Timmy Hands

Supporter of unconditional love; into laughter the way people are into drinking water and breathing oxygen; bringer of peace; sometimes wrestler, sometimes writer; professional content analyst; baseball enthusiast devoted to the New York Yankees.

Apr 22

What Wrestling Has Taught Me - Volume 1

Some who view the following may scratch their heads at certain parts. That’s ok, everyone’s journey shows different signs on the road. 

What Wrestling Has Taught Me – (Volume 1)

If this was to be a truly honest assessment, a simple prose-laden essay wouldn’t quite cover it. No, this subject area would actually require an entire dissertation, if not a novel.  But in the wake of witnessing this year’s Olympic Trials, I feel somewhat inspired to at least give a compressed list of what exactly the sport of wrestling has taught (and still teaches) me.

 You will be put on your back

That is ok. What is not, however, is enjoying the view of the lights on the ceiling. It doesn’t matter how good you feel you are at something, anything, you will be disappointed. This disappointment can arise from various circumstances. Think of any cliché list that first pops into your head. But when you find yourself seemingly down, you have to know that is just part of the flow. There will definitely be an opportunity for you to turn things around, but you have to be willing to fight for it, which brings me to the next point…

 Nothing is easy

And if it comes too easily, you will eventually lose your grasp of what is important. The part of wrestling that makes it so special is the forced learning of “how to fight for something.” It makes little difference what the actual “goal” is, because no matter what it is, you will have to earn it. There are not many “gimmes” or hand-outs in wrestling, and even fewer in everyday life. If you want something, be ready to work towards it. Alex Steibling, a former wrestler and MMA fighter from Indiana, once told me “the struggle is glory.” I have yet to find other words as appropriate or accurate.

 Discipline is the backbone to participation

In wrestling,  grueling workouts, weight-cutting, and constant, if not perpetual practice are virtually obligatory. This means sacrifice. Sacrificing time others spend in different ways in order just so you can participate adequately. Some might substitute the word participate with compete, but I purposely don’t. Competition, in its most basic form, implies to battle for the sole purpose of serving the ego. Participation, on the other hand, encompasses the entire spectrum, as one who participates clearly does so with the intention of enjoying the experience.  While wrestling, at any level, is perhaps the most competitive sport you will find, I find that many athletes fool themselves into thinking they are doing it for glory that fades rather than  for the true love of “just being there”, as if that wasn’t enough. But indeed it is, because if it weren’t, most would not subject themselves to the very sacrifices the sport encourages.

 Discipline comes in as the source of focus. Understanding why and what you are in this for. Ignoring distractions. Nothing positive comes from diverting your attention away from what matters to you. Make no mistake about it – you can find distractions everywhere, just like how you can find a million excuses not to do something.

 Pain is temporary

Physical pain is temporary, and emotional scars over interpreted defeats are even more so. How, you ask, when there are matches you’ve lost you wish you could have back? Because you have to move on; there will always be another match. It might not take place on a mat, but you will have them, plenty of them, in fact. Life is training. You needn’t worry about how to “learn to deal with defeat”, because you will have plenty of chances to do so. So you lost in the finals of a tournament that meant a lot to you? Yeah, it sucks. But you were there.

 I love how these supposed hardened athletes feel that there is “no such thing as second place.” In a way, they’re right – there isn’t. What you see is at best, a muddled yet illusory way of thinking.  These standards exist from expectation, and expectation comes from ego. You can let these things pass once you understand they are not a definition. Trust me, people might remember what you have accomplished, but they will adore who you actually are. And if that fails to currently satisfy you, I wouldn’t fret – you will have another match to learn it all over again. And again. Life, if anything, is a series of matches that never ends.

 Passion is the fire that burns brightest

Anyone who knows me, at least from an athletic standpoint, is perhaps tired of hearing (or reading) me use the word “passion.” But I will not relent, as it is the single-most important component you will find in anything worth engaging in. Because without it, you are only “half-there.”  You witness this best in wrestling whenever you catch two former competitors sweating it out on an empty mat in an even emptier room.  Why are they there? Is it just because wrestling is the ultimate form of physical fitness? Maybe. But they are also there because it is what they love to do, and it doesn’t matter where and with whom they are wrestling with.

