2009-04-09 / Sam Bari

The spirit of competition

You can't beat a system you can't understand
By Sam Bari

When L.B. Mayer of MGM fame died, at his funeral, the veteran showman George Jessel said, "You see. Give the people what they want and they'll come out for it."

Mayer's funeral was apparently attended by huge crowds; a fact that could not, in his case, be attributed to universal popularity. His partner, Samuel Goldwyn, explained, "The reason so many people showed up for his funeral was because they wanted to make sure he was dead."

As amusing as the aforementioned anecdotes might be, most accept the quote about giving people what they want as a universal truth. Today's column gives support to that declaration.

Spring is upon us and with the blooming of flowers and greening of grass comes the boys of summer and other seasonal sporting events. Last weekend the finals of the Sony Open tennis tournament pitted the best against the best, creating drama on the hard courts in Miami, Fla. Major league baseball teams celebrated their opening games of the season. And the Final Four came down to the final two in college hoops. Millions witnessed that major contest both live and on TV.

As popular as those major events were, they paled in comparison to last Sunday's uncontested pay-perview sports entertainment, Wrestlemania XXV. The annual event commanded $54 per TV viewing. Unofficially billed as the Redneck Super Bowl, the bulked up wrestlers gave the Super Bowl itself some serious competition.

Wrestlemania is now viewed in 24 countries as a paid television event. This year Wrestlemania broke the record for the highestgrossing pay-per-view in WWE history, grossing U.S. $6.9 million in ticket sales, which included fans from all 50 U.S. states, 24 countries, and seven Canadian provinces.

According to statistics provided by WWE Vice President, Michelle Wilson, the program was viewed in 127,777 homes. The point is, "Give people what they want and they will come out for it." Obviously a whole bunch o' people want to watch championship wrestling, and the fans all know the matches are choreographed, scripted, and fixed. They don't care if there's a legitimate winner. That's not why they go.

They want to see huge, bulkedup, egomaniacal, narcissistic men in tights beat their chests, trash-talk, and out macho each other while their bimbo girlfriends encourage them. The girlfriends are everything that every American parent fears their daughters will emulate. I'm sure it costs big bucks to look that cheap, but they do it with style. The women's unrealistic bodies are everything that men love and the fashion model police are against.

"The models are setting an unrealistic image for young girls. Everybody can't look like that," the fashion police say. Now we come to the root of the issue. Everybody is not created equal. We were born with equal rights. The standard for who is attractive and who is not is unfair. Yes, it is unfair to the girls whose mother's cry foul, because their daughters can't compete, but I don't hear the girls who have worked hard to achieve and maintain attractive bodies complaining.

One would think that the world of wrestling fan base would be 99-percent young men. Nothing could be farther from the truth. A huge percentage of the audience is young women. They like to watch those big, handsome macho-men, just like the boys like to watch the sleazy women. It's what they want.

I believe that brings us to the crux of the matter. The majority of the Wrestlemania fan base is young adults and teens. Aren't those people the products of the "Self esteem" police that invented the "Let's not keep score because everybody is a winner," concept? The "Everybody gets to play an equal amount of time because nobody is better than anyone else," group doesn't seem to be having much influence on the people who come from that generation.

I don't see the fashion model police saying, "Those big wrestlers are poor role models for young boys because most boys don't have bodies like that."

Let's not kid ourselves. Young people know that it takes hard work to build a WWE wrestler's body. They also know the wrestlers are actors whose bad attitudes have no place in everyday society. Young people are not stupid.

The wrestlers and their girlfriends aren't rocket scientists, they are actors who play the parts of living comic book characters. It's a fantasy. It's harmless fun. It is instinctive for young boys to identify with the big strong men, and for the girls to identify with the women who attract them.

It is instinctive for human beings to compete. We like to compete. There are many ways to compete. We don't all have to be world-class athletes to be winners. Kids know that. Are you going to tell a WWE wrestler he's a loser because he doesn't have the brains to be a rocket scientist? Of course not. And nobody is going to call a rocket scientist a loser because he isn't a WWE wrestler.

We all have to find our path in life, and competition is healthy. If you want your kids to have good self-esteem, then tell them to accomplish something. They will feel very good about themselves when they do that.

I will never understand anyone who discourages competition when that is what raises the standard, elevates the consciousness, and makes us ever aware that we can always improve. Even when we live in a system we can't understand.

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