YES! I'm a Wrestling Fan
SPORTING EDITORS are all right in their way, but they should not be thoughtful, considerate sporting editors and invite happy, contented, semi-stout, middle-aged men to wrestling matches. No, indeed! Sporting editors of my acquaintance should not roll up and say, “Hey, Eddie, how about the wrestling tonight?”
And l want it understood right here that Eddie, the Wrestling Addict, draws the line at bull fights. I will not go to a bull fight. Goodness only knows what the bulls would do. and, as I say, 1 want these sporting editor friends of mine to remember that I will not stand for having a bull thrown right into my lap. I will not, indeed.
Now, take the first wrestling match this sporting editor friend of mine took me to. There I was sitting with this editor friend right spung up against the ring and thinking what a fine thing it was to know sporting editors, when Massacring Bill, the Pride of Harlem, threw Killer McDade, the Oklahoma Giant, over the ropes and into my lap.
He did this without a word of warning and without even a muttered apology. The 7.000 people present approved of him doing it. You could hear them approving. That is, you could hear them all approving except the young lady who sat behind me in a ringside seat. This young lady was a considerate young lady, and I thank her for her thoughtfulness. I do, indeed. She yelled, “Hey, the fat guy is dead!” That is w'hat she yelled, and right there I began to be interested in wrestling. 1 began to be interested and I kept right on being interested, especially when this Oklahoma Giant answered me so politely. A wrestler who can land so hard on a semi-stout and still maintain his self-control when the once, happy semi-stout enters wholeheartedly into the spirit of the play, represents a sport worth being interested in. He does, indeed. So I investigated.
The Hand-Axe Hold
WRESTLING is a study, especially the up-to-theminute, ultra-modem wrestling as it is wrestled today. Wrestling, I found out when I asked my sporting editor friend, has passed through three phases since the dawn of history. First, there was the ancient wrestling when they had rules understandable by the audience, and under w'hich the wrestlers were sincere wrestlers, each trying hard to win. Those old boys sure did try hard, my sporting editor friend said. They were a credit to the game, and the losers never went home to supper, my sporting friend added, because the winner usually took a small hand-axe out of his belt and made a real, worth-while elimination contest of it. That was the only real wrestling known to mankind. Thousands attended the bouts, and the guys who were working the racket made a barrel of dough.
The law, he rambled on when the first preliminary was finished, put an end to the grand old game. The law', he claimed, has been hard on sport right down through the ages, and it put a crimp in the ancient wrestling by ordaining a hanging whenever a victorious wrestler so far forgot himself as to use a handaxe for the purpose of bringing about a conclusive and artistic finish. The game, he said, languished because the fans failed to understand the new rules, and because the wrestlers were against it on the ground that a game guy could not win either way. The game, he emphasized, languished until it was fixed by the lads who are now working the racket.
These lads brought wrestling to its third or spectacular stage, in which there are no rules worth mentioning, and in which a happy and contented semi-stout, middle-aged man can be unexpectedly assaulted by one wrestler using another wrestler as a projectile. The fans approve of it. They do, indeed. They show they approve of it by paying large sums at the ticket windows, and by going back and paying more large sums every time the promoters throw a show.
My investigations uncovered some strange facts. My investigations show'ed me that nearly all the w'restlers were educated wrestlers; that they were nearly all famous athletes from outstanding United States colleges. The programmes say so in plain English, and no wrestling fan can doubt a programme. They graduated from football to wrestling after short course in one of the more prominent schools of dramatic art. That is what they did, and I am sure of it. I told my sporting editor friend about my being sure of it, and he said:
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“Don’t be a sap, Eddie. Why should the boys do grievous bodily harm to one another when they can put on the best show in town and get away with it?”
This sporting editor friend is a hardboiled sporting editor. He said that the guys who were working the racket built the crowd up for the main bout, and that the saps liked it. The saps, he said, get warmed up by a smart preliminary between two preliminary boys; steam-heated by a rapid battle between a recognized bad actor and a noble exponent of the pure art; then they are turned savage and ready for the main bout by a semifinal between two clever lads trained to make a kiss on the brow look like assault with a deadly weapon. “The guys working the racket,” my sporting editor friend finished, “know their saps.”
I agreed with him right after the main bout that evening. The main bout was between two of our best latter day, or fixed, wrestlers of the dramatic school. They were both college graduates and former gridiron stars, and they put on a bout, if you get what I mean. They did everything to one another that two men could do, short of murder, gouging, and sending for the police. They were big men and they were fast. They were so fast that for forty-five minutes the air was just full of wrestlers flying over the ropes or bumping on the canvas to the accompaniment of loud shouts of mortal anguish. They had body scissors, strangle holds, toe holds, and just plain holds of the more ferocious varieties. They had airplane spins, flying tackles and nervous sporting editors. They even caught some of the more slow moving sporting editors, but they missed me after that first time. I should say they did. I ducked. That was me—Old Eddie, the Apprehensive.
Too Good to be True
“THE TRUTH is that it was a magnificent I show. It was the most magnificent show I ever saw on any stage. There was no doubt about it; that wrestling match was ring-tailed, four-starred wonder. It was, indeed.
But I was suspicious. That was me. Eddie, the suspicious investigator. suspected that no two men could do all those things to one another and still leave the ring with such jaunty steps and with such ferocious gestures as would indicate an immediate battle to the death in some lonely back-stage corridor. That is what they did, and we wrestling fans shouted for joy. We did, indeed. We just knew we were getting our money’s worth.
I was suspicious because I have had experience in these things. I had this experience in my younger days, but I have not forgotten it. No, indeed. It all comes back to me with greater clarity every time I see a wrestling match. You know how it with us middle-aged, happy semi-stouts?
