Oklahoma Bathroom Brawl – My Take

If you’ve been on the internet during this final week of February 2021, there’s more than a good chance you’ve seen or learned about the recent and severe beating that Oklahoma football player, Spencer Jones took from Walker Brown in a bar bathroom.

Unfortunately, incidents like these occur regularly in every American zip code in the middle of the night. They are a natural consequence of mixing human nature and alcohol into tight spaces, such as bar bathrooms. I could describe what happened, but doing so would reveal my own deletions and distortions based on what I saw. I will, however, recount my impressions of what it looked like and hypothesize as to why this incident went viral and attempt to explain the cultural implications and previously undetected cultural shifts that it illustrates.

As a disclaimer, the facts I know about this are limited to the less-than-one-minute video linked above and three or four articles you can find through a quick Google search. The video appears to show Jones had it coming, but unless I’m paid to defend or litigate against someone, I prefer to save my wits and opinions for matters closer to home and recommend you do the same. I also make no judgment of Jones or Brown’s conduct as good or bad and make no judgment as to whether they are, in a general sense, good or bad guys.

I’ve trained jiu jitsu for a handful of years now and am more cautious about physical altercations than I’ve ever been in the past. I, like a lot of others who train in combat sports, find fighting outside of a controlled setting something to avoid at almost all costs. It’s simply imbecilic to expect that the net result of unsanctioned, unconsented to, and unprivileged (legally speaking) physical altercations will be positive. Jones’s counterpart, Walker Brown, behaves in the video like someone who probably agrees with this sentiment.

From a legal standpoint, Brown may have some challenges as self-defense does not extend to using anything past reasonable force against imminent danger. Now, back to the incident in question.

Brown is a trained fighter and his demeanor before things escalated in the video appears to align exactly with how a trained fighter would be expected to act in a situation where fighting was the only option. The video starts with Jones yelling at Brown, calling him a “bitch,” and telling him to “get the fuck out of here,” imposing in his personal space, and probably non-verbally communicating toward Brown in other disrespectful ways. With all of the above in mind, there is a chance Brown or his brother, whom you can see took care of Jones’ accomplice, did things before the recording started that warranted Jones’s pre-fight behavior, but, again, I’m just going on what I saw. Brown, however, appears to have acted like a trained fighter who did his best under the circumstances (midnight, maybe drunk, cornered in a bar bathroom) to quickly consider options other than fighting. As he is quoted, Jones gave Brown him no other options.

Brown appears like he didn’t want to fight, but Jones made him and once it happened, Jones paid the price for putting him in that situation. Evidence may come to light proving otherwise after this post is published, but that’s my impression of the incident.

Moving on to the more interesting cultural implications of this incident, there’s a lot to analyze. Some may deemphasize the publicity of this incident saying that it has been happening for millenia in every part of the world, which is true, but two aspects of this incident illustrate cultural implications that have not existed in the history of our species to the degree they do today – 1. the melee went viral almost immediately AND 2. two much smaller, unarmed and unknown men manhandled two larger ones. These two aspects weren’t as common as they are now.

Addressing the first, the exponential growth of social media and ownership of smartphones made the widespread publication of this video possible. Have we become a culture that celebrates violence more than we used to? Who knows? But the far reach and viewership of this video serves as another stark reminder that very few things are private any more. Maybe your uncle watched this with you and then told you an exaggerated story about how he and his friends used to do that every weekend. Maybe that is true. Maybe not. One difference between you and your hypothetical pugilistic uncles is that a fight like this one is almost certain to be recorded on video by a bystander no matter where it takes place. It’s just an example of how publicized everything is now. Has human nature changed, I doubt it. It has certainly become more public though. Get in a fight 2021 and people who weren’t there are almost sure to see it. This should deter misconduct, but we’ll see.

Second and more interestingly, the fact that two much smaller men overwhelmed two larger ones illustrates the popularity and cultural acceptance of MMA and training in it as a hobby. It’s the world fastest growing sport and it follows that training as an MMA fighter has grown along with it.