When you have true, honest-to-goodness passion for something, you will always find success. It is as inevitable as the sunrise. You may think you love something this way, but first ask yourself an important question: is there somewhere else you’d rather be? Because if your answer is anything but “yes”, this is not passion, it is something else. If you feel you have to put in extra hours just to be ahead of the next guy, that is an ego problem we all deal with, but it isn’t passion.  There is nothing wrong with wanting to improve, but once you find that there are extenuating reasons for you doing so, this activity of yours will wind up being a temporary part of your life.  


Apr 14

The Difference Between “Heart” and Ego

Too often in sports, we hear how a player has demonstrated that he/she has “heart” when they refuse to give up despite unsettling circumstances. This is especially bandied about in sports I am most familiar with such as wrestling and mixed-martial arts, though the latter I have not been competitive in actively for quite some time. Getting that out of the way, I think it is important to highlight the actual disparity between what heart actually isn’t and what ego certainly is. 

This is not going to be popular. In fact, it is likely the people who read this will feel somewhat offended, disagreeing irately, shaking their fist and insisting I myself lack “heart” for even suggesting they might not be genuine. That is okay. As such, this is their problem, not mine. The truth is, just because your are losing by a wide margin and hang in there or find yourself getting beat on like a pinata at a Cinco de Mayo barbecue and still swing away does not mean you have heart. It means you don’t want to give up. But your reasons for not wanting to give up are convoluted, at best. 

Typically, the athletic animal operates on one of two parameters - passion or ego. These two are not the same, in fact, they couldn’t be more opposite. Passion is doing what you love. Passion is demonstrating this love to others, but it may also mean doing so without the promise of others noticing your enthusiasm. Let me give you an example. One of my older brothers was an excellent wrestler. He loved it, and when I say he loved it, he loved it in a way that his enjoyment of the sport was evident to anyone who witnessed him engage in it. It was like watching a bear cub hop and barrel through the brush. It was as if it was supposed to be what he was doing. And while he saw successes at different levels and times during his competitive days, he never achieved what the local populous expected of him. He never won a state title; in fact, he was at times passed over by his own coach in favor of starting someone else, this despite my brother’s dominance in practice. The coach, himself a man with issues of his own, did not gel with my brother’s easy -going demeanor. He wanted someone who would complain, rant, rave, and yell when things didn’t go his way. My brother also didn’t engage in any of the political warfare that is common in so many wrestling programs. 

What would become of this? It’s simple. My brother lost his love for something he poured his most positive energy into. That positivity was ciphened away from him, little by little, until there was nothing left. What did this coach miss? What did he not see that those of us closer to the situation did? That my brother was just happy to be on a mat. He approached the sport the way little kids do when they play stickball in the street. It didn’t matter if you were watching or not. That’s not what mattered. To my brother, his participation was enjoyment in itself. And once judged by others for not “achieving” what they themselves deemed to be important, he was cast aside. 

You see, ego is a large part of competitive athletics. Some of you reading this are probably thinking “yeah, well, a certain amount of ego is necessary to be successful in competition.” That couldn’t be further from the truth. Competitiveness does not mean wishing to do well to please others and receive adulation. Competitiveness is doing what you love and simply “playing the game.” If a fighter loses a fight in which he/she fought hard but got knocked cold, a good lot of the time you will hear how they felt “embarrassed.” Embarrassed? For what? Do you really need an explanation? Well, here it is: this person felt embarrassed because others were there, watched it happen, and now they feel as if they let someone down. They didn’t let anyone down, except now their sense of self-esteem is wounded. A false self-esteem based on the approval of others. This is the very type of behavior that leads to a feeling of failure. And we are all already taking this erred step by engaging in competition with the hopes of impressing others. Make no mistake about it, if an athlete is competitive due to the sheer enjoyment of being involved, there is absolutely no chance at failure. The only failure that could even arise is the failure in itself to enjoy the activity. 

How about when two fighters go “toe to toe”, with one beating on the other? We’ll refer to the fighter taking the beating as “Fighter B.” Since Fighter B is still standing there, taking shot after shot and coming forward, the announcers will inevitably comment on his or her “heart.” But how do you know it’s heart that is fueling their continued presence? It’s easy - you don’t. Many times, what you are watching isn’t “heart”, it’s a refusal to give up in fear of perceived consequences. The need to explain. The need to defend to others how and why you “failed” them. The insistence you will “do better the next time.” This is madness.

