(It will take one million dollars to buy our group’s support)
For about the past three years I have spent an hour or so every four to six months in the office of an old curmudgeon of an allergist in my small town in Ontario. He’s close to retirement, but he’s the best in his field bar none and he has pioneered several allergy testing techniques that have been well-documented, so I sit through the annoyance I’m about to describe.
Every visit starts the same way:
Him: Are you still writing about that crazy sport?
Him: I told you I tried to watch it once and couldn’t even get through ten minutes.
Me: Yeah, you mentioned that a few times.
Him: I just don’t understand how two men who are apparently of sound mind can get into a ring and try to knock the other guy unconscious.
Me: Well, there’s quite a bit more to the sport than that. The object isn’t to…
Him: …And how any doctor could sit there at an event and watch these two guys try to give each other brain damage. What kind of medical professionals are these guys and what kind of a society are we living in?
Me: Well, boxing is accepted by the same society and the biggest goal of a boxing match is to land as many punches to your opponent’s head to try to knock them out. MMA is different in that…
Him: …I’m not a boxing fan, but at least that sport takes a certain amount of skill and has rules.
Me: Well, I should probably get going. My meter is about to expire. See you in December.
I learned early on that no matter what you say to someone like Dr. C, it isn’t going to change his mind about MMA, so why bother trying. I also figured out that the opinion of an allergist about the sport or the fact that he thinks I should find another one to cover isn’t going to persuade me to become a hockey writer.
You know what they say about opinions.
So when I read today that the Canadian Medical Association voted 84% in favor of supporting a ban on mixed martial arts in the country, although it didn’t surprise me, I also didn’t get overly concerned with the impact on the sport from a political standpoint.
What you have to remember is the same group and its American, British and Australian equivalents have called for bans on boxing since 1983 and look how far their uninformed biased opinions have gotten them.
What really makes this latest initiative by the CMA more laughable than worrisome is the fact that the head of the British Columbia Medical Association, Dr. Ian Gillespie, who tabled the motion last week admitted that he has not only never seen an MMA match, he also is unsure what the safety and death rates are regarding the sport.
Here’s what he told The Province’s political columnist Michael Smyth:
“When I asked the president of the BCMA how many ring deaths there had been in the sport of mixed martial arts, compared with a comparable combat sport such as boxing, his response was: “I actually don’t know.”
Not surprisingly, Dr. Gillespie also informed me he has never seen a mixed martial arts competition.
As for Dr. Gillespie, his official online biography says he’s a fan of kayaking and “adventure travel.” I hate to inform him there have been 1,500 canoe and kayak fatalities since 1993 in the U.S. alone, yet doctors are not calling for a ban on those tipsy, floating instruments of death.”
Proving that Gillespie isn’t the only medical association head who doesn’t have a clue about the sport, outgoing CMA president Dr. Anne Doig had this to say about her group’s decision to oppose an activity that would directly lead to maiming and injury:
“We are concerned when people engage in activities the sole purpose of which is to pummel, kick, punch, scratch, whatever methods they use, until either somebody is seriously hurt or injured, or somebody cries uncle and submits,” Doig said.
Obviously she’s never seen a Jon Fitch fight.
But seriously, did the association sit around and watch WWF clips or a VHS copy of Bloodsport?
“This is an activity that leads to serious issues, including damage to people’s brains, and we must speak out against that,” Doig said in a conference call before heading out to get hammered with the association delegates who were in town for the conference.
The UFC’s Director of Canadian operations, Tom Wright, pointed out the lunacy of calling for a ban of a sport without researching the topic with figures to illustrate your point. Wright pointed to the 2006 Johns Hopkins study that showed there is no higher incidence of head injury in MMA athletes than in other contact sports like hockey and football, which have yet to feel the useless wrath of the CMA.
“Clearly potential for injury is no different than it is in football and hockey, and indeed is significantly less than it is in boxing,” Wright, the former commissioner of the Canadian Football League, told 680 News. “I’m not saying that our sport is not a contact sport and not a combat sport. All we’re looking for is to make sure we have an open dialogue with these physicians to ensure that we are being treated the same and provided the same opportunity to work with these organizations to promote health and safety (as the CFL and NHL).”
Doig acknowledged that the announcement really means about as much as War Machine saying he’s a changed man as the real decision to ban the sport “is up to policy-makers,” and considering more provinces including Ontario are on the verge of sanctioning the sport in the Great Fight North, the vote and the news are really just a non-story.