MMA’s growth and implications of it was on full display in Jones vs. Brown in Oklahoma. 30 years ago, it is very likely, however not provable, that the biggest man in a fight would win most of the time. Sometimes, big bullies run into a crafty wrestler or trained boxer, but a large disparity in size overcomes disparities in only one of those skills. In a vacuum, that’s still true. The difference today is that more people than ever are trained fighters. MMA training includes striking (boxing and muay thai kickboxing), wrestling and jiu jitsu. Strength and speed make up a fraction of the advantages of being a successful MMA fighter. Clearly, Brown was well-trained in MMA and Jones’ size was no match for his skill.

Bringing this home, the less than one-minute video appears to show Jones asking for his beating and not taking into account that it would be recorded AND, most importantly, that Brown’s pre-fight demeanor should have been fair warning that Brown knew what he was doing and was not to be tussled with.

As a disclaimer, these conclusions and the aforestated summation in the previous paragraph are subject to change based on new evidence. In defense of peace, I am hopeful that the violent recording of the fight can be kept from the impressionable eyes of kids. Fighting, outside of sport, is stupid and childish and leads to other problems as this story will soon prove. The cultural implications of what happened in the Oklahoma bar bathroom, however, are on full display.

2020 Wisdom

Later than usual, now drops notable quotes and statements I came across in 2020.

This original version included an encapsulation of the public discourse surrounding the election, but I hereby choose not to go there for the time being.

As you’ll see from looking back through the yearly “Wisdom” posts, they started with quotes from books and are evolving into compilations of statements, solicitudes, and quotes from all mediums that I’ve come across during the previous year.

Here they are:

How to Get Lucky, Max Gunther

“The state of having something figured out is presumed to be a permanent state.”

“The one thing you cannot expect is the very thing the loser does expect; continuity, a repetition of yesterday’s events.”

“In real life, good and bad luck rule just as often as skills and flaws.”

“The first step in controlling your luck is to realize that it exists.”

“In off-the-job life, be just as much of a meeter and joiner. It isn’t  necessary to try to be local popularity king or queen. You can’t fake vivacity. The tinny quality is quickly detected; the effort is tiring; and in any case, it isn’t called for. If you’re a quiet person, then be quiet. All that is necessary is that you meet a lot of people and let them know just who you are.”

“if you want luck to come around and change your life, you must initially be willing to accept either good or bad luck.”

“Even the very biggest risk takers and the very luckiest gamblers are determined to show they are nothing of the kind.”

“As a lucky realist, you would look at the situation differently. You would recognize, in the first place, that things usually are as bad as they seem. … You would say to yourself, “I’m willing to be optimistic, but I’ve got to be shown some reason why.” And then you would study the situation. Is there some likelihood that the problems will go away? If so, stay aboard. If not, get out and go looking for better luck elsewhere.”

“If you were to insist on 100% certainty, you would not be able to make any moves at all.”

“If you do insist on following a plan, you are likely to end up playing the saddest game in the world – the game of “if only.”

“if a piece of potential good luck drifts your way, you should not summarily reject it, because it does not fit your plan.”

“Never take long range plans seriously. Use them for general guidance as long as they seem to be taking you where you want to go, but whatever you do, don’t get stuck with them.”

The Tao of Seneca, Volume 1

“When a person spends all his time in foreign travel, he ends by having many acquiantances, but no friends. And the same thing must hold true of men who seek intimate acquaintance with no single author, but visit them all in a hasty and hurried manner.”

“Contented poverty is an honourable estate…. It is not the man who has too little, but the man who craves more, that is poor.”

“For love of bustle is not industry – it is only the restlessness of a hunted mind.”

“He who has made a fair company with poverty is rich.”

“Repellent attire, unkempt hair, slovely beard, open scorn of silver dishes, a couch on the bare earth, and any other perverted forms of self-display, are to be avoided.”

