Vladimir Putin: The World's Scariest/Most Generous MMA Fan
“Art may imitate life, but life imitates TV.” Lyrics to an old Ani DiFranco song that pop into my head on such a regular basis even 15 years later she should probably win some kind of award for poignancy. I see or hear something in my life or in the news at least once a day that triggers these words in my mind.
Earlier this week it was at a little piece of news about perhaps the scariest MMA fan in the world, Vladimir Putin. Nearly two years ago, he sat ringside in Sochi, Russia as American fighter Anthony Ruiz got his face half beaten in by the home country fighter Alexander Shlemenko. Ruiz showing of heart and grit in his refusal to give up evidently impressed Putin so much that upon Ruiz’ arrival home to the United States, he received a cryptic phone call asking after his health and recovery, and then three deposits on three consecutive days of $50,000 each.
“This guy is an HBO mob boss,” I thought to myself. While watching Putin evolve as a world leader through the years on TV, my reactions to his quirky behavior have some serious parallels to my reactions while watching Nucky Thompson deviously manipulate the people of Atlantic City in HBO’s Boardwalk Empire. In fact, while part of me recognizes that it’s probably appalling to even consider glorifying some of Putin’s actions by dramatizing them for a TV series, part of me also recognizes that he would make a great main character. If you think about it, the only thing that makes it acceptable to have made entire HBO series’ out of the lives of Julius Caesar, who hemorrhaged money and soldiers all over the known world in his attempts to conquer it, and of Nucky Thompson who is based on the once prolific, real life political figure Enoch Johnson, and who did much the same thing on a smaller scale in his attempts to control Atlantic City, is the passage of time.
Vladimir Putin has deposited 10,000 troops in unmarked uniforms along the border of Ukraine and set them about carrying out drills in plain sight of the Ukrainian people. Yet he went on record stating that there is no military intervention planned as a result of Ukraine’s recently deposing its corrupt leader, that his troops are just running exercises that were on the calendar long before shit hit the fan in their neighboring country. I mean, the balls on this guy! His face belies no falsehoods, his manner is so matter-of-fact that you could fully believe what he was saying if it made any sense.
From the time I first learned who Putin was I've thought he would be the perfect character for television. The kind that you know you should hate, because he’s a bad guy. But like the truly great main character bad guys before him, occasionally he does things that remarkably resemble kindness or humor, that make you grin a little or giggle before you remember that you aren’t supposed to like him. Like the time last year when President Obama had already taken over the gym at the G8 summit where they were both in attendance, so Putin shrugged it off and decided to remove that pesky shirt and swim laps in the nearby freezing lake outside, rather than waiting in line behind the U.S. President. Or all that business about shooting a charging Amur tiger with a tranquilizer gun, or commandeering an amphibious aircraft to douse a raging wildfire. Or recognizing true heart when he sees it, and shelling out a hundred and fifty grand from who knows what corrupt sources as a way of showing his respect.
We shouldn’t forget the rampant corruption of the Russian government or the looming threat they pose to the Ukrainian people, who are trapped in the middle of a massive political conflict they had no part in creating. But it would be so much easier to dislike the guy behind it all if he would just stop making us laugh.
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