Tuesday, August 11

BJ Penn Is A Rower

Saturday night Catfish, some friends, and myself headed to our local tavern to take in UFC 101. This bar is a dive in every sense of the word and that is why I love it. Foreign mangement, palm trees painted on the walls (not very well mind you), horrible lighting, and a pool table in place much too small for one. The one redeeming quality is that it does boast wall to wall television which makes it ideal for catching college pro football and in this case, the fight. I got their early to stake out a good spot because while most of the time the bar is empty, at certain points of time which includes UFC fights it becomes as packed as a World War I submarine. It may have something to do with the bar not charging a cover but on other nights it does see its share of a high volume of patrons. On Wednesday and Thursday night they have a "live DJ" and I can only emphasize my quotations so much. Playing music while this place already has a juke box is beyond me but I guess they fell when he touches something on his "turntable" and the sound modulates for a beat or two, it is worth having the mixmaster their pumping music at insane volume into a bar that has the square footage of a barber shop. But this was Saturday, a fight night and where Catfish and I had sat in the same location two weeks ago to a bar not full enough to start a 5 on 5 fullcourt game (including bar staff) it was packed.

Another feature of our local tavern that we find so endearing is the dollar beers. While I mentioned that the bar has a certain panache any place can make up for its shortcomings by offering good drink specials. In our tavern you can get a bottle of beer for $1. It may not be your favorite cheap, cold domestic but for a bottle of watered-down American brew I can throw down the Bud Lights. If you are feeling uppity any other bottle of domestic is just $2 everyday they have $3 shot specials. The particular shot depends on the day. While we frequent this place probably more than any other bar around our neck of the woods, we do venture to other bars. After having access to dollar beers for so long you will actually refuse to make contact with another waitress/bartender when their response to you inquiry about the specials is something to the tune of "well we have Bud Select for $2.50!"

With the buckets coming fast and furious and the place getting crowded and people taking possesion of the few chairs in the place, I felt relief I came early to secure a table in front of the big projection screen. Of course Catfish being my wingman he arrived before anyone else. We did our rundown of the sports stories the last day or so and tried to get in as much conversation before the female element would be added to the mix (I am not begrudging that fact I am just saying we couldn't continue to talk Ortiz and college football when the girls came, in the interest of manners). The projection screen was rolled down and it took awhile for the screen to come one. Catfish remarked that this was probably due to the lamp being on its last leg and sure enough when the manager did all but pull up a step stool and bang the projector with a wrench to get it working the screen came one with a warning in red letters below the picture: Replace Lamp. "That warning has been on there the last two fights," Catfish said. It was working though and thanks to the tavern being dimly lit you could hardly tell the screen was of such poor quality.

One by one, well actually two by two our friends started to arrive. K-man came with an entourage; his new wife, his sister and his brother-in-law. His wife was the biggest sport I have ever seen on Super Bowl Sunday. She is from Youngstown,Ohio which is pretty close to Pittsburgh and since Big Ben is from Ohio she wore a pink Roethlisberger jersey to Xtra Medium's house for the game. She sat there quietly as XM, Catfish, and I and I think even K-man said every foul-mouthed negative word against the city we could think of and called Big Ben every name in the book. It only got worse as the game progressed, we got more inebriated and the Cardinals took the lead late. After the final drive and the catch by Holmes she did not let out one inkling of a cheer. I do not know if this was out of politeness or a fear of a verbal assault which was likely had she decided to taunt. He and K-man left quietly but I know before she walked out the door she would have loved to turn around and give a big FU to us malcontents. K-man's brother-in-law is a high energy guy. You know that you meet someone at a wedding and you figure, hey they are cutting loose for a weekend away from life same as you and boy is it fun to get a little out-of-character crazy for awhile. Apparently this man is like that all the time, which is a good thing until he decided to place a friendly kiss on my cheek, sadly the only such contact I would experience that night.

XM and his girlfriend showed up and while he has a gargantuan HD television, their is no denying we were all interested in the deal offered by the tavern. In these economic times, saving the $45 and change for a no cover, dollar beer evening is a wise choice. My friend The Concierge was in town as well as his wife, both Syracuse alums. He wrote a piece for us last fall about the firing of Greg Robinson. Finally Catfish's lady of interest arrived with her friend and it was 10 people, one table, 3 chairs, and multiple buckets of beer.