In my day and age I have been an interested spectator of, and participant in. railroad construction gang brawls. I have in my more callow youth joined happily in the differences of opinion between the more robust lumberjacks. I have, as a newspaper reporter, covered the waterfront beat in the dying days of the wind ships, when the jolly jack tars from those vessels of romance ruined the police riot squad with startling regularity. I have seen mobs of irate citizens hurl chunks of paving blocks at the military, and the mayor of a great city dumped into a water trough when endeavoring to read the Riot Act to persons busy burning street cars.
I have heard persons hit with police batons, empty bottles and fists. In a word, I have been present when action was happening. But never—no, never—did my startled eyes ever behold anything so artistic in the way of action as those two educated wrestlers staged, or heard anything in the way of assorted grunts, groans and unvarnished yells of pain as assailed my suspicious ears.
I should say not. It was a splendid show.
I enjoyed every minute of it. It was just too good to be true. That is what I thought about it. When one of the greatest dramatic actors of all time went down to defeat with his co-star sitting on his heaving bosom, I turned to my sporting editor friend and I said: “Bozo.” I said this, using the rising inflexion of a man who has just witnessed a great sight and is satisfied.
My sporting editor friend just looked bored, and answered me. He said, “Yeah.”
This sporting editor’s “Yeah” annoyed me. It was just another wrestling match to him. Following the wrestling game, he explained, was just like going to the zoo to see the trained seals. These wrestlers, my sporting editor friend said, wrestled in a different city nearly every night, and by gravy, he added, they behave like ferocious animals or gentlemen exponents of the noble art, according to what is best for the game in the judgment of the guys working the racket. That was the cold opinion of my hard-boiled sporting editor friend.
“Old-timer,” I asked this sporting editor, pursuing my investigations, “how do you account for the seven thousand assorted fellow men and women here tonight, and for the noise they made, getting all excited cheering for their favorite wrestlers?”
“Saps,” my sporting editor friend answered. “Just saps.”
I do not agree with my sporting editor friend. I do not agree because I asked my doctor about it. “Doctor,” I asked, “why do people go to these modem wrestling matches which, according to my best information, don’t usually mean a thing?”
“I am not sure,” my doctor replied. “Have you got tickets for the bouts next Wednesday night?” My doctor is like that. He is always searching for reasons and reflexes and mining stock in undeveloped mines. Therefore he is a good doctor, and one day will become a great specialist. My doctor said that possibly people like to go to wrestling matches because of the primitive urge to battle, and because they like wrestling matches. We would, he said, go to the bouts together and make a study of these primitive emotions. We would, he j urged, make a special study, and the results Í would be of more than ordinary' importance.
But We Like It!
HAVE YOU ever gone to a wrestling match as a guide to a scientific mind? It is exciting, especially for a normally placid fat man who likes to take his wrestling calmly, with only a few yells here and there and an occasional argument as to whether or not a kick in the stomach is a sporting gesture and permissible under the circumstances. My doctor approached this bout with the scientific mind. We had ringside seats.
It was a splendid evening for study. Right in the first preliminary an athlete in black tights and a horrific scowl delivered three rapid kicks into the rridsection of an athlete in green tights and a terrible scowl. Have you ever been kicked in the stomach? If so, you will realize that not even an athlete can come bounding back to secure sweet revenge by rapidly twisting two sections of ring rope around his opponent’s neck. A normal athlete will realize this immediately he is kicked in the stomach. This green-tights wrestler was not normal. No, indeed. Science says he could not have been normal, but that is what he did, and even added an extra touch by grabbing the black scoundrel’s legs and pulling lustily.
Did we have mass reaction and primitive emotions? Oh, dear me! All 8,000 of us —newspaper count—leaped to our feet and shouted our joy and approval. Primitive emotions! You could almost hear the jungle drums beating and the voices of the women screaming encouragement to the warriors. There is no doubt about it. I was a jungle drum, or a primitive emotion, or just another happy and excited sap enjoying better things in up-to-the-minute assault and battery and dramatic wrestling.
I looked around for my doctor. I wanted to get the scientific angle on the situation. I
was shocked. My doctor had gone primitive. ! He was jumping up and down yelling, ‘‘Sock it to him, big boy. He can’t take it. Yaaaaah!”
Have you ever heard a scientific mind gone primitive? If you have, you will realize that civilization is merely a habit and not a condition, and that the good old skin-clad warrior is hiding right inside the second best business suit you wear to the office on rainy days and when assisting in a study for the advancement of science.
I began to suspect my doctor. I began to suspect that he was a wrestling fan masquerading as a student of science. Right then and there I decided to see this thing through. I determined to find out why normally peaceful citizens, folks given to kind words and charitable acts, suddenly forget these noble paths when lured to wrestling matches by their primitive emotions.
“Doctor,” I asked him, “to what do you j attribute this strange change in these otherwise staunch supporters of law, order, and ¡ more government per head of population than any other country in the world?”
My doctor paid no attention whatever to me. No, indeed. He just glanced at his programme and he said :
“Eddie, the next match will be a corker. I’ve read about these two boys. We certainly will see something.”
He was right. We did. Wrestling is like that.
We went home exhausted. Just two tired vocal athletes. My doctor and I returned to our family folds just plain tuckered out, and we let it be known that our study had developed into one of such prime importance that we had purchased season tickets for those ringside seats before leaving the arena, j I will never find out for sure why ultramodern or dramatically fixed wrestling is so successful. I am suspicious, however. I suspect that it is successful because we, the free and unrestrained saps, enjoy it,