Wednesday afternoon I received a call at the office from a man with a wicked South African accent, asking if I could provide a contact number for "Mixed Martial Arts."
Knowing what he wanted but taking his question at face value, I told him that I could also furnish him with phone numbers for "Hockey" and "Auto Racing." I had to stop myself from laughing but our friend wasn't amused and wouldn't hang up without some type of contact info, so I reluctantly provided the email address of the person I figured he was seeking.
Just another day in my life ever since the provincial government announced last Saturday that it would move to legalize professional mixed martial arts in Ontario.
Just to clarify it for anyone still fuzzy on the issue, I don't work for the Ultimate Fighting Championship, the Athletic Commission or anyone else in the world of professional MMA. But like everyone else even remotely connected with the sport I've received several calls from people who had scarcely heard of the sport before last week, but whose interest was aroused by last Saturday's announcement.
Some of them have been opportunists, folks looking for a way to do business with a cash cow like the UFC.
But most are simple citizens, enraged that the government would sanction such a brutal bloodsport and looking for a place to vent their disgust.
A few lucky folks already had a platform to express their displeasure with the Liberal government's decision.
Wednesday my Star colleague Heather Mallick made plain her opinion that the prospect of making money for the government doesn't justify legalizing such a dangerous sport. And in NOW Magazine, Susan G. Cole makes an impassioned argument that MMA events are better left underground, and that government regulation of nearly-no-holds-barred fighting is a sign of the depravity into which we're all sinking.
Points taken, but this after-the-fact arguing over the pending legalization of MMA reminds me of the debate over gay marriage.
In both cases we see people well outside the scope of the legislation question railing against it simply because the rule change doesn't square with their values.
But at least gay marriage opponents fought against any official change in the definition of marriage from the beginning, opposing same-sex marriage legislation wherever it was proposed well before any laws were actually changed.
In contrast, MMA's adversaries in Toronto barely know what they're arguing against, and didn't decide they hated the sport until they realized it was legal. Otherwise they would have started speaking out against this move last week, last month or last year.
Or they would have at least spent some time reading up before speaking out. If you think the sport is called "THE mixed martial arts," or believe that MMA and UFC are synonyms, you need to do a little more research simply to qualify yourself to speak out against either one.
And if you're making a safety-based argument about why MMA is more dangerous than other combat/contact/collision sports, you should read up on the link between pro football and brain trauma. The info isn't hard to find, and no sense in avoiding it simply because it undermines your point. The truth is that football helmets make the sport more dangerous because they function not just as protective gear but as weapons.
And the bigger truth is that boxing, hockey, football and MMA can all, over time, traumatize your brain. To single out MMA as the most dangerous sport among them is beyond arbitrary. It's like selling vodka but banning tequila.
But the point here isn't to provide a tutorial on the relative danger of the various bloodsports we support.
It's to lend direction to a debate that has strayed far from what's important.
And what's important is how the pending changes to Ontario's Athletics Control Act will affect our lives.
It won't. Unless you're one of the handful of people who a) works for the Athletic Commission, b) hopes to promote a show or c) is brave (or crazy) enough to throw punches for money, your life will not change.
Seems to me this whole debate has some people's brains so rattled that they no longer recognize the difference between the "legal" and "mandatory."
Let me clear it up.
While sending your kids to school is required, promoting or attending an MMA show in Toronto is merely permitted.
I'll put it another way.
If you believe same sex marriages are immoral and unnatural, don't engage in one.
And if you hate the idea of legal mixed martial arts in Ontario, don't go to the show. It really is your choice.
Last night I arrived in Boston, where MMA was legalized last year and where the UFC will debut on Aug 28, and half expected to see octagons erected in public parks, people grappling in the street, and Dana White and Deval Patrick standing side by side, strong-arming Bostonians into buying tickets for UFC 118.
But none of that happened. Somehow, despite the legalization of MMA last December, Boston is pretty much the same place I visited last September. People here still say "wikkid" when they mean "very," "jimmies" when they mean "sprinkles," and "Linder" when they mean "Linda."
And like people in Ontario, Bostonians will attend the UFC's first event here because they want to, and anyone who isn't interested is free to ignore it.
Because Massachusetts, like Ontario, is a democracy and nothing can change that.
Not even the legalization of MMA.