February 1, 2010 by David Gillaspie
Any confusion over wrestling is easier to understand when you compare it to other sports.
Other sports have a degree of manners, a certain gentility, built into them.
If a football player signals for a fair catch after a punt, the defenders must give him enough room to catch the ball. Running down the field and trucking a guy with his eyes lifted skyward is not allowed. It’s call a ‘fair’ catch for a reason.
Wresters dream of the moment an opponent takes their eyes off him. That second of distraction usually means points on the board. Don’t pay attention during a wrestling match and you’ll find yourself getting wrapped up and delivered to the mat.
The rules that govern baseball read like law. Every possible situation fills the rule book. If the ball and the runner get to a base at the same time, the tie goes to the runner.
What happens in a wrestling match if two wrestlers decide to throw at the same time? It’s never a tie. You can tell who went first by the one not sailing through the air.
Wrestling needs as many rules as any sport, but it also has a finality lacking in other sports. A pin ends the match in any period. A run ends a baseball game, but only if it happens in the bottom of the ninth inning and it’s the go-ahead run.
You might miss the go-ahead run at a baseball game because you left early, or fell asleep after the seventh inning stretch. That’s not happening with wrestling fans.
Basketball prides itself for its rules. The refs call fouls that stop games for touching, bumping, blocking, and hacking. Basketball players show their toughness with gape-mouthed screaming after dropping a ball through a hoop, as if they just finished a six hundred pound squat. I guess it looks good on television.
The only time a wrestler screams like a basketball player is when something breaks, or dislocates. Even then it’s not so much screaming as it is grinding through the disappointment of not finishing their match.
A basketball player takes a tap on the wrist and you’d think he was stabbed in the neck. They get bumped on a screen and fall over like they’d been bounced by the cross town bus.
Those who wrestle, have wrestled, or been to a lifetime of wrestling matches, watch the acting in other sports with keen interest. Every wrestler has had his wrist tapped, has been thrown to the mat for not paying enough attention.
Every wrestling match has an element of cheap shot, whether it’s wrestling the edge, or screaming in fake pain to prevent a pin. The rule is decided when the referee calls it. If he doesn’t call anything, wrestle through.
Most sports rule against the sort of pushing and shoving, grabbing and gripping that make for a good wrestling match. We cheer for the wrestler who takes an opponent down and lets him up, then does it again and again. We cheer louder and stomp for the one who takes his man down and pins him.
If sports tried to be fair, they would all include wrestling. Take the Super Bowl, for instance:
What if the Colts and Saints played their game, then afterward had a dual meet where the outcome factored into the final score, like riding time. Who wouldn’t want to see Drew Brees get after Peyton Manning? Imagine the thumping the defensive line would put on each other after four quarters of world championship football.
Las Vegas odds makers fill their books with Super Bowl lines from who will win the coin toss to who will catch the first pass, score the first touchdown, rack up the most yards in the air and on the ground. But without wrestling they can’t give odds on who is the toughest of the tough, odds on who can win four quarters on the field and three periods on the mats.
Although it will never happen, imagine NFL guys facing off. Just don’t imagine them cutting weight.