Process

Here’s a hypothetical question that shouldn’t take you very long to answer:

Would you rather your favorite NFL team play a very tight game that is widely regarded as one of the greatest matchups in the history of the Super Bowl, but ultimately lose?

Or

Would you rather your favorite NFL team dominate their opponent thoroughly, but not historically, and win the game 35-10?

The answer for me, and I’m guessing for you as well, is simple. I want the Broncos to beat everyone they play, and I don’t care how they do it. I want them to be Super Bowl Champions every year, and it is of little interest to me how the game goes. If it’s an all-time classic like the first one against Green Bay, that’s a nice bonus, but if it’s fairly thorough domination like the next one against Atlanta, that feels basically exactly the same.

It’s for the inversion of this mindset, that watching MMA fights has become my favorite sports diversion. I almost never care who wins or loses, I just want a good show.

“To a far greater degree than the average baseball or football fan, fight fans appreciate the difference between process and results; that dos Santos had actually won the first time didn’t, on its own, count for much at all.”

The above quote is from Tim Marchman, in an article he wrote called: “Cain Velasquez And Junior Dos Santos Should Fight Each Other Forever.” He’s absolutely right (the fight he’s referencing is the lead photo), and I didn’t exactly realize that until I read the sentence above. And it’s sort of an insane proposition as well when taken in the context of the history of your sports fandom.

Do you think San Diego Padres fans think fondly on Game 163 in 2007? That was one of the greatest games in the history of baseball, and while it’s lionized here in Denver, I’ll bet no one talks about it there, and rightfully so. Most sports are rooted in wins and losses. And while those things matter in fights, they’re also profoundly less relevant.

One of my favorite fighters is Clay Guida. Guida’s a good fighter, but not an elite fighter. His record is 30-14, and he’s lost 3 of his last 4 fights. The reason I love Clay Guida is I know what I’m going to get when he fights. And what is that? A wild caveman who is going to push the pace, try for the takedown so he can pound on the face of his opponent (or choke him out), and a guy who can pretty much take any punch anyone can throw at him. He’s relentless, fearless, and bursting with heart. Hell, my Clay Guida fandom began when he lost to Roger Huerta in 2007, in what was later awarded Fight of the Year.

In fact, here's Guida taking a giant kick to the fucking face from Diego Sanchez.

In fact, here’s Guida taking a giant kick to the fucking face from Diego Sanchez.

Taking a more well-known example, think about a guy like Randy Couture, one of the most beloved fighters ever, and widely regarded as one of the greatest of all-time. That’s unusual praise for a guy whose career record is 19-11. Randy would take on anyone, move between weight classes, and would always find new ways to beat (or lose to) people.  You could always look forward to a Randy Couture fight, even if he ultimately got crane kicked in the face by Lyoto Machida.

Both of these fighters represent appreciation of process over results, and I wish that applied to more things. What am I talking about specifically?

As coach of the Denver Nuggets from midway through the 2004-2005 until his firing at the end of last season, George Karl produced a win-loss record of 423-257. In every year of his tenure, Karl made the playoffs. In every year but one, he lost in the first round. Despite winning consistently, you might say Karl didn’t win enough. So the Nuggets fired him and have gone in a different direction. This is a very results-oriented decision.

Why it ultimately makes me sad is that even though the Nuggets disappointed everyone by losing to Golden State in the first round last year, never in my life has it been more fun to watch basketball. I loved that crazy team and all the energy they played with. It didn’t matter if they won or lost because I knew no matter what I was getting a hell of a show. The Nuggets were the Clay Guida of basketball.

If you told me the Nuggets would win the NBA Title this year, but that they’d resemble the ruthless, antiseptic efficiency of the bloodless San Antonio Spurs, would this be an acceptable tradeoff? I honestly don’t know anymore.

And that’s why I think MMA fights will continue to be my favorite sports diversion. I know exactly how to feel about process versus results. And I can’t say that about any other sport, nor much else in my life at the moment.

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