I met Nic Mevoli on a film set in Philadelphia. We remained friends for years, later living in the same Brooklyn neighborhood until I moved across the country to Portland, Oregon, losing touch with him and most everyone in New York. I knew Nic was kind of a jock, but had no idea of his newfound passion for freediving until this past Sunday, when news of his death off the coast of the Bahamas broke. I found out through a Facebook message from filmmaker Esther Bell: “Nic Mevoli passed away today- imso destroyed.” Esther is Nic’s ex-girlfriend, but she’s also how we met, as actors in her 2004 film Exist. Attached was a Daily Mail story detailing Nic’s death, brought on by lung compression after a record-breaking free dive to a depth of more than 200 feet into the Bahamian sea.
Like anyone else who’s read the coverage, I was shocked by Nic’s fast ascent into the top tier of the sport within the short span of two years. But while writers and commenters both seemed to express surprise and confusion as to why Nic would have chosen such a risky and physically demanding new career (not to mention the fact that he lost money in the process), I didn’t share their bafflement.
The Nic I met years ago had not yet become a diving superhero—rather, he was a butcher’s son turned vegan who lived in a South Philly squat and ferociously pedaled his bicycle everywhere out of concern for his carbon footprint. As young activist punks who spent our teen years living in abandoned buildings and raging against the machine, risky behavior (and how to live off stuff we found in the trash) was all we knew.
The argument started over gas money. It escalated to the point where a man got shot in the testicles. And it finished with one of the participants murdered and the other—a professional boxer with 20 victories to his name—in prison.
The dead man’s name was Raul Bennett Sambola, and I’ll get to him, but it was the boxer’s involvement that made the argument and its aftermath famous up and down Nicaragua’s poverty-stricken Atlantic coast. Evans Quinn was a 28-year-old heavyweight at the time of the February 2012 murder; just nine months earlier he had been in Nevada fighting Seth Mitchell. That bout ended with Quinn getting knocked out in the first round, after which he returned to his hometown of Bluefields. But before that humiliation, before he got involved in a feud, killed Sambola, went on the run, and was finally thrown in prison, Quinn was already a local legend, beloved by the people of Bluefields because he was one of them. As he came up through the boxing ranks, they imagined he’d make it to the top and show the world that the people in this poor but lively region are fighters and winners.
“God gave Evans Quinn the ability to rise up the people of Bluefields,” a local pastor told me. “But he threw it away.”
It’s hard to describe Quinn without using words like “potential” and “ability.” He was charismatic as hell, handsome, successful, and able to make whoever he talked to feel like he was the most important person in the world. He claimed to have seven wives (“I’m Muslim,” he told me) and surrounded himself with friends, drugs, women, and guns. But he could also be dangerous—if you crossed him, he wasn’t afraid to use his immense physical talents to show you who was boss. Like when he punched that pastor’s son in the mouth just because the kid was at a nightclub with a girl Quinn thought would be better off with him.
“He was crazy, but he could have done great things,” the pastor said. That’s how eager many in Bluefields were to look the other way when Quinn did something most people would be hated for. That was the influence the boxer had once had here. Today Quinn is still a legend, but now that he’s in prison, his glory days long burned away to ash, his story is now one about wasted potential, or a cautionary tale about what happens when a man takes justice into his own hands. If you’re willing to forgive his excesses and his ugly violent streak, he could even be a folk hero who got thrown in prison by cops with a grudge against him.
The NFL is the most powerful and popular sports league in the country. At this point, it might be the most dominant institution in America, period. In its 93 years it’s grown to become both an altar of mainstream manhood and a multibillion dollar industry that puts on the most highly rated programs on TV. The NFL is so big that fantasy football, a game for grown men where you watch players compile numbers in another game, generates a billion dollars a year by itself. By now you’re likely familiar with the widely-accepted truth that all that tackling involved in the sport damages players’ brains, often horrifically—Alan Schwarz‘s New York Times reporting on that subject started way back in 2007. But if you watch the sport, you probably don’t care enough to stop watching.
PBS Frontline is going to try to make you care more.
League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis, a documentary airing tonight based on a book that was released today, is the most direct assault on the league to date. The film not only reviews the by-now-at-least-faintly-familiar evidence that football collisions are very bad for you, it exposes the NFL’s attempts to cover up the damage the sport does to young men’s brains. The league’s executives and doctors come off as myopic and foolish at best, and scheming and evil at worst—in story after story, League shows NFL players dying after losing their minds due to what most independent doctors agree is football-induced brain damage, then the NFL is shown repeatedly denying the connectionbetween football and the broken families it has left behind.
Floyd Mayweather Used Justin Bieber as a Decoration
It was just before midnight on Saturday and no one gave a shit that Justin Bieber was in the room. Less than an hour earlier, Floyd Mayweather had badly abused Saul “Canelo” Alvarez in boxing’s biggest event in years, improving his record to 45 wins in 45 paying fights. No one seemed to mind that it was a lopsided matchup unworthy of the months of breathless hype. Now the immaculately coiffed pop star who, aside from the thick chain dangling from his neck, could’ve easily passed for Pony Boy in The Outsiders, was seated on stage as the finest boxer of his generation stood at the dais, testifying to his own greatness and fielding compliments disguised as questions from the media and fans who had negotiated their way into the news conference. That scene provided a sense of perspective on the situation: Bieber is one of the most famous celebrities on the planet, but amid the chaotic aftermath of a Mayweather fight he was a decoration, not unlike a potted plant with designer sunglasses.
