be the Nazi ridiculousness. That aside, I hope the Bernie people are ready to hustle because if their guy wins the nomination it's going to be a harrowing ride.
Peyton Manning's Jock Privilege: Why None of Us Should Name Our Kids After Athletes
by Jamie Frevele
Sometimes as 36-year-old single woman, I worry that I won't be able to lock down a suitable man with whom to have children before I dry up and lose my looks. But other times, like right now, I'm forever grateful for whatever forces of nature have prevented me from having those kids. If I'd had a son after the year 2008, he would have been named Eli. Thanks to my own emotional issues as well as the child-hating men I always seem to date, my unborn son has been spared the dire fate of being named after a Manning. Thank you, child-hating men, for saving not only that kid from that, but also me from myself.
It's a very conflicting time to be a fan of the NFL, when there are so many awful problems going on within the organization. Between debilitating concussions and protecting its millionaire players from facing consequences of criminal actions, separating reality from athletic glory can feel like a chore done while holding our noses and looking the other way. All of this said, I still love watching football. I am still a New York Giants fan. But when I said I was getting a "XLII" tattoo to commemorate my impossible move to Bushwick, I hadn't heard about how the entire Manning family protected their elder star quarterback Peyton Manning while he spent years of his college football career sexually harassing a woman and later smearing her reputation, destroying her career.
And yes, that means Eli Manning is on my shit list. He might be the little brother, but he can't bleed out that Manning taint.
The whole sordid story was laid out by Shaun King in the The New York Daily News this past weekend, a week after Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos won the Super Bowl. While this particular story would never qualify as "rape" or "sexual assault" -- both of which imply physical violence to me -- there was blatant and persistent sexual harassment going on here on Manning's part, and seemingly no one wanted to take responsibility for it; the people responsible for upholding the Manning image just wanted it to go away. Call me prude, but when you work around a bunch of unevolved swole bros who can't find the line between joking and creating a hostile work environment, you have every right to speak up. I say this as someone who was part of a pretty graphic email chain that contained nothing but clitoris jokes and was the sole person possessing an actual clitoris.
Suffice it to say, I am not easily offended, but I'm also treated with respect by those guys. (I also made the superior clitoris joke.) Judging by the 74-court document outlining her years working at the University of Tennessee and Florida Southern College as well as the "sexual-assault scandal, cover up, and smear campaign" against her, Dr. Jamie Naughright did not enjoy any such respect. And according to King, the scandal and cover up were "so deep, so widespread and so ugly that it would've rocked the American sports world to its core" if not for the Mannings and the very influential people working for them. Back in the mid-1990s, Archie Manning was a legend and Peyton was his Golden Boy. And this very accomplished, professional athletic trainer was not going to spoil that for them, so she was dragged through the mud, robbed of her stellar reputation -- she trained Olympic athletes at their request -- and for no other reason than she tried to keep a Manning accountable.
Because, you know, some people are simply more special than others. They deserve to escape responsibility and consequence just because they are them. So fuck anyone who gets in their way. Their bones are made of fine gold and vibranium and everyone else is molded from shit by shit people. Apparently, this is how the Mannings think. I would have named my child after one of those people. Because of a football game. I should go fuck myself.
Peyton Manning and Dr. Naughright worked together in the University of Tennessee football program over the course of about two years, and at some point in 1994, an incident occurred that was outlined in about three-and-a-half pages of the "Facts of the Case" that King received but was mysteriously "redacted from the permanent record." There is no indication of exactly what happened, but the bad blood culminated in Manning putting his exposed genitals on Dr. Naughright's head while she examined his ankle. Yes, he could have done a lot worse. Yes, playing games with your genitals is something that immature, bone-headed college boys do. But he didn't do this to a fellow player or a buddy. He did this to an athletic trainer, a woman who was working for him who had tried to create a less primitive atmosphere in a male-dominated field. A woman who tried to tell him what to do. Apparently, Peyton Manning doesn't appreciate being told to reign in his bad behavior, so he put his junk on Dr. Naughright's head while she did her job. As King put it, "As a general rule, it's not just gross to smash your testicles on a woman's face, it's a crime."
What happened next was worse though; after Dr. Naughright filed a complaint, her boss, associate trainer Mike Rollo -- who had lovingly referred to Dr. Naughright, his employee as "cunt bumper" because he thought she was a lesbian -- decided to play the whole thing off as a joke, saying that Manning was mooning fellow player Malcolm Saxon and oops! His pants fell off and his junk accidentally swooped into Dr Naughright's face! (Saxon issued an affidavit denying this version of events, but telling the truth did not protect him from being deemed ineligible as a student athlete. Because of Manning's lie.) This was Plan B after Manning tried denying this all happened because you know, "bitchez be lying" or something, and that didn't fly. So first Manning lied, and then he got the athletic department to lie and go against one of their own employees as well as another athlete.