“Let us try to maintain a higher standard of life than that of the multitude, but not a contrary standard; otherwise, we shall frighten away and repel the very persons who we are trying to improve.”

“Rich people in rich countries struggle to differentiate the necessary from the nice.”

“There’s a fairly simple test that works in almost every crises. Listen for who is talking about the wellbeing of people.”

“The President has been derided as an infant and as a child for his lies and tantrums. But this is unfair to children. What child has proposed human sacrifice?”

“Children, as anyone who has ever met one knows, wrestle with their powerlessness. They are intermittently grandiose and constantly demanding. But they are generally not deluded enough to think that their grandiosity will protect them. They declare themselves rulers, kings and, if they’re very precocious, war-time presidents, but if you ignore them, they stop. They want attention, but seek connection. To become like a child is to become, on a basic level, dependent. Childish things are merely distractions from that core dependence.”

“.. if wisdom were given me under the express condition that it must be kept hidden and not uttered, I should refuse it. No good thing is pleasant to possess, without friends to share it.”

“A bad example reacts on the agent.”

“Hold fast, then, to this sounds and wholesome rule of life—that you indulge the body only so far as is needful for good health.”

“If he lose a hand through disease or war, or if some accident puts out one or both of this eyes, he will be satisfied with what is left, taking as much pleasure in his impaired and maimed body as he took when it was sound. But while he does not pine for these parts if they are missing, he prefers not to lose them.”

“Hence prosperous men are blockaded by troops of friends; but those who have failed stand amid vast loneliness their friends fleeing from the very crises which is to test their worth.”

“The wise man needs hands, eyes, and many things that are necessary for his daily use; but he is in want of nothing.”

“It is more important for you to keep the resolutions you have already made than to go on and make noble ones.”

“If you find, after having traveled far, that there is a more distant goal always in view, you may be sure that this condition is contrary to nature.”

“Change the age in which you live, and you have too much. But in every age, what is enough remains the same.”

“it shows greater self-control to refuse to withdraw oneself and to do what the crows does, but in a different way—thus neither making oneself conspicuous nor becoming one of the crowd.”

“So there are some places which are also unwholesome for a healthy mind which is not yet quite sound, though recovering from its ailment.”

“It helps little to have cast out your own faults if you must quarrel with those of others.”

“Do you think that the man has any thought of mending his ways who counts over his vices as if they were virtues?”

“The archer ought not to hit the mark only sometimes; he ought to miss it only sometimes. “

“Death stands so far beyond all evil that it is beyond all fear of evils.”

“And if we are willing to examine critically the various causes of our fear, we shall find that some exist, and others only seem to be.”

“the latter has a definite source within itself, the other borrows its radiance; the one is called forth by an illumination coming from the outside, and anyone who stands between the source and the object immediately turns the latter into a dense shadow; but the other has a glow that comes from within.”

“The deep flood of time will roll over us; some few great men will raise their heads above it, and, though destined at the last to depart into the same realms of silence, will battle against oblivion and maintain their ground for long.”

““If you wish to make Pythocles honourable, do not add to his honours, but subtract from his desires”; “if you wish Pythocles to have pleasure for ever, do not add to his pleasures, but subtract from his desires”; “if you wish to make Pythocles an old man, filling his life to the full, do not add to his years, but subtract from his desires.”

“For in regard to the exceptional desires, which may be postponed, which may be chastened and checked, I have this one thought to share with you: a pleasure of that sort is according to our nature, but it is not according to our needs; one owes nothing to it; whatever is expended upon it is a free gift. The belly will not listen to advice; it makes demands, it importunes. And yet it is not a troublesome creditor; you can send it away at small cost, provided only that you give it what you owe, not merely all you are able to give.”

“Prosperity is a turbulent thing. It torments itself.”

“You can show me no man who knows how he began to crave that which he craves.”

