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Why Is the Sammy Vasquez Story Important?

As I've stated previously, I find the silence on this issue alarming. Naturally, though, not everyone shares my viewpoint. Another reader at Fight Opinion carries water for the idea that because this incident was inevitable, that makes the actual event itself not overly noteworthy. Notable quote:

This isn't a smoking gun pointing at something that has to be talked about. We all knew it was a matter of time. Its a dangerous sport. The death occurred at a sanctioned event. It is an individual's choice to compete. The standards for rules and sanctioning requirements are still being established around the country, and until we know exactly why he died, we can't analyze any way in which the requirements should be improved. Thomas, in his article, doesn't give any idea what should be done. It actually boils down to a dozen paragraphs of "We've gotta do something! Think of the CHILDREN!"

Exactly where is the topic of conversation here?

The topic of conversation is directly in front of your face, that's where. The callousness of this reply is almost too much to swallow. While I don't expect wailing and gnashing of teeth from those who didn't know Vasquez, I do expect a little more than cursory dismissal.

First, this is a huge story, preordained or not. That this reader takes the time to acknowledge what is already obvious to everyone is evidence of Stage One thinking. Pardon me while I move to stage two: the death of Sam Vazquez needs thorough medical investigation and the medical/legal screens that Vasquez passed deserve a reevaluation in light of his death. The inevitability of death or serious injury in combat athletics does not absolve those responsible for safety from self-examination. We cannot simply say, "Well, we knew this was coming. Let's move on. Nothing to see here, folks." At every interval of tragedy, we must try to make sense of the loss to see how it can be prevented going forward. It may turn out that Vasquez's death signifies nothing meaningful about the screens he ostensibly passed, but if one believes in "fighter safety first" then getting expert opinion on potential shortcomings or improvements seems beyond appropriate. This sport has in part created a rules system that developed from a guess-and-check method. When a situation goes horribly wrong, I find it hardly controversial to suggest that we not brush this issue aside and reevaluate what it is that we're doing to ensure fighter safety in Texas.

Second, I am not a doctor or lawyer. I could evaluate the screens myself, but I don't issue a specific policy prescription at this juncture because I believe in something that gets little play these days: qualified opinion. When enough information is collected and processed through the minds of those who are far more familiar with these sensitive subjects than I, then I hope there will be appropriate opinions and suggestions issued for everyone to evaluate. In this world of instant opinion, we are expected to have omnicompetence over issues. But I don't have that. I have a workable knowledge base, but not enough to immediately identify areas of the law that can be improved. My entire aim is to get people to pay attention so that those with the proper expertise can sit down and say, "Did we go wrong somewhere? IF so, where?"

Then there's this gem:

I'm forced to ask, why isn't Luke Thomas doing the hell-raising, rather than complaining that other people aren't?

What would you have me do, quit my job and drive to Texas to lead a march on city hall? All I have is a website and I'm using that to the best of my ability. And while I don't know what you mean by "hell-raising", I would certainly say I'm doing a lot more in the way of bringing attention to this matter than others. I'm not throwing Molotov cocktails through the Prime Minister's window, but is that what's required? As I said before, I'm not even sure anything negligent or nefarious took place, just that we need to kick the tires and lift the hood to make sure this doesn't happen again anytime soon to any fighter in regulated competition.

While the most central component of this tragedy is the loss of human life, how Vasquez's death affects the sport is worth a moment to think about and understand. That any one person "knew this was going to happen" is obtuse to the point of cruelty on a human level and unthinking/dismissive on a pragmatic level. In life, every fighter deserves to know every reasonable precaution that could've been taken on his or her behalf was taken. In death, Vasquez deserves no less.

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