Saturday, October 4, 2008

If Only We Could Replace Tim McCarver with Joe Rogan

Two rather significant disclaimers have to be attached. First, I know absolutely nothing about mixed martial arts. I never wrestled or boxed or practiced a martial art of any kind. I've only been in a handful of fights.

One of the perks of being big and athletic from an early age is that the belligerent usually find a reason to avoid you (unless they can get at you anonymously - in cyberspace for example). Even the ones who could stomp you out without breaking a sweat. I think it's an apex predator thing - even if sharks had a taste for humans, we still wouldn't be high on their menu. Not because we pose a real threat to them in the course of defending ourselves, but because we pose some threat. There is totally harmless prey available, so why risk it?

The consequence is that I'm not usually in a fight unless I start it. Since I'm a generally reasonable and friendly person, this has rarely happened except for a few drunken occasions. Throw in a couple gang fights - not as in Bloods vs. Crips, but as in a group of people on either side. That's it, my entire fighting resume. Not exactly the stuff of professional careers.

The second disclaimer is that I generally like Joe Rogan. He was good on Newsradio, judging from the few re-runs I've seen. The one stand-up I've seen of his was damn funny. True, his voice can get a tad irritating when he's excited. And true, his knowledge of simian strength seems a little too intimate (how does he know that Karo Parisyan is chimpanzee-strong? What exactly is Rogan doing in his free time? And why is he doing it with chimps?). But nobody is perfect.

With those disclaimers in mind, I'd argue Rogan is one of the better analysts/color-commentators out there.

He does an excellent job enhancing an MMA fight for the casual fan. By casual, I mean someone like me. Someone who knows almost nothing about the sport, who has no plans to ever compete in it, but who watches every fight he or she can. As with Jason Whitlock's writing, you can pick almost any fight Rogan does as an example of his excellence.

Take the Forrest Griffin/Rampage Jackson card.

I'm not sure how or why, but Rogan seems to really know what he's talking about. In the Stevenson/Tibau fight, Tibau had Stevenson trapped in an omo plata shoulder lock for a couple minutes. Had Rogan not been there to explain what was happening, I would have simply taken it for what it looked like: one dude with his arm between another dude's legs. It didn't look particularly dangerous or painful.

Instead, Rogan did a superb job of explaining how and why Stevenson was in very precarious and painful position, that only his left leg was keeping Tibau from flattening him onto his stomach and submitting him.

Later during the Griffin/Rampage fight, Griffin delivered a brutal leg kick and took Rampage down. Rogan immediately pointed out that Griffin could pass from half-guard to side-mount at will because Rampage's legs were open. However, Rogan observed that he probably wouldn't do so immediately because Griffin trains with Randy Couture, who prefers half-guard to side-mount. As if it were scripted, Griffin easily transitioned to side-mount but only after delivering some damage from half-guard for a while.

In the same fight, Rogan forewarned that Griffin possesses an excellent ground game that gets overlooked because of his propensity to stand and bang. Guess what proved to be the difference in the fight? Rampage routinely caught Griffin with shots, cut him pretty badly, and even knocked him down in the first round. But he lost a unanimous decision. Sure those brutal leg kicks played a part, but not more so than the numerous near-submissions and dominant ground control.

He rarely misses a leg buckle, gets fooled into knockdown-hysteria by a slip, or criticizes a stoppage as bad unless it was obviously bad.

But it isn't only that Rogan seems to understand the sport, it's that he communicates it so effectively and honestly. No one will ever accuse him of being a modern-day Grantland Rice. But there can be beauty in rough simplicity as well. And that's fortunate because Rogan is nothing if not rough and simple.

He does not paint an artful image with eloquent language. Quite frequently, he is screaming obscenities at the top of his lungs. But when he is calm and translating the intricacies of the sport for the layman at home, I have heard few better.

He remains objective. Equally complimentary and critical when appropriate. He efficiently adds to the fight with relevant information at timely intervals.

Maybe he looks better because he works alongside the excruciatingly overdramatic Mike Goldberg, who has a firm grasp of the obvious and is overly fond of saying one guy "exploded" on the other guy.

Maybe he looks better because of the other clowns bringing the fights to the public. I'm pretty sure I heard Gus Johnson call Petruzzelli's win over Kimbo Slice the biggest upset in MMA history. Holy hyperbole Batman!

I think the Serra over St. Pierre might be a tad bigger than a former IFL-er over an Internet street brawler. Maybe that's just me.

Regardless, Joe Rogan deserves praise for being inexplicably fantastic at his job. Now, if we could just do something about those post-fight interviews...

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