“A ship which looms large in the river seems tiny when on this ocean. A rudder which is large for one vessel, is small for another.”

Aubrey Marcus’ Daily Texts

“Nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent.”

Atomic Habits, James Clear

“You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.”

“The system of a dictatorship has a very different set of beliefs like absolute authority and strict obedience.”

 ““Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”

“This is why you can’t get too attached to one version of your identity. Progress requires unlearning.”

“Every craving is linked to a desire to change your internal state.”

“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”

“..our motivation is to be lazy and to do what is convenient.”

“when deciding between two similar options, people will naturally gravitate toward the option that requires the least amount of work.”

“I came across the story of a woman who had a narcissistic relative who drove her nuts. In an attempt to spend less time with this egomaniac, she acted as dull and as boring as possible whenever he was around. Within a few encounters, he started avoiding her because he found her so uninteresting.”

“The earliest remains of modern humans, known as Homo sapiens sapiens, are approximately two hundred thousand years old. These were the first humans to have a brain relatively similar to ours.”

“Compared to the age of the brain, modern society is brand-new.”

“Genes cannot be easily changed, which means they provide a powerful advantage in favorable circumstances and a serious disadvantage in unfavorable circumstances.”

“The key is to direct your effort toward areas that both excite you and match your natural skills, to align your ambition with your ability.”

“When are you enjoying yourself while other people are complaining? The work that hurts you less than it hurts others is the work you were made to do.”

“The greatest threat to success is not failure but boredom.”

“The only way to become excellent is to be endlessly fascinated by doing the same thing over and over. You have to fall in love with boredom.”

“If you tie everything up in being the point guard or the partner at the firm or whatever else, then the loss of that facet of your life will wreck you.”

Meditations, Marcus Aurelius

“It is peculiar to man to love even those who do wrong. And this happens, if when they do wrong it occurs to thee that they are kinsman, and that they do wrong through ignorance and unintentionally, and that soon both of you will die: and above all that the wrong-doer has done thee no harm, for he has not made thy ruling faculty worse than it was before.”

“Within is the fountain of good, and it will ever bubble up, if thou wilt ever dig.”

“Short-lived are both the praiser and the prasied, and the rememberer and the remembered: and all this in a nook of this part of the world; and not even here do all agree, no, not any one with himself: and the whole earth too is a point.”

“Receive wealth and prosperity without arrogance and be ready to let it go.”

“.. for those who rather pursue posthumous fame do consider that the men of after time will be exactly such as these whom they cannot bear now; and both are mortal. And what is it in any way to thee if these men of after time utter this or that sound, or have this or that opinion about thee?”

“…the wickedness of one man does no harm to another. It is only harmful to him who has it in his power to be released from it, as soon as he shall choose.”

The Power of Decision, Raymond Barker

“Desires are not hopes nor are they dreams. They are potentials to be unearthed and brought to fruition.”

“The old concept of the virtue of the going without what you really want and accepting graciously the smaller portion of life as being a spiritual one is nonsense,”

The Laws of Human Nature – Robert Greene

“look at the evolution of human emotion. The survival of our earliest ancestors depended on their ability to communicate with one another well before the invention of language. They evolved new and complex emotions—joy, shame, gratitude, jealousy, resentment, et cetera. “

“We have covered up our darker impulses with all kinds of excuses and rationalizations, making it easier for some people to get away with the most unpleasant behavior.”

“people are generally dealing with emotions and issues that have deep roots. They’re experiencing some desires and disappointments that predate you by years and decades.”

Westworld, Season 3

“The right information at the right time is deadlier than any weapon.”

A Lasting Fast

Intermittent fasting is all the rage and is endorsed in a previous post.

Earlier this week, a friend made me aware of his intention to survive on a very meager diet through this Friday, which was inspired by the Stoic principle of Seneca, Overcoming Fear. If you don’t want to click the link, here is what Seneca is credited with:

“Set aside a certain number of days, during which you shall be content with the scantiest and cheapest fare, with coarse and rough dress, saying to yourself the while: ‘Is this the condition that I feared?’”

