Review: Sheridan’s A Fighter’s Heart

A Fighter’s Heart: One Man’s Journey Through the World of Fighting
Sam Sheridan

Sam Sheridan had the early adulthood of someone who is building a life in preparation for a memoir. After graduating from high school, he worked as a merchant marine. He left the merchant marines for Harvard and after graduating from Harvard, crewed on an antique yacht as it crossed the globe. Getting off in Australia, he got deeply into Muay Thai (Thai kick boxing) and that is where this memoir/meditation on fighting begins.

Sheridan takes us from a training camp in Thailand, where he is one of a few crazy foreigners, through the mixed martial arts gyms of the Midwest, then to Brazil for Brazilian Jui Jitsu, on to Oakland for traditional boxing, then a detour into the world of dog fighting until we end up back where we started, in Thailand, where the world of Muay Thai has changed, and foreigners are everywhere.

This is a remarkably smart book. We see Sheridan’s understanding of the nature of fighting change as he ages and becomes more aware of not only the glamour, but the price paid for physical combat. The early sections on Thailand and the MMA gyms in the Midwest have the sort of gallant devil may care attitude that only the young can afford. But latter scenes, including a haunting interview with a fighter who killed someone in the ring and has never gotten over it show you the dark side to all that violence.

I found the chapter on dog fighting out of place and a little too detached in a professional journalism way. Dog fighting is disgusting. Sheridan should have said so in a more straightforward way. That said, the rest of the book is really top notch with honest portrayals of Sheridan and the fighters he meets. If you’re interested in the world of fighting, and what it means to be a fighter, either professionally or in the amateur arena, I highly recommend checking this one out.
Recommended for the enthusiast.

On Barry Bonds

If we are going to accept the Babe Ruth is one of the greatest hitters of all time (even though he didn’t have to face some of the greatest pitchers of his generation) or that Hank Aaron was better than anyone playing the game now (even though pitchers have improved dramatically) then shouldn’t we accept the fact that Barry Bonds played in an era where steroid use was common and he was the best in that time period at hitting the ball real far?

Old friend Tom says that this is basically a no win situation for the Bonds defenders. If you say that past records are circumspect, you negate the reason it is important for Bonds to break those records.

I see his point, but I think the reason to allow both a sort of (dare I say it?) postmodern view of baseball statistic is that these numbers not only attempt to show who is empirically the best homerun hitter of all time (which is of course impossible to determine) but also to give us a way to talk about the changes of the game over the span of its history.

I am more interested in the way hitters have preformed over time because of changes in the racial dynamics of the game, or the velocity of pitchers tracked over time and in relation to the height of the pitchers mound than I am in trying to pretend that the conditions under which Ty Cobb played are the same as the conditions under which Jason Giambi plays.

So, I don’t think there should be an asterisk next to Bond’s name when he tops the all time list. Breaking the conditions under which a player performed into a single number is a silly and frankly boring way of understanding the game. Lets instead talk about Bonds in the context of steroids, incredible advances in sports medicine, ridiculously fast pitchers, and the designated hitter rule, lets not pretend that his record is somehow less valid than other players because that is giving the historically constructed numbers too much credit.

What do the rest of you think?