By Dan Bernstein-
CBSChicago.com Senior Columnist
(CBS) This is not a sport for everyone. I get that. I guess I always have.
It has always had a rabid following, almost cult-like in its devotion. And that will never change, since there are some who adore all the silliness and always will, even as others struggle to understand what the attraction is. More often than not, the zealots dismiss questions and criticism by saying “you just don’t understand.”
There is no doubt that the athletes involved are highly skilled, dedicated professionals. Not a night goes by without something occurring that causes even a jaundiced eye to marvel at the coordination, aware that it takes years of practice to succeed at this level. Some of what goes on can be downright superhuman.
All the more reason why it feels so strange to watch something with no real rhyme or reason, where the real drama parallels the actual competition – like watching two things at once. On one hand, the pursuit of a clear objective: victory in the contest. On the other is some twisted story of vengeance, personal history and machismo. It’s not just about who wins.
Officiating? Forget it. Anybody charged with making sure any real rules are enforced seems reduced to finding ways to facilitate the drama. Nothing is to be trusted when it comes to referees. The chaos is only loosely governed, at times randomly so. Skulls are smashed in corners, handfuls of hair get pulled. Maybe somebody says something, maybe not.
Even executives are in on the bizarre circus, with their pronouncements causing as much cheering and wailing from the fans as anything else. The suits jabber into microphones, rarely making sense, throwing gas on fires.
It is a sport where bad guys become anti-heroes, a species accepted and even protected as if somehow essential to the product. The old rule always applies that there are some guys you hate only until you find yourself rooting for them. Just more of the over-the-top, emotional hook. That’s real blood you see out there, and real blood sells.
All this is going on even as each day brings deeper, darker understanding of the dangers. Common sense could always tell us that getting hit in the head was a bad thing, but micro-thin slices of brain tissue now tell us just how bad, and how soon. Still, nobody involved really wants to change anything, even after people are dead. There will always be more meat in the pipeline, raring for the collisions.
Assume the risk. This is not for the weak, nor the faint of heart. Man’s game.
Old-timers, indeed, love nothing more than to recall the days of yore – the dank, rickety arenas, the colorful nicknames, and the outsized personalities that put it all on the map before it became homogenized. They lament that so many guys are practically indistinguishable, now.
I have tried to see the sport through the eyes of those who truly love it, those with encyclopedic knowledge of every competitor and every win or loss. More often than not, though, I fail – ending up still short of appreciating it as they do, held back by those same odd, exotic aspects that others appreciate.
But professional wrestling will always have enough of an audience to survive. Even thrive, perhaps.
What did you think I was talking about?
Dan Bernstein has been the co-host of “Boers and Bernstein” since 1999. He joined the station as a reporter/anchor in 1995. The Boers and Bernstein Show airs every weekday from 1PM to 6PM on The Score, 670AM. Read more of Bernstein’s columns here. Follow him on Twitter @dan_bernstein.
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