Teddy Atlas on Fear

July 17, 2006

Tonight, in an effort to stay cool and delay going down into the oppressively hot subways, I attended a book signing at the Borders Books store in Columbus Circle (stores in ritzy neighborhoods tend to keep their thermostats set at Arctic levels).

The book signing (and reading) was by boxing trainer and commentator Teddy Atlas who, working with writer Peter Alson, has just published his autobiography, Atlas: From the Streets to the Ring.

During the course of his career Atlas has moved through every level of society, working with the famous and infamous, the beautiful and the ugly, dancers and athletes, doctors and executives, underprivileged kids and hardened criminals. He’s known gentleness and viciousness, redemption and damnation, punched hard, dried tears, heard as many confessions as a priest, felt the power of love and the damage of indifference.

He arrived late, delayed by taping a TV segment at Brooklyn’s Gleason’s Gym and, apologizing profusely, read a long passage from the book. Then, fielding questions from knowledgeable fight fans, he spoke about his work with young boxers, the “Golden Age” of the sport (in his opinion, the 1920s – 1950s), why today’s fighters don’t measure up to their predecessors and why he isn’t working for HBO.

Just before he began signing books, this unmistakably tough guy said something that struck a chord with me. He spoke about fear. Atlas, who is certainly in a position to know, says that all fighters are afraid. Even the men who appear to be the toughest, the most fearless, are scared to climb into the ring. The trainer’s job isn’t to teach the boxer how to stop feeling fear (an impossible goal), but rather, how to live with his fear.

“They’re all afraid,” said Atlas. “Do you think there’s one of them that wouldn’t rather go get an ice cream than fight? They can’t stop being afraid, but they can learn not to show it. They learn to accept it and deal with it and not let it stop them.”

  • Atlas: From the Streets to the Ring: A Son’s Struggle
  • Hardcore Boxing: Kimo Morrison and Teddy Atlas
  • Gleason’s Gym
  • Borders Books Columbus Circle
  • Dr. Theodore Atlas Foundation

  • MoMA loves Dada

    July 17, 2006

    As a student I learned that Dada was a short-lived, rather silly art movement of little significance. My professor snickered about a few European artists who became notorious in the 1920s and 1930s by treating porcelain urinals like fine art and filming each other slicing up cow’s eyeballs. They knew how to get publicity, he told us, but they created nothing of lasting value or meaning.

    How little he — and I — knew. This exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) was a revelation. The show is the first in the United States devoted exclusively Dada, and it is one of the best exhibits I’ve ever seen. I wandered in with no particular expectations and left with a fresh understanding of, and appreciation for, one of the most influential art movements of the 20th century.

    The exhibit will be open for two more months. If you have the opportunity to go, do so and be prepared to think about Dada in an entirely new way. Don’t forget to pick up an audio guide. The commentary is fascinating and, thanks to our art-loving mayor, who has been throwing some of his money in MoMA’s direction, the guides are currently available free of charge.


    Dada at MoMA Posted by Picasa

  • MOMA
  • MOMA: Online Dada Feature
  • Dada at MoMA Exhibit Catalog
  • The New York Review of Books
  • The International Dada Archive

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