I haven’t always esteemed organized wrestling as I did on this evening. My first introduction to the diverse sport of wrestling was in Mr. D’s eighth-grade History class, tributes to the World Wrestling Federation. I’m sure that lots of fine teaching and learning took place in this particular class, but for some reason my easily distract-able mind is only able to recall the days (more than you’d want me to recount) when the order of business went something like this:
Teacher talks about historical names, dates, and events for approximately 10.2 minutes.
Teacher passes out worksheets to students.
Teacher walks over to TV in front of classroom, inserts video of various WWF matches that he had previously recorded, then kicks back in teacher’s desk.
- Yours truly gawks from own desk, until the bell rings of course, letting me know it was time to pick my disturbed little jaw up off the floor, gather my newly earned homework, and proceed to my next class.
During this class, I learned more about the glamorized world of wrestling than I ever wanted to know. Big, sweaty men in absurdly creative costumes with names like Rubber-band Man (who literally had rubber-bands dangling from various locks of hair, including facial hair, if my memory is correct), Roddy “The Rod” Piper, Hulk Hogan, and The Undertaker screaming threats at one another into microphones that looked the size of Q-tips in their puffy hands. And then the maneuvers… the flinging, flying, pouncing, and body bouncing. I just have one question, who was the choreographer and why didn’t he get more credit?
Well, eighth grade didn’t last forever, and my first and only exposure to the sport of wrestling was soon a fading impression. Until… a few years later….I’d joined the cheer squad at my high school and had enjoyed the experience of cheering for sports such as football and basketball. But then came wrestling season…when I learned that we cheered for the sport of wrestling I couldn’t believe it! In my mind, all I could picture were big bellied boys, stretched back in elastic ropes, then flying towards each other as if having been freed from some mocking sling shot. How could they make us cheer for that?!
But then it happened…my first experience at a real, bona fide, unglamorized, high-school wrestling match. It was amazing! There was no hype, no flopping around in an arena like obese fish. There was just a mat, a referee, some fans, and a couple rows of well-prepared, strapping, teen-aged boys ready to ‘make it happen.’ Some had been gulping water, others were sweating it out, they’d stepped on a scale, and now they were ready to put to action the maneuvers they’d studied and practiced. There was rhyme, there was reason. And, I soon discovered, wrestling is one of the funnest sports to cheer for because it’s personal. For the wrestler, it’s all or nothing. He hasn’t any teammates to hide behind, only his skill to rely on. When he finishes his round, the wrestler can savor the true satisfaction of his own hard work and skill,…or not.
I cheered with a happy heart that first wrestling event of my short-lived cheering career. Happy, and relieved to discover a wholesomeness I wasn’t expecting to find. And now…several years later, here I am raising three little boys who think wrestling is as natural to life as climbing a tree or playing with Legos. They’ll occasionally challenge each other for position in the pecking order, and then get back to being buddies and getting on with life. Could it get any more wholesome than that?