Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Being part of history, seeing UFC two reasons to love job as sports writer

By Josh Hachat

Few times in this profession do you get to be a part of history.

But early Sunday morning, I stood out of my chair. Why, I don't know. It just happened, to be honest.

I already was 10 feet from the octagon during Saturday night's Ultimate Fighting Championship card at sold-out Nationwide Arena, but I just stood up. Then my hair stood up, followed immediately by my skin. I soon realized I was a part of history.

All this happened while Randy Couture, a 43-year-old who had been retired, was in the midst of claiming the UFC heavyweight title for the third time in his career.

He and Tim Sylvia, the 6-foot-8 giant who had the title before Saturday, entered the ring at about midnight in a scene I'll never forget.

If the UFC is the next big thing -- and everything points to that -- this will be the moment that catapults it farther into the stratosphere.

With Aerosmith's "Back in the Saddle" blasting from the speakers, Couture entered to a reaction I've heard probably only twice.

Then, of course, as he won, the noise from 19,000 people eclipsed everything.

But when I watched Couture do the impossible in the ring, it was clear to me what was so fascinating had little to do with what he was doing in the ring.

It had nothing to do with whether you enjoy the sport of mixed martial arts.

It didn't matter if you think the UFC simply is a bloody, violent brawl for miscreants -- however misinformed that might be.

It had nothing to do with the takedowns, punches or elbows Couture threw in the dominant 25-minute performance.

It was about watching a man defy what he was supposed to be able to do, what he was told he couldn't do and what nobody expected him to do. It was about proving people wrong and believing in yourself. It was about being an inspiration to everyone who has been told they couldn't do something or thought something was unattainable.

We watch sports to be entertained, but we also watch them to be inspired. Couture proved Saturday night that age and critics don't matter.

He showed us once again people -- regular people, even -- are capable of anything, no matter if it's succeeding in sports, being a teacher, selling cars, delivering mail, working at bank or whatever.

"I just feel like a regular guy," Couture said. "Occasionally, regular guys have exceptional things happen to them, and that was one of those nights."

Just recently I saw a handful of memorable moments.

I was inside Value City Arena when Mike Conley Jr.'s shot and Ron Lewis' block gave Ohio State a victory against Wisconsin to claim the Big Ten men's regular season basketball title. I was watching from high in the rafters as 19,000 people waved white towels in unison, chanting for Greg Oden to stay one more year.

Days later, I was back inside Value City Arena with 10,000 others for the state wrestling meet. The next day, almost a full house at the Ohio Expo Center Coliseum watched a thriller between Canal Winchester and Granville in boys basketball.

Each made me a better writer -- keep the comments to yourself -- simply because they told the story for me. But only one made me get out of my chair. Only one gave me chills.

It might not be the U.S. Olympic hockey team beating Russia in 1980 or Jesse Owens winning four gold medals at the 1936 Olympics. It might not even be Jack Nicklaus winning the Masters at 46, but to deny this moment just because you might not like the UFC is missing the point.

This was about more than the UFC.

Couture put on a magical performance that left people speechless. I've heard from dozens upon dozens who were reduced to tears after his victory. Even UFC president Dana White bordered on hyperbole after getting wrapped up in the moment.

"This guy is the most amazing human being I've met in my entire life," White said.

I consider myself lucky to be able to do what I do and get paid for it. This week, I had to pinch myself several times. On Saturday, however, I had chills, I was inspired and I was a part of history.

That is why I love my job.


No comments: