The bro hug. It's a product of the times - softer, friendlier, more tolerant. In the midst of combat, two men aren't afraid to come together in the middle of the cage and awkwardly embrace. Some might call it progress. I call it an abomination before God and Rocky Marciano.
There was an era when we wanted to believe athletics were life and death - and the athletes believed it too. I would have loved to see someone try to hug Bill Russell in the middle of a tense fourth quarter, the Celtics only up 26 on some wayward foe. It's rumored a man once hugged the Chicago Bears' Dick Butkus, but that man and everyone who witnessed it were never heard from again. In baseball you couldn't even celebrate with your own team, let alone members of the opposition. Pitchers saw to that with the high hard one. Hell, it's believed Brooks Robinson shanked no less than three sluggers who celebrated home runs a little too hard as they rounded third and headed for home.
So for men of the old school, men who feel the only appropriate time for men to hug is when a close relative dies or your alma matter makes the final four, you can guess MMA's constant display of love is more than a bit off putting. It happened again Saturday night at UFC Fight Night 24, as Michael McDonald and Edwin Figueroa held each other a little too long, exchanged looks only fitting for young lovers on a fourth date, hoping beyond hope that this is finally going to be their night.
Prior to their third round hug-fest it had been a pretty good fight. McDonald had outclassed him, taking it to the streets if you catch my drift, but Figueroa never stopped fighting. It was obviously on it's way to fight of the night status, the kind of passionate but sloppy affair that UFC President Dana White loves. But to me, the fight loses a little luster with that kind of unprofessional exchange.
It's not that the two wanted to celebrate the fight; hell, even I can get behind a post-fight handshake, firm but not held uncomfortably long. But during the actual competition? Robert Gallery doesn't plaster Julius Peppers to the ground and then offer him a hand up and hug while the damn game is in progress. And that's exactly what's happening here. These guys are hugging it out Gold style while the actual fight is in progress, while the clock is ticking.
On Saturday they wasted no less than 10 seconds with their tomfoolery. That's three percent of the round. In ten seconds, B.J. Penn had Caol Uno dreaming of a tightly packed Bento Box and Todd Duffee had Tim Hague dreaming of poutine and Molson. A lot can happen in 10 seconds, not the least of which is a slip of the tongue when a guy finally gets a little carried away. Save it for after the fight, or even better, the after party. The cage should be ominous, unforgiving, unyielding. It's no place for love.