Passion doesn’t need an explanation. Nor is it subject to the judgement of others. The reason why anyone should refuse to give up is not because of the fear that you will lose respect (don’t even get me started on that word), friends, cheers, or any passing materialistic reward. Nope. The reason you do not give up is because if you do, that means the game is over. Because at the end of the day, for the impassioned participants, the game is all that matters in the first place. 


The Difference Between “Heart” and Ego

Too often in sports, we hear how a player has demonstrated how he/she has “heart” when they refuse to give up despite unsettling circumstances. This is especially bandied about in sports I am most familiar with such as wrestling and mixed-martial arts, though the latter I have not been competitive in actively for quite some time. Getting that out of the way, I think it is important to highlight the actual disparity between what heart actually isn’t and what ego certainly is. 

This is not going to be popular. In fact, it is likely the people who read this will feel somewhat offended, disagreeing irately, shaking their fist and insisting I myself lack “heart” for even suggesting they might not be genuine. That is okay. As such, this is their problem, not mine. The truth is, just because your are losing by a wide margin and hang in there or find yourself getting beat on like a pinata at a Cinco de Mayo barbecue and still swing away does not mean you have heart. It means you don’t want to give up. But your reasons for not wanting to give up are convoluted, at best. 

Typically, the athletic animal operates on one of two parameters - passion or ego. These two are not the same, in fact, they couldn’t be more opposite. Passion is doing what you love. Passion is demonstrating this love to others, but it may also mean doing so without the promise of others noticing your enthusiasm. Let me give you an example. One of my older brothers was an excellent wrestler. He loved it, and when I say he loved it, he loved it in a way that his enjoyment of the sport was evident to anyone who witnessed him engage in it. It was like watching a bear cub hop and barrel through the brush. It was as if it was supposed to be what he was doing. And while he saw successes at different levels and times during his competitive days, he never achieved what the local populous expected of him. He never won a state title; in fact, he was at times passed over by his own coach in favor of starting someone else, this despite my brother’s dominance in practice. The coach, himself a man with issues of his own, did not gel with my brother’s easy -going demeanor. He wanted someone who would complain, rant, rave, and yell when things didn’t go his way. My brother also didn’t engage in any of the political warfare that is common in so many wrestling programs. 

What would become of this? It’s simple. My brother lost his love for something he poured his most positive energy into. That positivity was ciphened away from him, little by little, until there was nothing left. What did this coach miss? What did he not see that those of us close to the situation did? That my brother was just happy to be on a mat. He approached the sport the way little kids do when they play stickball in the street. It didn’t matter if you were watching or not. That’s not what mattered. To my brother, his participation was enjoyment in itself. And to be judged by others for not “achieving” what they themselves deem to be important, he was cast aside. 

You see, ego is a large part of competitive athletics. Some of you reading this are probably thinking “yeah, well, a certain amount of ego is necessary to be successful.” That couldn’t be further from the truth. Competitiveness does not mean wishing to do well to please others and receive adulation. Competitiveness is doing what you love and simply “playing the game.” If a fighter loses a fight in which he/she fought hard by got knocked cold, a good lot of the time you will hear how they felt “embarrassed.” Embarrassed? For what? Do you really need an explanation? Well, here it is: this person felt embarrassed because others were there, watched it happen, and now they feel as if they let someone down. They didn’t let themselves down. Make no mistake about it, if an athlete is competitive due to the sheer enjoyment of being involved, there is absolutely no chance at failure. The only failure that could even arise is the failure in itself to enjoy the activity. 

What about when two fighters go “toe to toe”, with one beating on the other, who we’ll refer to as “Fighter B.” Since Fighter B is still standing there, taking shot after shot and coming forward, the announcers will inevitably comment on his or her’s “heart.” But how do you know it’s heart that is fueling their continued presence? It’s easy - you don’t. Many times, what you are watching isn’t “heart”, it’s a refusal to give up in fear of perceived consequences. The need to explain. The need to make a defense as to why you failed others. The insistence you will “do better the next time.” 

Passion doesn’t need an explanation. Nor is it subject to the judgement of others. The reason why anyone should refuse to give up is not because of the fear that you will lose respect (don’t even get me started on that word), friends, cheers, or any passing materialistic reward. Nope. The reason you do not give up is because if you do, that means the game is over. Because at the end of the day, for the impassioned participants, the game is all that matters in the first place. 


Dec 1

Good match from last year.



