Anyone who is a fan of Major League Baseball all knows that the big story this week was Mark McGwire’s long awaited admission of steroid use. Steroid use which some would say enabled him to break all time records of baseball that the sport hadn?t had challenged in decades. I have to say as a baseball fan it really saddened me quite a bit. Sure I think after the congressional hearings in 2005 everyone kind of always suspected that Mark was not the modern day Popeye and was doing a lot more than eating some Spinach; however I always held out hope that one day it would somehow be proven that this great goliath really just didn?t want to talk about his past and didn?t want to participate in what many thought at the time was purely a witch hunt. You see growing up McGwire was one of my heroes; one of my most prized possessions growing up was a 1987 Topps Traded Mark McGwire extended rookie baseball card. For baseball card collectors Mark McGwire’s official rookie card was actually his Olympic team baseball card; this was the first card of him in any major league uniform and I remember how proud I was to possess it as a young collector. As a child I probably enjoyed baseball way more than professional wrestling if anyone could believe that and Mark McGwire was one of my 3 favorite players growing up, the other two oddly enough would be Lenny Dykstra another steroid user and Keith Hernandez a player who had issues with recreational drug use during his playing career. I?m not a child anymore but it still sort of bothers me one by one to see my heroes fall and I couldn?t help but reflect this on wrestling this week. We have so many children who look up to wrestlers and I just was wondering about how a child would feel to see a wrestling hero fall?you?re reading “Wrestling Rumblings.”
Before I go further into things I guess I should reiterate something that I mentioned in a previous column that was directed towards one of the hosts of ?The Pro Wrestling Rewind? (which can be downloaded and listened to every Sunday here and now I believe also on ITunes, sorry I had to plug.) Andy Knowles, and that’s that wrestlers should not be set up as role models for your children. Truth of the matter is no one really should have that pressure on them except for parents. My reasoning for that statement is they go out there and they perform their jobs to feed their families and find their own self fulfillment. I have yet to talk to any wrestler or wrestling personality who has said that they got into the wrestling business to be a role model to children and I doubt I ever will. When you get up and go to work you do it to make a living and I think it is only fair that any celebrity or athlete be entitled to do the same thing without having the weight of setting an example for children on their shoulders also. I think of wrestlers, celebrities, athletes and politicians to be heroes and I believe society tends to substitute the word ?Hero? for ?Role model? incorrectly and that misusage of the term is unfair towards those it’s directed towards. I would still say that it is devastating to a child to see their heroes fall; after all having a hero is somewhat more demanding than having a role model. You don?t shower your role model with accolades, collect their posters, or sing there praises. It is crushing for anyone to put that much effort in something only to see it wither away.
Let’s be honest folks wrestlers have never been model citizens. For decades we have had wrestlers who have had all sorts of issues ranging from alcohol to recreational drug use to steroids to other criminal offenses; however back during my time growing up the flow of that sort of information wasn?t as widespread as it is today so while ?Superfly? Jimmy Snuka had a girl die in his room that some would allege he killed I didn?t know it at the time and while I knew when The Iron Sheik and ?Hacksaw? Jim Duggan were arrested driving together with Marijuana and Cocaine in their possession there were many of my friends at the time who didn?t have a clue. Fast forward to today’s era of information where you now know what some celebrities had for breakfast before they even finish their meal. Keeping the illusion of being an upstanding individual just isn?t as easy as it used to be when you think of it that way and it probably wouldn?t bother me that much except that wrestling is marketed to children more than anyone else. WWE openly admits that with their PG rating and TNA might as well admit that with their video game style of wrestling. There are even several independent companies that would pride themselves on offering family friendly environments; so as you can see it is pretty much marketed that way across the board.
