Sunday, October 23, 2011

And They Wonder Why I Watch Wrestling

Sitting here tonight in front of the laptop, I'm reflecting on today's sports events and thanking God that I'm not a huge sports fan like a lot of people I know. Some of them would be testing the strength of their closet rods with a paisley tie noose if they had my "sports luck". Let me set the scene for you by giving some examples sport-by-sport.
MLB: My uncle is a huge Phillies fan, so I followed the Phillies off & on as I was growing up. In the mid 90's my stepdad & mom took me to Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Immediately I was hooked & started rooting for the O's as my AL team. I really looked up to Cal Ripken Jr., a class act in every definition of the phrase. Then the 1996 playoffs happened. Jeffrey Maier, a Yankees fan, reached out at the right field wall & snagged a ball away from Tony Tarasco. What should have been ruled an out (if it hadn't been for the interfering little snot) was ruled a home run by first base umpire Richie Garcia. Since then the O's have had losing seasons EVERY year. As of late my NL team, the Phillies, have had good fortune, but lost this year in the playoffs after setting a ball club record for regular season victories.
NFL: Though I wasn't big into football until the late 90's, I was raised in a Redskins household (living in Carlisle, PA where they practiced, it was hard not to be). I also started following the Indianapolis Colts...I like the team as a whole, but I really was a Peyton Manning fan. He reminds me of the NFL's answer to Cal Ripken Jr. The Colts have been consistently good up until this year, when Manning was sidelined with a season-ending neck injury & the rest of the team decided to forget how to play the game without him. It's not even worth mentioning the Redskins. Just when they show flashes of brilliance, Dan Snyder (their owner) blows them out as if they were candles on an obscenely huge & costly but underachieving birthday cake. One other side note: I have plenty of NFL jerseys of players I like from various teams. All of the players are either injured, retired without the accolades they should've had, or dead.
NCAA CFB: Penn State has always been my first team, but I started to like Hawaii. They'd always be my team in seasons of NCAA Football for the Playstation. It was even better when Colt Brennan led them to HUGE seasons, even appearing against Georgia in the Sugar Bowl. They lost the Sugar Bowl, Colt Brennan was drafted by (who else?) the Redskins as a 3rd string QB who was injured & was last seen on the side of a milk carton, & haven't made any big waves since (no tsunami jokes, please). Penn State, while they've had some good seasons, has not been at the same prominance they once were. Kinda hard to do that when you play teams that should be Division II & barely beat them, then get horribly dismembered in games against ranked opponents.
NASCAR: As with all of these other sports, my family has always watched NASCAR. I really didn't get into it until the middle-to-end of the 90's, but I always liked to see Dale Earnhardt win. He was a badass & it was fun to see people so divided when he'd win. Of course, everyone knows he was killed at the Daytona 500 in 2001. I've rooted for his son ever since, which was good while he was with DEI, but hasn't been so great since he joined Hendrick Motorsports. I thought that would be a turnaround point for his career, but it hasn't been great so far...just mediocre. Australian Marcos Ambrose has also gotten my support the past few years. He finally won his first Sprint Cup race this year at Watkins Glen, but other than that & a few good finishes, he's not close to any championships.
So, as you can see, I've had my share of rough spots in sports. Most of you can probably relate in some way, shape, or form, but I feel personally like I'm an albatross around the necks of all sports figures/teams that I choose to support. I almost feel sorry for them that I like them. But even in my sports depression, I don't feel the need for harakiri because there has always been one professional sport that I can rely on: professional wrestling.
Most of you are going to laugh hysterically at this point, but frankly I DON'T CARE. Each one of you at one time or another has watched it & ENJOYED it. Now, you may not watch it anymore or you may just watch it off & on, but you can't deny its entertainment power. I'm damn proud of the fact that I've watch wrestling since I was five years old, starting with the Hulk Hogan era in the WWF. There have been rough points throughout the years (early 90's WWF & WCW, late 2000's WCW, WWE in the past few years, etc...) when I've questioned my loyalty, but I realize it's just like anything has its cycles.
You have to tough it out in the rough times to get to the great times (a good motto for pretty much anything). If I hadn't toughed it out, I'd never have seen the nWo era in WCW in the late 90's. I'd never have experienced the original ECW, which was some of the best entertainment ANYWHERE even to this day. DX would have been just two letters in the alphabet, The Rock would have been a mediocre Sean Connery movie, & I'd never have felt the joy of imagining delivering a Stone Cold Stunner to my bosses every single day. (If you've ever thought about doing that, gimme a Hell YEAH!) I'll admit that wrestling is currently in a low point, but I see signs of improvement. WWE has a future Hall of Famer in John Cena that entertains the crowd every single time he steps between the ropes, a controversial wrestler named CM Punk who isn't afraid of ad libbing & saying things that aren't quite in the script, some great heels (bad guys) like the Miz & R-Truth that also make you laugh, & some like Mark Henry or Alberto Del Rio that you love to hate. The WWE's only competitor, TNA, also has a great show on Thursday nights. Many fans are critical of it because the storylines seem jumbled (and they do), but they show signs of improvement with a change in head writers. The level of talent in the ring has always been there. Watch any X Division match for high-flying action from young talent like Brian Kendrick or Austin Aries, see Hall of Famers and legends like Ric Flair, Sting & Hulk Hogan still compete, & see some of the main-eventers that have been with TNA since its inception like AJ Styles & Robert Roode make their case for legend status some day.
Like I said, some of you will roll your eyes & attempt to make fun of me for enjoying a "fake" sport with pre-determined outcomes, featuring guys & girls in situations resembling soap operas, but I really don't care. As many wrestling fans can tell you, there is an old saying: "For those who don't know, no explanation will do. For those who do know, no explanation is necessary." I still enjoy watching all of the sports that were mentioned above, but I'm not nearly as discouraged as some of you will be when watching them. So what if Dale Jr. wrecks on the 3rd lap of the race? The O's didn't make it to the post-season AGAIN? No problem. The Redskins just drafted WHO? Not a big deal. I mean, yeah, I'll still have a level of frustration, but it'll pass. Most nights I'd rather predict who will be in a tag match with whom & what the outcome will be then watch it unfold than to go to bed angry from another loss where I thought my team had a chance. Call it "playing it safe" or what you will, but I look at it as always finding something positive. If you're looking for that, maybe you should give wrestling a chance.
By the way, what got me started on this? As I said at the beginning, I was reflecting on today's sporting events. Dale Jr. was favored to finish well in the race today, but finished in the mid 20's. Marcos Ambrose was poised to win but got involved in a late race crash that sent him back further in the field. The Redskins lost yet another game in a season where they actually showed some promise but can't quite deliver. I just turned on the Colts/Saints game to see the Colts losing by 34 points. Yet through all of this, I'm looking at the match results for the WWE Vengeance PPV tonight & I'm smiling, wondering what Triple H is going to do when he calls out Kevin Nash tomorrow night for interfering in his match. Screw you, ESPN...I love Monday nights for a different reason!

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