“Don’t look back, something might be gaining on you.” Satchel Paige, Baseball Legend
There it was, then wasn’t. Over a year in waiting. Enduring the death of her husband, compounded by the frustration of knee surgery and now the moment came. In 14 seconds though, it painfully ended for Cat Zingano. Another victim of a Ronda Rousey armbar.
Except for maybe Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll’s decision to pass instead of hand off to Marshawn Lynch at the goal line with Super Bowl victory a yard away, this will be the second most second-guessed decision of the year. Why did she rush right into a certain submission? Did she think there was a way to simply overpower the unstoppable Rousey?
Immediately afterwards in an interview with Joe Rogan, Zingano, herself had no answer. Taking longer to finally utter expletives than the fight had lasted.
That’s the way it is in sports. Those who compete are to be applauded and some admired for having the audacity to try things the rest of us couldn’t. In retaliation of course, we all can become the armchair coach, the purveyor of post-game (or fight) wisdom and opinion. No one who has ever participated, from Little League to the big time, should ever doubt there will be naysayers and haters.
It is the fascination of the woulda, coulda, shoulda that plagues us all at one time. Would it have been different if I had done that? Could I have changed my course of life with a left instead of a right turn? Should I have tried something, anything, other than the obvious? And we love watching it play out on a nightly basis, either in the stands or the friendly confines of our living room basking in the TV glow. It is the ultimate appeal of sports, to vicariously enjoy victory and scrutinize defeat. It reflects a lot of what we’ve all been through.
For the athlete or coach, there are few moments, maybe only one, that come along where there will be a chance to show that you are special, a champion, at least one of the greatest all time.
On the UFC 184 card Zingano lost not just a fight, but a moment. She knows it. No one needs to dwell on the sleepless nights she’s had since. Maybe even a decade from now, it will still hurt as much as the actually armbar did. Perhaps Carroll will do the same, screaming out “run” in the middle of a nightmare.
To get the shot at being on a big stage though, is commendable indeed. How many people do you actually know, could call them on the phone right now for a friendly chat, that have ever had the chance to triumph or fail, make the impossible play, or the most head scratching what-were-you-thinking mistake is an adrenaline rush few ever experience?
There are the other kinds of woulda, coulda, shoulda. Not dramatic mistakes or embarrassing ones, but moments that came and went where something extra was waiting with just one more success. Jake Ellenberger who dominated Josh Koscheck at UFC 184 is a top 10 welterweight who was seemingly a win away from a title shot, but his six-fight win streak ended in 2012 to Martin Kampmann. Not that he didn’t get other chances, and if the decision loss to Rory MacDonald had gone the other way, maybe he wouldn’t have fought Robbie Lawler next. Who knows for sure? Ellenberger certainly is still in the picture but again it is all about the next win.
Mark Munoz in 2012 had a four-fight win streak and also appeared title shot bound with another win or two, but he lost to a still on the rise Chris Weidman. Munoz career has never recovered, winning once in four tries since and dropping his last fight in 184 to Roan Carneiro.
They aren’t the only ones. If Gary Maynard had one more vote from a judge and there wasn’t a draw at UFC 125 with Frankie Edgar, he was the lightweight champ. Kenny Florian fought so hard in a decision loss to Jose Aldo in UFC 136, maybe just a little more and he would have been the featherweight king. Ellenberger, Munoz, Maynard, Florian, and you can add your own to a tough, talented group of fighters who were almost at the top or close to getting the call.
It compels us as to what might have happened, that’s why we spend our money to see them takes their chances. And sometimes wonder why they did.