Chances are, the first time you heard of our HBO show was when news outlets around the world reported that we took Bad-as-I-Wanna-Be NBA Hall-of-Famer Dennis Rodman to North Korea, along with members of the legendary Harlem Globetrotters, to take on the Hermit Kingdom’s national team in a friendly, if entirely absurd, experiment in basketball diplomacy. As you probably know, the enigmatic young ruler of the country, Kim Jong Un, showed up to the game, making us the first American news organization to meet him. It was pretty much the most thrilling thing that could have happened, and when pictures were beamed back to Brooklyn that day, the poured-concrete floors of our offices rippled in cracks and dents as our jaws collectively hit the floor.
At this point lucha libre, Mexico’s version of professional wrestling, is famous the world over—the superheroesque masks, the muscled men preening and acting out storylines in the ring, the acrobatic aerial maneuvers. But what’s not as well-known is that the sport isn’t exclusive to dudes. Luchadoras, masked female competitors, are becoming more and more prominent in Mexico, and not just as sexy sideshows. Journalist Marta Franco followed a handful of these women through Mexico City’s pro wrestling scene and used the material she gathered to create her graduate-school thesis, “Las Luchadoras,” a series of videos that documents and celebrates these women’s role in lucha libre as well as their difficulties acheiving the same recognition as men.
Mexican women have been invovled in pro wrestling since the 1940s, but they were barred from competing in the county’s capital until 1986. At first, many entered the ring as eye candy (they were there to “blow kisses and show off” to the crowd, one luchadora told Marta) rather than actual competitors. It’s only recently that the sport has allowed women to fight men. Yet there’s still widespread discrimination despite the efforts of luchadoras and their fans. I recently sat down with Marta in San Francisco to talk about her project and what place women occupy in lucha libre.
VICE: Where did you get the idea to do this story? Marta Franco: I’m from Spain, and we don’t have lucha libre or anything like that. Everybody knows the aesthetics—the masks—but it’s not something I’d seen until I moved to San Francisco, to the Mission District, two years ago. A Mexican friend of mine told me there was a lucha libre show in the neighborhood, we went, and I loved it. At another wrestling event, I heard a woman in line telling some people about her friend, who was a wrestler and a woman. That’s where I started thinking, A woman? Who are these women? Where are they? How do they fit in something that, at first sight, looks like such a macho world?’
When the aliens arrive, they will marvel not at the Earth’s quantity of fetish pornography or the comments section of WorldStarHipHop videos, but at the American male’s infinite commitment to dedicating new things to his own existence. The aliens will ask the grown men why they have rooms decorated with the hoods of NASCAR cars and deer antlers and posters of Will Ferrell movies and replica football helmets. The men will tell them that these are their man caves, you see; places where only men can go, to do man things, with other men, for hours at a time, because a man’s life is so devoid of pleasure otherwise. And then aliens will incinerate everything in sight, because fucking obviously.
Civilization is worse off because of the existence of man caves. They are the male ethos writ large: no ambitions beyond hiding in a place surrounded by miniscule triumphs and pedestrian hobbies, while females are present only in two dimensions on a television screen with the volume turned down low. Their vision of paradise is microwavable appetizers, a beanbag chair with Dale Earnhardt stitched onto it, watching that Kate Upton .gif again, not being reprimanded for their music being too loud, and avoiding women at all costs, whom they see as diabolical, enigmatic creatures that speak some unintelligible dialect and only exist to tell them they were supposed to be home an hour ago. The existence of man caves almost confirms that, essentially, all a man desires is to reenact his twelfth birthday party. The men depicted in beer commercials exist, scurrying from women like boarding school students around a schoolmarm. They are inattentive to female needs beyond offering to take them to the mall or halfhearted foot rubs given specifically to facilitate three minutes of spastic gorilla sex. The man cave exists as a kind of salvation for suburban dads who resent their families for interfering with their fantasy football drafts.
I understand and appreciate the rise of EDM and DJ culture. I see how it brings people together, allows for personal expression, and gives you a great excuse to do tons of molly and “accidentally” rub up against women in a club. I get it. And yet, I do not accept that DJs belong everywhere. DJs should not be at mundane events like baby showers, Christmas-tree lightings, sentencing hearings, art-gallery openings, dog shows, rollerblading competitons, political rallies, traffic accidents, Chinese New Year, or the Super Bowl. Not everything needs to have dancing. Actually, most public gatherings are awkward, especially when the event is one in which the host is trying to sell you something.
I went to the E3 video-game trade show this past week, and like every other convention or industry gathering in our modern era, DJs were shoehorned into the proceedings. I don’t need the “bass to drop” while I’m waiting in line to see the new XBox or to use the bathroom, thank you very much.
I decided to take a stroll around and see if anyone was actually getting down to the music the many, many E3 DJs were playing.