May 10, 2010 by David Gillaspie
The next time you hear someone say they baseballed with a difficult decision will be the first time. It doesn’t happen. Same with football and basketball.
But you always hear about someone wrestling with their conscious, their soul, their very being.
Once a wrestler wrestles with his very being, the path is set. They keep wrestling. Not so with the ball players.
A great wrestler wins it all, then helps others win it all, or at least win to the highest level they are capable of reaching. A ballplayer might be good in other ball sports. Bo Jackson in football and baseball; a Heisman Trophy winner playing major league baseball.
Stranger things have happened. Charlie Ward of Florida took his Heisman to the New York Knicks.
But a wrestler will never be a star point guard, or a baseball player. Just don’t tell Deron Williams. Some have gone to the NFL, which is well documented.
What is the difference between the sports, between the ball games and wrestling?
From high school to the professional levels, the ball games seem to thrive. Choose between the Super Bowl, the World Series, March Madness. Look at the NBA play-offs. Look at the BCS. Are any of them at risk of being dropped? The banks say no.
How many college ball teams have been cut in comparison to how many wrestling programs?
Does anyone think it odd that wrestlers who have won big titles are in charge of wrestling? If you’ve seen a picture of David Stern, the commissioner of the NBA, you know he’s not a baller. So what is he? He’s a businessman, a lawyer. He runs the show for basketball giants.
Why doesn’t Terry Bradshaw or Joe Montana run the NFL? They have eight Super Bowl rings between them. Why doesn’t Barry Bonds run MLB? He’s hit more homeruns than anyone on the planet, with help.
Maybe athletes are too close to their sports to take a long view down the pipe. Maybe they don’t give enough credence to market shares and exposure; maybe they can’t see outside their own experience, which is playing the game, not administering to the needs of the game.
With that said, who is the best candidate to lift collegiate wrestling out of the cycle of failure? Is it the guy who says winning a match is the only thing that matters? That rolling out a mat in the garage is good enough to develop the sport beyond the current status?
Is it the honchos at USA Wrestling who run the national organization? How about the NUWAY people gaining in-roads where USAW leaves gaps? Or is it someone else?
If the face of wrestling has to change, why not take a page from the big boys of sport. Kenesaw Mountain Landis ruled baseball after a career as a federal judge. Pete Rozelle became the top man in the NFL after a career in public relations.
Does amateur wrestling need a former wrestling champion as a leader so others can point to him as ‘The Man?’ Or is the former champ better suited for the podium and the practice room?
If wrestling needs a boost, and a look at the number of teams dropped since Title IX says it does, could a judge do the work better than a former champ? Could a PR man promote the sport better than a coach?
There’s a saying in sport about winning and losing: Winners do what losers won’t do. It’s the same in wrestling, a sport with the sort of pride and work ethic unimaginable to other athletes. Wrestlers are used to finding a way to win; of creating victories out of sheer will-power. Can they elevate the sport?
When is the right time to hand the reins of wrestling leadership to those who understand how to make a sport a winner in the athletic marketplace? After more colleges lose their programs? After more high schoolers find other things to do?
That’s not winning.