I obliged my friend by agreeing to go halfway through the week on a 60-hour fast.

As info, my normal fasts last 16 or 18 hours with the occasional 36-hour food break. 36 hours is the longest I’ve previously gone.

The mindset rewards were noticeable. I could go on and on about how I thought about food non-stop between hours 36 and 60 or how my focus sharpened between hours 24 and 36. Just mentioning a few scholarly facts about how one’s body reacts to a fast feels more proper.

I did get a few workouts in. My endurance was noticeably shorter, but I digress.

Here are a few fun facts about different phases of a multi-day fast.

By 12 hours, you’ve entered the metabolic state called ketosis (Anton et al., Obesity 2018). In this state, your body starts to break down and burn fat.

Reflection – Yes, I certainly started feeling lighter after 12 hours. That said, going without food is something most people have endured, so it just feels like an empty stomach.

By 18 hours, you’ve switched to fat-burning mode and are generating significant ketones (Anton et al., Obesity 2018).”

Reflection – This is where it starts to feel different and more intense than an empty stomach. Noticeable for me was the sharper focus, which is probably an evolutionary trait coming from our ancestors who had to increase their hunting diligence if they went too long without eating.

“Within 24 hours, your cells are increasingly recycling old components and breaking down misfolded proteins linked to Alzheimer’s and other diseases (Alirezaei et al., Autophagy 2010)”

Reflection – Yes, it feels like your immune system is on overdrive and I started to feel cleaner. What this means is up for interpretation, but follow the link for a more scientific explanation of autophagy.

By 48 hours without calories or with very few calories, carbs or protein, your growth hormone level is up to five times as high as when you started your fast (Hartman et al.,1992).

Reflection – It is hard to know what increased growth hormone is supposed to feel like, but I certainly did not start feeling weak.

Right before reaching 60 hours, I completed the longest 30 minute workout of my life. The light at the end of the tunnel, in the form of a protein shake awaited and I couldn’t think about anything else.

All in all, fasting for 60 hours was another tool in my kit that I can use for related or unrelated difficulty. Planning on doing it every 6 months going forward.

A Note for the GOAT

What follows is a letter to the newly retired, reigning Lightweight UFC Champion, Khabib Nurmagamadov. Full disclosure, the author (me) is a moderately enthusiastic MMA fan, novice martial arts practitioner and former Conor McGregor fanboy.

Dear Khabib,

You got up from submitting my, at that that time, favorite MMA-fighter (Conor McGregor) to yell at the crowd and throw your mouthpiece into it. Next, you jumped over the side of the octagon to throw gasoline on the fire that ended in a post-fight brawl, which led to a long suspension for yourself and Conor . This describes my most earliest, most vivid impression of you.

My overly-idealistic hope that MMA champions conduct themselves as the professional sportsmen that they are, outside of the octagon, was originally dashed by you. First, you embarrassed my favorite fighter inside of the octagon and then brawled with his entourage outside of it. Without knowing any of the context, I unfairly judged you as someone who couldn’t turn the switch off.

You were 27-0 before you fought Conor, so I’d heard of you. I was and am, however, a casual MMA fan, so the little I knew about you was limited by your fighting record and statistics. I didn’t know much about Khabib, the guy.

You got suspended after the McGregor melee, which provided me with ample time to read up on your career, fight game and style, and learn about you as a person before your next fight with Dustin Poirier.

Following the investigation into the post-fight brawl helped me understand what led to it. Consequently, Conor fell in my personal favorite MMA fighter rankings after I learned how he’d provoked you by talking shit about your family and religion. Conversely, you climbed my rankings. Conor, however, continued to show his ass after your bout with him leading me to reconsider whether you were even half to blame the post-fight brawl.

