Jake Rossen's piece on the top stories of the decade included this double bummer:
4 Mark Kerr
Sports from basketball to boxing have had the benefit of provocative documentaries made about their personalities: it's impossible to view collegiate athletics -- and the passing smoke of NBA potential -- quite the same after "Hoop Dreams," and it's difficult to fully understand Ali's cultural imprint without a viewing of "When We Were Kings."
It's far from perfect, but John Hyams' "Smashing Machine," which premiered on HBO in January 2001, was the first sternly critical look of what men do in order to compete at the highest levels of violent spectacle. Mark Kerr, who had been feared in Brazil, the U.S. and Japan for years, trusted Hyams enough to bare his soul for cameras. He shot in painkillers, collapsed in emotional agony after losses and eventually found himself near-comatose in a hospital bed, sobbing as friends begged him to stop polluting his body with under-the-counter courage. "Machine" was the first real proof this sport would make its share of monsters.
The Smashing Machine - The Life and Times of Extreme Fighter Mark Kerr documentary had a near devastating effect on me as an MMA fan. Even though I'd generally rooted for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu fighters over wrestlers (back when that kind of thing seemed to matter), I had been in awe of Mark Kerr and really expected him to be a dominant force in MMA for years to come.
The fact that he trained with Bas Rutten and Ricco Rodriguez in one of the first training camps to really bring elite practioners of complementary disciplines together made me think of Kerr as a thinking man's fighter. Sadly, his real life was anything but disciplined. The stew of PED's and opiates he ingests on camera in made me feel really dirty for being a fan of MMA.
From the vantage point of 2009, it's hard to believe that to a man, those who were serious MMA fans in the late 1990's thought that Mark Kerr was the most fearsome fighter in the world and the one most likely to tear a devastating path through the MMA jungle for many years. The unlikely come-back of Mark Coleman in the same PRIDE Open Grand Prix where Mark Kerr met his downfall against Fujita was not something many expected. And no one expected Randy Couture's repeated phoenix-like rise from the ashes. Those two fighters are set to co-main event a UFC in 2010 while Mark Kerr was long-ago reduced to minor show opponent status. Sad to see.
Video preview of the movie in the full entry if you haven't seen it. It's really a must.
Historically, the story of Mark Kerr and The Smashing Machine isn't just about the tragedy and continuing impact of the pressure that drives fighters to abuse drugs in an effort to win at all costs, it's also one of the first instances of really quality creative work that used MMA as a basis. There have been other very good MMA documentaries, but The Smashing Machine was the first and blazed the path.