All because of a fucking Manning.
As part of her settlement, Dr. Naughright agreed to leave the University of Tennessee after 10 years. As a parting gift, Rollo and another staffer asked her to blame a different student for the harassment to take the heat off of special snowflake Manning. She did not do that, for obvious reasons, but she did sign a confidentiality agreement stating that she would not discuss the case in public. So did Manning.
And then in 2001, Manning "wrote" a book, The Mannings, in which "he" took Dr. Naughright out to lunch. Just as she had successfully moved on to a new position at Florida Southern College, the controversy caused by the book cost her another job and she was asked to leave for doing nothing wrong. Oh sorry, she did do something wrong -- she fucked with a Manning. And when you fuck with one Manning, you fuck with all of them. Even if a Manning violates a confidentiality agreement, you will be the one who pays for it. Dr. Naughright sued the Mannings, the book's publisher, and the ghostwriter John Underwood over the libelous passage and hilariously, the judge said that it was likely that everything Manning "wrote" in the book was bullshit. Or in legal terms:
"Specifically, there is evidence of record, substantial enough to suggest that the defendants knew that the passages in question were false, or acted in reckless disregard of their falsity. There is evidence of record to suggest that there were obvious reasons to doubt the veracity of Peyton Manning's account of the incident in question. The court further finds that there is sufficient evidence to permit the conclusion that the defendants entertained serious doubts as to the truth of the passages in this case."
I included that whole passage because it's the most beautiful, eloquent, and needlessly polite accusation of bullshit I have ever read. Among the bullshit that the judge did not buy was the time Archie Manning tried to paint Dr. Naughright as promiscuous and vulgar, and therefore deserving of the harassment she received. It wasn't just sexist bullshit, it was racist bullshit, because Manning the Elder specifically said it was black students whom Naughright was screwing. (More than one colleague refuted that Naughright was anything but professional and of a "high moral character.")
The Mannings are liars. They are liars who refuse to take responsibility for their actions because they think they're better than everyone else. This is beyond white privilege. This is jock privilege. Jock privilege is dangerous and unjust, and it has likely caused so much havoc on so many innocent people's lives. OJ Simpson had jock privilege. You remember Uncle Juice? There probably isn't a single modern-day athlete worth naming a child after, and I'm so infinitely glad that my stupid, strange good fortune has protected me and my unborn son from providing a living tribute to one of these unworthy fucks.
Ronda Rousey and the Price of Perfection
by Ben Cohen
On November 4th, 2015, MMA superstar Ronda Rousey was viciously knocked out by a head kick in the second round of her UFC title fight with Holly Holm in Australia. In one brutal moment, Rousey’s extraordinary trajectory -- in a sport dominated for decades by men -- came crashing to an end, and her myth as the baddest woman on the planet evaporated as she lay unconscious on the floor of the octagon.
In the wake of Rousey’s devastating loss, the former Judo Olympian and highest paid athlete in MMA would almost completely disappear from public life for several months, giving only one interview with ESPN Magazine and staying clear of social media.
Recently, Rousey has re-appeared into the limelight, telling Ellen DeGeneres in a sobering interview that she was so traumatized by the loss that she contemplated suicide in the moments after the fight.
Her tale, like so many other star athletes who have fallen from grace, is a cautionary one about the trappings of fame and power. But it is also a cautionary tale about modern society, our obsession with specialization and our deeply inhuman notion of what constitutes success.
Despite winning 11 of her 12 previous professional contests in the first round, Rousey had badly dropped the first round to the superior striker in Holm. Holm’s movement had been completely superior to Rousey’s, and she successfully blocked all of Rousey’s attempts to use her vaunted Judo skills up close in the clinch. Holm — a former world boxing and kickboxing champion — had turned the fight into a striking game, and Rousey was being badly outclassed.
Flagging as she came out for the second, Holm sensed a wounded animal in Rousey and upped the pressure and began landing shot after shot from range as the champion clumsily rushed in, swinging for the fences. On rubbery legs and bleeding from the mouth and nose, Rousey could not adjust and seemed incapable of dealing with Holm’s lateral movement. Holm caught Rousey with another stinging left hand as she bull rushed in once more, easily evading a counter hook that was so wild it sent Rousey tumbling to the floor. As Rousey scrambled to her feet, Holm sensed her opportunity and swerved a powerful left kick into Rousey’s head. The bantam weight champion was out before she hit the canvas, and the referee jumped in to save her from any more trauma as Holm pounced to deliver more damage.