During the suspension, I learned you were a devoutly religious man from Dagestan. Further, I came to find out about you and your father’s significant contributions to the self-replenishing waterfall of high-level wrestler fighters that continuously flows from Dagestan. Your partnership with your Dad moved me to reconsider my assessment of your character.

Then, I found out you trained with Daniel Cormier, a shining ambassador for MMA as a fighter and and as a commentator. We are the company we keep, so your association with him made me appreciate you more.

I also learned how you didn’t drink, which may be for religious reasons, but is a respectable abstention in a culture that celebrates alcohol like ours does.

Then, you soundly beat Dustin Poirier leading to talk of fights between you and the interim lightweight belt holders. It was decided that the winner of Justin Gaethje vs. Tony Ferguson would face you. There were few fighters who I thought could handle Ferguson’s atypical style, so I thought he’d breeze through Gaethje and then give you all of the fight you’d be able to handle. I was wrong.

Gaethje beat Ferguson in an artful, tactical masterpiece suggesting that he’d be a formidable match for you. The entirety of the time between Gaethje’s beating Ferguson and his fight with you would you took place within the pandemic and now. Because of the timing of the lead up to your fight with Gaethje, fight analysts questioned your ability to stay in top grappling form. Some though this would decrease your advantages over Gaethje.

Months went by and videos showing your level of commitment to your training surfaced. Your Dad died in that time, which cleared the way for stories about how close y’all were and how much he meant to you. No matter, you continued your preparation for the Gaethje fight and showed up ready on October 24th.

You made quick work of Gaethje after getting him on the ground multiple times, exhausting his stand up game. What appeared inevitable occurred after one minute and thirty four seconds into the second round after you triangle choked him. Amazingly, you opted not to risk dismembering him in front of his family by rendering him unconscious through a triangle choke. It was a merciful finishing move that is alien to less humble fighters who dance around gloating after beating their opponent within inches of their lives. To top off your admirable performance, you took time to release emotions and pay homage to your late father in the middle of the ring for a few minutes before announcing that you were retiring from fighting to honor the promise you gave your Mom that you wouldn’t fight anymore.

Little more is necessary to conclude that you are the champion MMA and the sports world needs. From a casual MMA fan, thank you.

Stop Saying “Hi”

An innocuous, but noticeable trend continues to find its way into accepted office and corporate dialogue. “Hi.” This trend is people saying “hi” in professional settings when it is unnecessary or even awkward.

Acknowledging someone’s presence has its purpose in the interests of good manners. “Hello,” or “how are you,” “what’s up,” all serve this purpose when seeing someone in person.

Digital communications, however, call for different treatment and use of such greetings. Specifically, saying “hi” to someone via email when you expected to talk to them at that time or in starting a response is mostly awkward.

I’m not alone here.

A friend with more than a decade in the most typically corporate environment noticed this years ago during numerous normal email exchanges. He would send an email to an administrative person ahead of a regularly scheduled call or just to respond to an inquiry and would be greeted with “Hi James,” and then they carried on with the conversation. Most often, moving straight into the conversation would not have violated any professional or ethical rules and may have put my friend at ease. Responding with “hi,” reformalizes and in some instances infantilizes the person being told “hi.”

In most instances, my friend taken aback by the “hi” greeting because a more casual or less introductory sounding response would have been more fluid. They were weird.

This “Hi” phenomenon turned into an inside joke between us and led us to exchanging pictures of “hi” via text where we found them in daily and work life.

If you work in a corporate setting and just read to this point, it is likely you will notice this to a greater degree now. Saying these kinds of “hi”s is the digital equivalent of sitting with someone at a table, getting up to go elsewhere and then saying “hi” to that person when you return to the table as if you haven’t already seen them that day. Wouldn’t that be weird? I’ve also noticed this more on LinkedIn than in most other places, because apparently less human sounding conversations are proper there.

Do your part. When in doubt, don’t start by addressing someone you expected to email with “Hi.”