Check The Clock

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October 15, 2009 by David Gillaspie



From the outside looking in, all caregiving stories end the same; someone runs out of time.  They’re all about fighting the good fight to a dignified end.  The only rule is decency.  

All good sports stories end like that, too.  The underdog who almost wins is always a better story than the odds-on favorite laying down the expected whupping.  Remember ‘it’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game?’  It was said after a late comeback that nearly won a game, along with the moral victory trophy.

The best you can hope for in caregiving and ball games is a heightened sense of enthusiasm.  If you’re a caregiver, you bring the fun, the song and dance; if you’re watching a game, take it to another level.  If you watch a game with your loved one, bark away until the end, even if you have an idea of how things might work out.  You know the clock is against you.  You know it will run out. 

It’s the same story time and again, with one exception.

The exception is the wrestling story.  All good wrestling stories end strangely; they don’t make sense.  Some end with a thump; some remain a mystery.  They all make you glad you weren’t there, but you can still see yourself in the picture.

For example, what do say about a kid who’s goal was whizzering an opponent over the scorer’s table?  The fans thought he was so intense he forgot where his opponent might land after flying over a guy with hyper-extending hips and shoulders so limber his elbow touched his back.  He’s not wrestling to win or lose, he’s testing his catapult. 

The guy goes to college where legend has him beating up his tutors to take his tests and pounding them again for low scores.  At last word he did bad guys a favor, then moved to a foreign country under an assumed name.  Maybe it’s me, but this sounds a lot like a dad who takes the family dog to the pound and tells his kids “Rusty went to a nice farm family with plenty of room to run.”

You don’t buy that farm.  You don’t want to be there.  Or here:

No one wanted to line across from the hundred and forty nine pounder at the Munich Olympics.  Who wants to challenge a guy who turns ‘Refuse To Lose’, a fine motivational line, into something crazy like ‘Refuse To Give Up A Single Point.’  Score a point on Dan Gable in the Olympics?  He’s on one leg with a head bandage big enough to catch a pint of ear blood, and he’s not giving up a point.  It’s not going to happen.  Ever.

You don’t want to be there.

In his documentary, Gable said he needed to give his family “enough entertainment that they didn’t have to look other places.”  Here’s a kid who uses his unique approach to wrestling to keep his Mom and Dad from reflecting on the horrible death in their family.  How does anyone match those emotions in competition?  Check the record book; they don’t.

From the Olympian with the shut-out record to the kid in his first novice meet, wrestling stories don’t make sense. 

Two beginners face off on a mat taped for smaller boundaries.  One is yanking and pushing; the other is rolling and flopping.  After an out of bounds call the one up pushed and sneered like he’d seen the pros do.  The ref let it ride.

The tough kid gets more aggressive and starts sawing and slamming, punching cross-faces into the other kid’s head.  The ref lets it ride; the beat kid is clueless.  He’s hoping for the clock to run out.  He’s done, mopped across every inch of mat, twice. 

A normal sports story chalks it up as a learning moment, a step in the education of an athlete, the foundation of future accomplishments.  Except in the wrestling story the beat kid turns an odd shade of purple, sees a chance, and reverses the tough kid. 

The kid was so far behind that the match was a point away from the mercy rule.  He cinched up a head and arm and sat out.  The tough kid had plenty of energy and fought it; then got pinned.

One side of the scorer’s table held embarrassment and questions; the other side was full of the miracle of wrestling, the improbable finish.  The kid who got beat around the mat stood in the middle with his arm raised.  The other kid took a ‘ready-to-run’ stance, head down, legs coiled like a sprinter in the blocks.

The story didn’t end right.  It never does.  It ended with a thumping mystery, like always.  It didn’t make sense.  The kid losing won, and the kid who should have won was crushed.

The winner is a caregiver for wrestling.  The loser went back to his skateboard.

If you know how to care about anything, wrestling is easy to figure out.  You still have time.


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