Saturday, April 5, 2014

Five Reasons Why Wrestling Is Winning

Slop That Cheerleader
Take a look at the television ratings, and you'll see it; the WWE has the highest rated show on cable. This despite going three hours and saving their biggest plot resolutions for paid events, despite everyone involved who is above the age of eight knowing that the outcomes are scripted and the violence is fake, despite, well, the overwhelming enormity of everything that's also on, and despite the Golden Age of Television that we are in. Even the real sports sites are starting to just roll over and follow the numbers, with Deadspin and ESPN giving routine columns to coverage and smark coverage, and the less renowned parts of Blogfrica have been with the product all along.

This blog tries, and fails, to be about Game, because we're old and dumb and have never cottoned to how the World Wide Lemur has contributed to the backgroundification of everything but over the top live greatness... so I know you're not reading this with a great love of the site right now, seeing how I'm taking a detour right down into Reality TV Town. But the plain and simple fact of the matter right now is that if you give me a choice of a Sixers game with very few Actual NBA Players in my laundry or wrestling... I'm probably taking wrestling. And if you give me a choice of, say, the only baseball game on at this hour, or the unspeakably deep archives of the WWE Network... I'm going for the W. And as the numbers show, I'm not alone in this. I'm so not alone.

So, um, why? I've come up with the following.

5) The Cheerleaders Get Hit.

Seriously, how much more entertaining would sports be if cheerleaders from the road team showed up, gloated as much as humanly possible, and looked disgraced / appalled if and when their team lost? Toss in the occasional shaming pie in the face from a mascot or fire hose in warm weather, and I smell ratings bonanza. I'm kind of surprised that some of our more blue-collar franchises haven't gone in this direction yet; you'd have to think that it'd be an easy casting call for the teams (just dial up the women that didn't get the main cheerleading job) and have at it.

In the WWE, of course, there are women who show up occasionally to work their own low-wattage matches, or to appear as arm candy for a guy that hasn't gotten enough heat from the crowd on his own. It works.

4) Age Is Treated Gently.

I wrote about Steve Nash a couple of days ago; go read that one for the long version of this, but the short is that you'll never have Willie Mays falling down in the outfield, or Steve Carlton getting his head kicked in while wearing some random uniform, or Ed Reed not being good enough for the freaking Jets. In wrestling, old guys just stop working so much, or they pick up folding chairs and rage, effectively, against the dying of the light. Sure, guys still get too old to go, and the death rate of these muscle-bound fruit flies is atrocious, but for the most part, you can easily slide into middle age with the same guys you liked when they were young. It's oddly respectful.

3) The Announcers Can't Troll You.

If you can listen to, say, Phil Simms for more than five minutes without wanting to murder someone, you have unearthed some form of Buddhist clarity of mind that has, to date, eluded me. When people say clearly false or idiotic things about something that can be proven true or false, it arises my Old School Journalist mind, and I am Christ in the Temple with the Money Changers. Which is, um, kind of hard to live with. Blogging about it helps, because I'm able to pour the hate into the copy for fun and profit, but still, it's clearly not good for me.

When wrestling announcers say idiotic things, well, of course they are doing that: it's their role. You've got the guy who is trying to put the good guy over, and the guy who is trying to put the bad guy over, and unless they start yodeling or having some lovers' spat (surprisingly often, but never in "big" matches), they just don't have the same capacity to enrage. They also can't tell you a single thing you haven't already heard before, but hey, you are watching wrestling. Why would there be any thought involved?

2) No Statistics.

I like numbers. Make my living with them. I like statistics in sports; they tell me things that I am likely to miss with my own two eyes, and give me a sense of how and why teams succeed or fail. But I don't like... to hear people talk about statistics, because for the most part, they are using screwdrivers as hammers, and then The Dumbness kicks in hard. Or they start telling you how pretty this screwdriver is, at which point you want to never watch sports again, because if you never watch sports again, you have one less thing in common with this media member, and having anything in common with them is suspect. (Do I really need vertebrae? Phil Simms has vertebrae. HMMMM.)

No one has ever given a wrestling audience the percentage, per se, that a submission move results in a victory. Or how often the guy jumping off the top rope hits his opponent, rather then eating it as the other guy moves at the last second. Hell, it's damn near impossible to even know how often one guy wins, and how often the other guy loses. Every match exists in its own little fly in amber moment, which means that you never have to go down the rabbit hole of wondering how many of Tony Romo's career yards and touchdowns came against prevent defenses, or whether Joey Votto is in some way lacking for avoiding outs with walks so often, or if Carmelo Anthony's per-game scoring average masks greater weaknesses in his game. For once, you get to watch the game like a kid, or like people who don't ruin things by thinking too much about them. Wee!

1) I Might Actually Get What I Want.

Here are my sporting laundry allegiances. The Oakland A's, who have spent this century losing every game in which they could have eliminated a playoff opponent (something like a dozen or more of these) save one. They haven't won a World Series since they became my favorite team, in 2000. The Philadelphia 76ers, currently one of the worst team in NBA history, who haven't been truly fun to watch since 2001, who have not won a championship since 1984. And the Philadelphia Eagles, who have never won a meaningful final game of their season in my life.I'm pretty much resigned to the idea that I will never root for another championship team in my life.

I'm also pretty much resigned to the idea that if a team that I root for ever does stumble onto a crown, that I will be much more relieved by them Not Losing then by them Winning, and that as soon as they do win, I'll pretty much distance myself from the crowds of celebrating loons. I'm going to be 45 in another two months, and I have no idea to have my remaining time on the planet compromised by overturned cars.

But in the WWE? Even the most hiss-able bad guy eats it for real from time to time, and the most insufferable good guy gets beaten like a red-headed stepchild with regularity. No wrestling promotion would ever draw out a feel-good moment for the fan base for decades, if ever, the way the Eagles are doing to me.

So the final question for me, really, isn't why the WWE gets the numbers that it does.

It's why, really, kids ever leave this stuff and go to sports in the first place...

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