There is no way of officially denoting the time or place when it happened; no sirens blared; no comet pierced the atmosphere; the earth’s axis didn’t tip. At least, as best anyone can recall, although apparently a few got a sign.
Sometime in the galaxy, at some place seen and heard by at least one other person, someone declared them self “an artist.” A term formerly bestowed on one after years, if not decades of work inviting critique of peers and public who made the call on creative integrity and durability. This no longer exists in tweet happy land. First time anyone warbles, strums, yells, plucks, bangs or broods–this seems especially important–they can classify themselves “an artist” and be accepted as such.
While this self-indulging blather revolves mainly in the music orbit, it is not limited. Actors and athletes are “artists” after one good showing in some estimation. Who can blame any of them for self-titled or self-imposed “artistry?” The 15-minutes-of-fame, the Nostradamus of pop culture Andy Warhol predicted long ago, plays out daily and immediately.
When even the president is taking “selfies” why shouldn’t everyone be entitled to be, well, entitled? More so considering the shelf life is always being reevaluated for expiration. For never has the blade of fame been sharper or cut swifter both ways.
At this writing, Mack Brown the national championship winning coach at Texas, is reportedly going to be out in Austin anytime. That national title is 8 seasons past, and the team finished with an 8-4 record this year, following seasons of 9-4 and 8-5. In Longhorn country, being so far removed from elite status feels like an eternity. Gene Chizik is the best example of these got-to-have-it-now times. In his second year at Auburn, he guided them to an unbeaten national championship, then after seasons of 8-5 and 3-9, he was fired. His replacement Gus Malzahn, in his first season, is the newest flavor of the moment guiding the Tigers back to the title game.
The big time of sports pays big money, draws bigger attention and the largest of expectations. Winning is defined by how much in these esteemed programs. A bowl game is ok depending, are we talking Shreveport or Miami? It better be the latter for the top drawer programs.
Even athletes who aren’t going out of the way to seek the spotlight are having it poured on them by fans and media, who have already added their own “artist” label, and expect to see that special-ness every time out. Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins is perhaps the most ballyhooed high school basketball player since LeBron James, and whether this publicity-shy, personality-reserved teenager wanted it or not, he was the next LeBron. So there, just, as the shoe company has etched it in our culture, do it. Having been around him briefly at the Battle 4 Atlantis, he doesn’t carry himself with the bravado of having arrived. Yet his highlights usually include his turnovers and missed shots, along with his good plays. Ah, the knife of fame. If it bothers him, he can take solace in that, next year he will be a multi-millionaire, which should take the sting out of being scrutinized even more.
In MMA the boisterous have been rewarded, getting a prominent position on a premiere card, but these are the few that have chosen themselves primarily as great fighters. The UFC made swooping cuts this year for the first time ever, sending out the message that has been an unspoken edict in every major sport always—Win. Suffer a string of losses, and you better start looking for regional deals.
There are a couple of fighters in 2013 that just might have the staying power of relevancy for a solid, maybe great career. Their talent combined with that certain attitude to sustain the blows in and out of the cage, make them rising stars in the old-fashion sense, not Instagram posers, but core abilities that paint a true picture of talent and potential.
Conor McGregor, 25 years old from Dublin, Ireland, launched an impressive career in Europe with eye-popping knockouts in 16, and then in an amazing 4 seconds. The Cage Warrior lightweight champ last year, who came to the States and has been an impressive 2-0 in the UFC. He brings a power punch to either featherweight or lightweight that rivals almost anyone in the divisions and a 14-2 mark overall with 12 of those wins by KO.
32 year old Holly Holm is poised to be the next big thing in the women’s world. She is a novelty in being the first male or female boxing champion, who then crossed over to MMA at the peak of her multi-championship ring career. Winning all four of her fights in 2013 has generated great interest and it should be interesting to see how long before the UFC signs her. Holm is training at Greg Jackson’s in her hometown of Albuquerque, New Mexico, another plus for one of the best strikers in the female game.
Neither McGregor or Holm has declared they have made it, which is another testament of letting their talent talk for them. It is both refreshing, and a gauge of their understanding of the fragile flooring of declaring artist standing in the cage too soon.
Art may still be in the eye or ear of the beholder, but seeing improving athletes simply making their statement, in what has become that rare commodity of performance, is still a thing of beauty for the majority of fans.
Got something you’re burning on? Tell the man himself on Kenny Rice’s Twitter or Facebook page. Watch Kenny along with Bas Rutten LIVE every Friday night on “Inside MMA”, and check out his book “Not Hit Yet”, an insider look at the MMA world.
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