Sep 27

What You Do Not Understand About Floyd

Before we begin, let’s get something straight: Floyd Mayweather does not fight for his fans, nor does he truly respect outside opinion. It would be nice, almost romantic to believe that he makes decisions based upon popular consensus, but he doesn’t. And it’s not just because he relishes the “villain” role. He doesn’t do that, either. No. Make no mistake about it - Floyd would rather be adored. 

But more than being adored, Floyd would like you to understand something, something that is sometimes glossed over but never depicted in the light that it deserves: his success comes at a price. His work ethic, not just as a boxer, but as an elite athlete of any sport is nearly unparalleled. The closest comparison I have to him is Dan Gable, the legendary US wrestler and perhaps the most intense athlete who ever lived. 

The series 24/7 shows, of course, shows snippets of training camp mixed in with its docu-style reality premise. But those are snapshots, at best. What it doesn’t show you is that Mayweather is and always has been willing to put in the kind of work others aren’t. That includes waking up restless in the middle of the night only to quell his anxiousness by going for a run. A long one. It doesn’t illustrate the depths of his struggles inside the gym, when he pushes himself sparring in uncomfortable situations, nor does the series show his willingness to lose himself completely in the monotony that goes along with the kind of strength and conditioning routine that would make even the hardest of toughies run scared. 

This is not an error. Mayweather’s team has been extremely astute when it comes to what it has wanted the series to show and what it hasn’t. But Mayweather’s penchant for dedicating himself to the rigors it takes to match his fitness with his talents is nothing new. Those inside boxing have long been enamored, if not downright impressed, with the level of preparation Floyd has embraced since the beginning of his pro career. Running uphill in combat boots for 5 miles? Check. Chopping wood old-school style? Floyd’s done it. Circuit-training with sparring in between? You bet. When was the last time you saw Floyd Mayweather openly breathing with his mouth agape in between rounds, let alone in the middle of the ring? The answer? Never. For all of his prodigious skill, composure, and ring-smarts, Floyd is never outworked. Ever. At the elite, world-class level, it is easy to assume that all combatants follow the same ethos Mayweather does. But it is truly one area where he in fact, stands alone. 


Sep 18

Why Floyd Mayweather is still…Floyd Mayweather

It seems every time Floyd Mayweather gets into and out of a ring nowadays that I have to wade through constant chatter about how he is ducking Pacquaio, has ducked others, or is, most of all, a villain. There is a litany of reasons why I have a difficult time stomaching this, and I fear that after tonight’s chaos, I am going to have to once again don my “Defender of Floyd” cap. Rather than expound into a long dissertation, I will instead use one of my lists, which those familiar with my writing style both personally and professionally will hopefully appreciate. 

a) It sounds cliche at this point, but the rule, the only rule that matters, the rule that anyone who has ever stepped foot inside of a boxing gym, let alone an actual boxing ring, are taught on the first day is to…PROTECT YOURSELF AT ALL TIMES. It’s a simple rule, really, but one that is perhaps the most crucial. The beloved warrior Arturo Gatti learned this in 2005 at Boardwalk Hall and Victor Ortiz received the same lesson Saturday night in Las Vegas. 

b) YOU DON’T HAVE TO LIKE FLOYD. In fact, it’s probably better that you don’t. Either way, it doesn’t matter. The truth is, Floyd Mayweather would rather be loved, but he doesn’t mind being hated if it keeps obscene wads of cash stored in the shoebox under his bed. The other truth: unless you are 85 years old, you have never seen another fighter like him. Not Sugar Ray Robinson or Leonard, not Marvin Hagler, not Willie Pep, not Oscar De La Hoya, Bernard Hopkins, Aaron Pryor, or whomever else you want to think of was ever capable of doing what Floyd can do. And what is that, exactly?

It is simple. I don’t know why boxing pundits make this so complicated. Floyd is smarter. This is an athlete who has literally, purposefully “given away” rounds to opponents simply so he can figure out his adjustments. When he wants to start fast, he does, and makes adjustments off of that. But mostly, Mayweather has been content to lay back and fight just enough in the early going in order to formulate his strategy. He has been shrewd enough throughout his career to realize that no battle plan survives the first bullet fired, so why waste time in camp stressing over it? Now sure, not every fighter can do that. So many rely on breaking down tape, analyzing, and bringing in sparring partners to emulate their upcoming opponents’ styles. But once again, this is why they’re not Mayweather. 

