Brin Jonathan Butler is on the ultra high end of cerebral processors of sportsmen and women, and as good as any journo delving into the correlation between mind and body, upbringing and emotions, within the sporting sphere.
That gift came into play in the first episode of the Netflix show “Losers,” which looks at eight instances where the loser, a person or team, came away as the most fascinating takeaway element of a game or match. In the first episode, boxer Michael Bentt, who grew up in Queens, N.Y., yanks the curtain aside and allows viewers into his psyche, which was formed, but not irrevocably so, by a father who acted in callous fashion toward his offspring.
I asked Butler, an author and film-maker, about his involvement in this ep of “Losers,” which is drawing A-grade reviews and considerable buzz on social media and from the critic-erati:
“Director Mickey Duzyj and I have worked together on two long pieces,” Butler told me. “I wrote, he illustrated. We’re pretty close friends. We discussed the series as he was pitching and developing and then he asked me for help with an episode and I suggested Bentt and brought the story to him. I did most of the interviews on the shoot, all of Bentt’s interview was with me. And then I worked on the script of the show from transcripts.”
We had Bentt, age 53, on the “Talkbox” podcast to dive in even deeper, to ask about expectations of winning, how that matches with reality and also how one handles difficult realationships with patriarchs.
“When I met him, Michael’s first words on his career in boxing was the most articulate, unexpected backstage-pass on the human condition I’d ever encountered,” Butler continued. “His level of honesty and self-awareness floored me. And I think why he’s such a powerful character is because he’s getting at things that are so specific inside himself yet paradoxically are somehow entirely universal. What are we fighting for in our own lives? Why? What are we willing to stand for and to stand up to? What happens when we come up short? How do we put the pieces back together? What happens to me after my darkest secrets are exposed in public not just to an audience but to myself? Michael gets to the heart of these questions from the get-go and it forces you to go there with him in his own story and yours.”
If you haven’t checked out “Losers” yet or have come to boxing later, know that Bentt was a solid amateur, but lost his pro debut. He clawed back, and got a title shot, as the B side, against Tommy Morrison, who he hammered in a shock and awe outing.
Then, in 1993, a WBO titlist, was his life transformed and all darkness banished in a shower of dopamine? In his first title defense, he was matched against a boxer who was the better man than he in their clash…and that was the last bout of his life, because he suffered brain trauma.
“And when you learn how he’s found compassion for his weaknesses and loss and you recognize the courage it required to be willing to see himself clearly, that self-awareness inescapably inspires you. It’s precisely what most ‘winners’ lack and are running for their lives from,” said Butler, a frequent guest on ‘Talkbox.’
“The ‘win’ can define them. Life isn’t about winning, it’s all too temporary and fleeting. The universal reality is the longer we’re here the more we lose. And that loss brings home who you are and what’s important and of value. Michael’s story embodies this when he confesses that nearly getting killed in the ring was the best thing that ever happened to him against Herbie Hide. It finally gave him permission to be who he wanted to be in the world. Beating Tommy Morrison for the title did the opposite.”
“Losers” episode one is well worth your time to watch.
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