(A joy so pure, so simple, it can only come from two ice cream cones.)
Noted author and smug smartass Matthew Polly traveled to Russia to witness firsthand Fedor Emelianenko’s loss at the Sambo World Championships in St. Petersburg in November. He tells the tale in an article for Slate.com that contains several interesting insights about Russia and none of the cloying, faux-intellectual bullshit that usually finds its way into any Slate article (“Was Kevin Costner’s ‘Waterworld’ an Ahead-of-Its-Time Eco-Parable?” asks one such article. No, asshole. No it wasn’t).
While the whole thing is interesting, even if you don’t care about Russian history or why St. Petersburg is a bizarrely beautiful and yet poorly-designed city, the last page is where we get serious about the mystery of Fedor. What we end up learning, though, both in the Slate article and the full post-Sambo loss interview on Fightlinker, is that Fedor is either too nice to be interesting or else an impenetrable enigma. And maybe we just choose to believe the latter because it’s more fun.
But give Polly some credit, as he doesn’t shy away from the issues between Fedor and his brother Aleks and even finds a new way of approaching them:
I took my first stab at making him laugh with a question about his younger brother, Aleksander, who suffers from second-son syndrome. He has recently been telling gullible foreign journalists about hunting bears in the traditional Russian manner. (When the provoked bear rises on its hind legs, you stick a staff with a U-shaped prong into its neck to keep it upright, and then you stab it to death with a knife.) While certainly more sporting than aerial wolf hunting, the story struck me as the kind of rural legend locals like to feed city-slicker outsiders.
Have you ever hunted a bear? "No." But your brother has, yes? "I don’t know about my brother," he replied, and his head dropped in shame. "But I have never hunted a bear."
It was at this moment that I realized I had tapped into a family dynamic that Fedor found embarrassing.
First of all, U-shaped prong? Fucking awesome. Second, what does it tell us that Fedor seems like he would rather talk about anything other than his own brother? I don’t know, but it’s a little weird and, being weird, is one of the more interesting aspects of Fedor’s personality.
That, and this very basic understanding of the differences between Japanese, American, and Russian fans:
Very big difference. Different cultures, different approaches. The Japanese are more humble, modest, scared, shy, and afraid. Americans are simple. I like American fans because they always ask first if it’s possible to take a photo, for example. Russians fans they don’t ask because I’m from here, it’s my home, so they don’t care. They don’t ask if it’s possible to take a photo; they just take them. But I feel how people love me at home.
That’s right, world. We ask before taking pictures with famous athletes. And people say our standing in the world is damaged.