And even if Floyd can outsmart himself (which has happened on occasion), his talent for timing is nearly unparalleled in the modern era. To give you an example, at one point tonight, Mayweather landed 3 straight right hands on Ortiz. They were not consecutive the way shells leave a machine gun, a la’ Roy Jones, Jr. Instead, after the first one landed, Ortiz moved just ever-so-slightly to his left, so Floyd fired another. And when Ortiz barely flinched again, Floyd made impact with one more. It is decisions like this Mayweather makes reflexively few can even conceive of, let alone pull the trigger on. 

c) Was it dirty? Well, was Ortiz headbutting him like a linebacker trying to get fined by Roger Goodale dirty? The correct answer is that, no, it wasn’t dirty. Was it sportsmanlike? Not even close. Was it how I preferred the fight to be decided? Nope. But I refer back to “letter a” - protect yourself at all times. As for Ortiz trying to make amends, Mayweather poignantly pointed out at the press conference ”You butt me, two minutes later you want to be friends? It’s the hurt business.” It is the hurt business. Victor Ortiz now knows this better than anyone. 

d) Indirectly, Floyd made Ortiz a hero tonight. Ortiz had already been a sympathetic figure, and not just because of his life story being chronicled on “24/7.” Victor Ortiz was fast becoming a future star in 2008 before Marcos Maidana derailed his train in 2009. Sure, he got back on the horse, picking up wins over Antonio Diaz, Nate Campbell, and LaMont Peterson, but it was his loss to Maidana that everyone still remembered. His post-fight questioning of his own desire generated another red flag, a flag the subsequent wins did little to remedy. 

It wasn’t until this past April when Ortiz surprised Andre Berto and the rest of the boxing community with an impressive, gutsy unanimous decision in which he floored Berto twice while tasting the canvas himself. Ortiz learned his heart still beat with desire and fought like it. Floyd Mayweather took notice. Thus, a star was born, as the mainstream would finally get a glimpse of the Mexican-American toughie who has had to deal with the kind of turmoil in his life most people find in the pages of inspirational novels. 

e) This fight will ratchet up the Pacquaio talk to nearly deafening levels. If you thought it was bad before, then get ready, because although PacMan is gearing up for yet another showdown with Marquez (whom no doubt is deemed “safe” by the Pacquaio camp due to his age, size, and of course, because Mayweather beat him up a couple of years ago), all the attention will be on what transpired tonight. Pacquaio will chime in, Roach will, and the merry-go-round will resume. There will be some back-and-forth between the two through the media, in which Pacquaio will tire of, stating something to the effect that he is “focused on Marquez.” 

Floyd will watch the Pac/Marquez bout with eager anticipation, hoping he sees more flaws in Pacquaio’s game than he already does and hopefully, that will be enough to incite reasonable negotiations. 

———————————————————————————————————————-

The bottom line is that tonight, I wanted to see a champion do what he does - put on a championship performance. Mayweather was well on his way to doing just that before whatever happened…happened. As a boxing fan, it was a disappointing ending if only because we were robbed of what was shaping up to be a pretty good fight, despite that it simultaneously appeared Floyd was beginning to find the kind of groove that usually leads to a stoppage. Maybe Ortiz knew that, too, which is why he made a desperate attempt to send a violent message. The message was received. The messenger was punished. 


Sep 10

Still Misunderstanding

Ten years. Ten years of tears. Ten years of something missing. Ten years of war. Ten years of aggressive political agendas masked as religious rites of passage. A lot can happen in ten years. But what hasn’t changed is the distance - there still isn’t any. Twenty years from now, the “anniversary” of September 11th will still feel as if it is the one year anniversary. Because although time heals all wounds, we will still be reminded.

Never forget? How could we? 

Not that we should. Even the hardest hearts blackened by the ashes of that day beat a little more somber every September. Those, like myself, who lost no loved ones, no friends, and no family on that day still reflect back to where we were, what we were doing. As if it matters. It doesn’t. But everyone feels compelled to share a story. I do not need a catharsis. My September 11th tale is one of misunderstanding. And a short ten years later, as with many, my perspective has changed.

They can build new towers, bigger, bolder, and representative of healing. But the sunset of the summer will always usher in a breeze of solemnity this time of year. It doesn’t matter if it’s the tenth anniversary or the fiftieth: many will always ache from a wound that feels all too fresh to move on. The truth is, it doesn’t matter where you were. It matters where you are. You’re right here. If this anniversary is good for anything, it is that. Because so many whom will be forever loved and remembered are not. 

Let’s take care of each other.