TNA just recently had Jeff Hardy on their Impact TV show while it is debated whether or not Hardy is a contracted talent the one thing that everyone pretty much acknowledges is that whatever agreement was reached was reached after Jeff Hardy was indicted on several charges of drug trafficking. Don?t misunderstand me, I believe at the end of the day Jeff Hardy will be a free man and I have stated many, many times in this column that I believe in due process. Still I don?t know how I would feel as a child if I was a big time Jeff Hardy fan, if his poster was on my wall, or if I wore his T-Shirts. Would I be embarrassed for Hardy as I am somewhat embarrassed by Mark McGwire right now? Would I continue to cheer Hardy for what he does in the wrestling ring even though it would seem that what he is involved with out of the ring is not heroic at all and even somewhat villainous? What I do know is that unlike when I was a child and could probably feign ignorance there is so much information out there that I probably couldn?t do that today. Hell, if my memory is correct there was a Fight Network TV personality at WWE events the day Hardy was indicted actually telling children the specifics and tearing down there hero for them. Was it even right of TNA to have Hardy on that show in the hero role? That is a question that I am sure all of you will have an answer for.
Of course just positioning someone as a villain on TV doesn?t necessarily make them less of a hero to a child; after all, how many Randy Orton fans are out there that are under the age of 13? Sure Randy may not be facing drug trafficking charges like Jeff Hardy but he is not without his issues. By now most of you reading this know the incident alleged to have happened between Randy Orton and a teenage fan in which the fan claimed that after asking Orton for an autograph he had Orton’s gum spit on him and was verbally assaulted by him as well. Anyone who has followed Randy Orton during his career knows that while these actions are pending investigation it is not the first time that Randy has behaved rudely and inappropriate towards fans whether he was portraying a heel or babyface on television at the time. I can only imagine those fans that have had those interactions with Randy Orton have had their opinions of him changed drastically and yet another hero has fallen from grace.
Granted the same way that I stated wrestlers don?t get into the business to be role models I am sure that there are many who don?t get into the business to be heroes to children either. I think it should still be acknowledged though that they did get into the business for some sort of recognition because without it they couldn?t afford to be in the business at all. I think with that recognition there does come with it a certain responsibility. After all being rich and famous is not a right in this country, it’s a privilege, and in the opinion of this columnist it is a privilege that is to be earned.
I like wrestlers such as the Motor City Machine Guns, Brian Kendrick and yes I like Jeff Hardy and Randy Orton as well. However I think they along with every other wrestler out there has to have some sort of responsibility for their personal lives and should not be allowed to earn their livings in wrestling if they don?t. To those that would argue otherwise I ask you this: imagine how you would feel if someone you looked up to behaved this way towards you or just in general. Imagine having to explain to your friends how Randy Orton is a cool guy even though he spits on his fans, imagine having to tell fans how Jeff Hardy doesn?t learn from his mistakes and keeps repeating them to the point where you can?t even call them mistakes anymore, Imagine a young child having to tell their friends that a guy like Chris Benoit can kill his family and himself but yet he is still a pretty damn good wrestler and have them look at you with a straight face. It’s pretty damn awkward if you ask me, many of today’s fans are embarrassed to be fans and I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that many wrestlers aren?t good citizens and do tend to get themselves in trouble or have questionable physiques. Maybe if that element of things were to drastically change many of those fans in hiding could come out and join the rest of us. I?d like to see that happen wouldn?t you?
Let me just say that I don?t expect anything to change just because I wrote a column wanting things to change. I just feel it would be refreshing to somehow get back to a time where your heroes were actually heroes. Wrestling is portrayed by having characters that are larger than life, I hate having to look at some of these guys like they are lower than dirt and I can?t help but feel that sooner or later that wide eyed kid who loves a Jeff Hardy is going to open his eyes one day and see what is going on and feel silly for not only liking Hardy but enjoying wrestling itself. No one would benefit if that were to happen.
It’s time to wrap up this week but as usual you can send me your questions, comments or anything else in between at firstname.lastname@example.org and well that’s it for this week. Next week I will try to do better, and until then I am out.