For some strange reason, I persist in reading mainstream sports sites, including Sports Illustrated. Every once in a while, they do produce a good story. Currently on the Sports Illustrated front page is an archived story about Evan Tanner. This is a story which, I believe, appeared in print a while back but is up on the website for the first time.
There isn't much new here, but it's a good read. There are some interesting and saddening connections to some of the other tragic events in MMA history, such as this tidbit:
In March 2006, in what would be his last fight for two years, Tanner won a first-round submission victory over Justin Levens (who, ironically, would die along with his girlfriend in November '08 in what is being investigated as a murder-suicide).
The author also pins down the specific purpose of Tanner's trip into the desert. Apparently, he was in equal parts motivated by a woman and treasure (which many of us can probably relate to):
...Tanner was trolling MySpace for travel blogs when he stumbled across the musings of Sara Tuominen, an Arabic linguist from Washington State who works for the U.S. government as a translator Iraq and Afghanistan, among other countries, and blogged about her experiences in Saudi Arabia. From late June until Tanner's desert trip, their MySpace message correspondence ran longer than some novellas....
As part of his growing interest in Sara, Tanner became engrossed in one of her hobbies: treasure hunting. He started researching the desert east of his new home outside San Diego and discovered the 19th-century legend of Peg Leg Smith's lost gold, nuggets strewn atop a desert butte. Tanner decided to make a series of trips into the desert -- the first alone, the next with Sara....
On his Spike blog, Tanner mentioned his planning for the adventure but claimed that his goals were not material. "I'll have to portray our adventure as spiritual in nature, to avoid being institutionalized," he told Sara.
I had never heard this angle before; Tanner's claim to be looking for "treasure" as he wrote it on his blog is common knowledge, but this bit is new. It could just be the style, but it feels as if the author is cherry-picking particular evidence of Tanner's motivations to make the best possible story. However, the fact remains that no one really knows what was going on in Tanner's head except Tanner.
It's an interesting article nonetheless, and I recommend a read. It's still important to note that this is coverage of MMA in a mainstream publication which - despite dealing with a tragic event - paints the sport in an honest light. The other fighters are shown as compassionate, thinking people, and fighting as a career is basically excused from any part in Tanner's death. The last couple of paragraphs are some of the best, so maybe there is still hope that, somehow, Evan Tanner's life story ends well.