I stood next to said "friend" and tried to explain the mechanics of MMA, as this was her first time seeing a fight. Now I am only what you would describe as a "casual" MMA fan so I was probably not the best person to explain the situation. Add the consumption of alcohol to mix and my attempt at dissecting what was going on in the cage was probably akin to that of a stoned glassblower trying to explain adjusted-rate mortgages. Our discussion wandered to other sports instead in which she was very knowledgeable. In order to protect anonymity I will merely say she is working for a school in the same BCS conference as the one she attended and admitted, it feels a bit like being behind enemy lines. I could understand this since being a Miami grad I would not fully root for another ACC school and could never work for FSU or Florida (or course ask me that when I'm living out of my car and surviving on saltines and my answer might be different).

We watched as Hendricks got a knockout and assist from the referee in 30 seconds, Silva did the fade-away strike to end Griffin, and BJ Penn choked out Kenny Florian. While waiting for the festivities to start Catfish and I got a good look at the fight promos multiple times. There was of course Kenny Florian's inciteful first round prediction which ushered the "he actually said that sh*t!" response from Penn. While profiling BJ's training we noticed something that many people probably already knew but a casual fan such as myself was unaware of; he is being trained by Marv Marinovich. That name seem familiar? He is the infamous father of QB bust Todd Marinovich. A lot of blame was placed on Marv when Todd's career took a nosedive into drug addiction after he was selected 24th overall by the Raiders in 1991 (they certainly never make mistakes right!). From his time as an infant, Marv monitored every facet of Todd's life which included a high volume of training, analysis, and a strict diet. The famous line from Todd as he entered pro football was how he had "never had a cheeseburger". Despite the spiral the younger Marinovich had, Penn has placed his trust in Marv, and so far it looks to have worked but no word on whether Penn has eaten any burgers.

One thing I noticed while Penn's training montage was running on the screen was a sight that actually gave me a little pang of joy. In a fast-paced cut of Penn doing different exercises was a 2 second clip of him on an erg! You may be wondering what exactly an erg is. It is short for ergometer which would be known better as a rowing machine. I decided to try to investigate further and sure enough on Penn's YouTube channel there is this training video which he goes over some of the equipment he is using and at the 1:50 mark he points to the rowing machine. The video overall is very simple with an awkward introduction featuring the Marinovich squad at the beginning.

Being a former college rower I was excited to see Penn using the erg to train. If you have never sat down on one of these machines, then you can consider yourself fortunate or like you're missing out. In college I viewed this thing as a torture device which usually succeeded in breaking down your mental faculties but at the same time there may be no better machine for getting a workout. The brutality of this machine, as in many implements of torture is in its simplicity. It is a moving seat on a slide and you strap your feet in and push off the footboards while holding a bar connected to a chain. The chain runs into a well which contains a wheel that you move by your rowing motion. There is a monitor that can indicate how many calories you are burning, how many Watts you are generating, or tell you how far or fast you are going and in what amount of time. I was fortunate enough to row in Florida so I did not receive as much erg punishment as rowers from the northern states who must head indoors when the extreme cold hits. I did get plenty of time with the machine though, trust me. The factor about the erg that makes it so effective is that there is no way around the results. It is honest, sometimes so in a hurtful way and when you finish you pulled what you pulled. It is perhaps more a mental trial than physical one and to be forthright I am not sure if I came out on top by the end of my time as a rower. I was a horrid erger, I cannot lie the machine probably overcame me more than I got off it thinking I had got the best of it. This was tough for me because I was not blessed with the physical gifts to be a great rower. I am an satisfactory athlete but nowhere near where the best rowers on our team were let alone world class rowers. Not to be too negative though I did improve steadily on the machine all my four years and although I do not have access to an erg presently, I look forward to hopping on one again to renew the challenge. The most popular brand of the erg is Concept2 and their web site is great not only for information and purchase of an erg but also for training on it. They do not just give you the machine and wish you luck, there are workouts, challenges, and even indoor races to delve into. I truly think there are few if any machines that offer a better complete workout than the erg. As for BJ Penn, I am sure he is happy with the results.

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