It was a surreal sight to watch the most dangerous woman on the planet toyed with like a child -- a myth deconstructed on live television, laid bare for millions of people around the world to watch. After regaining consciousness, a dejected, confused looking Rousey barely congratulated Holm, refused a post fight interview, and sullenly walked back to her dressing room.
The big, bad Rousey who dominated other women and bragged about it, didn’t take shit from anyone and could kick men’s asses was all of a sudden a sad bully who had had her entire sense of self popped in a matter of minutes by a preacher’s daughter.
Three months later, a noticeably calmer and more thoughtful Rousey sat down with Ellen Degeneres to talk about her loss and how it completely decimated her sense of self.
"Honestly ... I was sitting in the corner [of the post-fight medical room] and was like, 'What am I anymore if I'm not this?' " an emotional Rousey told DeGeneres. "I was literally sitting there thinking about killing myself."
"In that exact second, I'm like, 'I'm nothing. What do I do anymore?" she continued tearfully. "No one gives a shit about me anymore without this.'"
It is easy to understand how powerful this fall from grace must have been for her. Rousey and the UFC had carefully built an image and myth of invincibility around her, and she had the entire industry at her feet. Weeks before the fight, UFC president Dana White told reporters that Rousey was by far the biggest star in the company. "She's got books and she's got all these movies coming out and she continues to get bigger and bigger,” he said. “Her pay-per-views and everything… there's never been a bigger star than Ronda Rousey."
Rousey’s stardom was earned the hard way, born out of years toiling in Judo gyms around the country and fighting for respect in male dominated MMA gyms. Renown for her spartan work ethic and extreme toughness, Rousey was always ready to fight and fought three title fights in nine months -- a feat unrivaled in UFC history. She would overwhelm opponents with her physical strength and toughness, and developed a reputation for absolute fearlessness -- a trait that appeared to unnerve opponents before they even got into the octagon.
Perhaps more vital to her consistent success was, as she revealed to Jimmy Fallon last year, that she worried about losing “all the time”.
“That's why I work so much harder than they do,” she went on. “And it's why I go to sleep every night worrying about every single possible scenario and I'm so much more prepared than them...The dog with the bone is always in danger, so of course I'm always the most worried.”
In our society, the fear of failure and the determination to win are viewed as positive attributes. Rousey was “a winner” and was rewarded with fame, wealth and status. Her story was held up as an inspiration for women everywhere, and her position as a role model for society based on her relentless drive for success. Ronda Rousey’s vehicle for that particular definition of success was her prowess as a fighter -- and her single-mindedness paid off -- as it does for many other people who are deemed successful by those same standards. Elite golfers, football players, bankers, lawyers, surgeons, investors and so on work insanely hard at their chosen profession, and reap the benefits in a societal system that favors and encourages specialization.
But with specialization comes a cost -- and that is everything else that makes us human. The longer Ronda Rousey spent focusing her energies on becoming the greatest fighter in the world, the less time she spent on being a well-rounded human being. The more time she spent worrying about losing, worrying about opponents working harder than her, and worrying about maintaining her status, the less time she spent developing the emotional intelligence to deal with loss -- an inevitability in the fight game as dictated by life’s greatest enemy: time.
No one should ever get to a point in life where losing a fight induces thoughts of suicide. This is a life built upon a foundation of sand -- a life dedicated to the pursuit of ego, driven by fear, and spurred by material reward. It is a life destined for prolonged misery when the body cannot perform what the mind wills, and the projected sense of self no longer matches the reality.
This is a challenge many of us contend with to greater or lesser extent -- we are taught to find our niche and dominate it. We are taught to hate losing, to abhor lack of ambition, and to regard those who refuse to play by those rules as lazy and unproductive. To become ‘great’ in the egotistical sense of the word, one must adopt this mindset and develop a kind of self hatred -- a hatred of weakness and the parts of us that are vulnerable.
In a sane society, this would be the other way around. We would learn to love the parts of us that fear, and we would learn to develop a sense of identity based on our compassion for other people, and perhaps more importantly, ourselves. Of course we would regard those societies as backwards and lacking in ambition, because in a society that values success above all, human emotion is seen as an inconvenience in the relentless drive towards material gain and status.
As Rousey continued telling her story to Ellen, she told the talk show host what saved her from the abyss. Her boyfriend, UFC fighter Travis Browne, was standing at her side in the medical room, and Rousey “looked up at him and I was just like, ‘I need to have his babies. I need to stay alive.’ ”
A pregnant Rousey isn’t good business for the UFC, and isn’t good business for her brand. But it would be good for Ronda Rousey the human being -- a lesson that apparently took a violent kick to the head to finally understand.