One of the great learning tools in teaching young people persuasive writing is to get them to assume an opinion opposite to what they actually believe and have them argue their position from that ‘disadvantaged’ standpoint.
This builds into my contention today – that wrestling is not a sport. I’ll argue the opposite on Thursday, but for today, that’s the angle.
I’m talking about pro wrestling … WWE, WWF, WCW, NWA, ‘rock n roll wrestling’ (as the haters call it), not the Greco-Roman style we see at the Olympics, nor the UFC fighters who compete in mixed martial arts contests inside octagon-shaped cages. There are those who have done both, or 3, but never all of them brilliantly – Brock Lesnar, you are the exception.
To start, I went to the beginning – dictionary.com, because really, who can be bothered standing up and grabbing a book, and I almost arrived at my answer immediately. ’Sport’ has 27 definitions! Of those 27 definitions, sport was labelled ‘an athletic activity requiring skill or physical prowess and often of a competitive nature’.
But to be fair to this Devil’s Advocate process I have assumed, and fortunately for this blog, the search didn’t end there.
So I went for an early knockout and asked Brendan, ‘Ooze’, the biggest encouragement of this blog, avid commenter, heckler and wrestling-hater, to give his take on ‘wrestling as a sport’. Here’s what he had to say.
From the prosecution…
‘When cricketers play to a script, it’s called match fixing. Wrestling (Yankee style), does not involve competition, they do not compete. They act out a script, rough as it may be, it’s still a script. It can’t be called match fixing as there is only one possible outcome. Yes, they perform amazing athletic feats but so do cheer leaders. Wrestling is about the performance, the wrestlers aren’t training hard to win, they are training hard to entertain.
There’s more huff and puff involved in the pre-fight theatrics than there is in the actual wrestling. They never actually hit each other either! They spend half the fight (should we call it that?) staggering around like a fish that’s just been smacked across the head only to recover and wrap a pair of sweaty thighs around another man’s head….then there’s the women (can we call them that?)
The whole thing is soooo American. This form of wrestling is like a live, squirming, sweating, screaming representation of American culture … without the guns.’
Normally I would have to take 3 swears and at least 2 bodily function references out before I can re-print what Ooze has to say, but as he was forewarned, that was pretty much word-for-word his tale of the tape.
It came down to this
There are a number of legitimate factors to present against wrestling being a sport. The major ones that arose during this personally challenging research were pre-determination, the dearth of skills and the absence of genuine competition.
Don’t wait for these to be refuted at the end of the piece, or for a light-hearted comment that makes the points irrelevant to be thrown in. I’m taking this seriously!
Really, what skills are these actors trying to present? We marvel at basketball players for their speed, athleticism, shot making abilities, grace and touch (I could go on – can you tell I miss the NBA!?), football players for their speed, strength, ball skills, courage and endurance, golfers and tennis players for their unbelievable hand-eye co-ordination and ability to perform fine motor skills under immense pressure, and so on…
Where’s the skill in pretending to hit someone but not hitting them, and if you do happen to hit them, it doesn’t really matter anyway?! What exactly are we supposed to be marveling at? Their pecs?! (Ok, that felt good to write…)
One of the greatest drivers in any good sportsperson is the will to win. We all get it from different places – a hatred of losing, a dislike for the opponent, the thrill of victory, pride in proving one’s abilities over another, a loyalty to the club, suburb, city, state or country which they represent.
Where is the drive when both or all participants in a wrestling ‘bout’ know who is going to win?
Why should we celebrate with the ‘victors’ or lament with the ‘losers’ if the person making the decision as to who has their hand raised or their back pinned (Mr Vincent Kennedy McMahon) is not even at ringside? The integrity of these ‘contests’, therefore, is shot to pieces.
The lack of competition
Sporting icons throughout history solidified their greatness through conquering esteemed opponents. Ali had Frazier, Jordan had the Pistons, Magic, Drexler and Barkley, Bradman had all of England, … and Hulk Hogan had … Andre the Giant?!
Doesn’t really fit.
Being pushed to our limits within a genuine contest can take competitors to places never thought possible.
Trying to remember a routine doesn’t count as a catalyst for greatness. Having to summon all your strength, all your focus and resolve, knowing that one mistake, one imperfect act could result in defeat ingrains a certain grandeur into a contest. This doesn’t have to be at an international level. Victory is always sweeter when the opponent is worthy, even for the local tennis player.
None of those inner characteristics apply to a performer who knows that no matter how ‘well’ he performs on stage, it will not affect the result one iota.
Integrity is once again compromised.
How is that sporting?
Coming up in Thursday’s post – the alternate view for wrestling’s reality.