Tuesday, February 12, 2013
What the Hell is Going On here?
The news sent shock-waves through the college wrestling world as well. Although the ultimate accomplishment for a college wrestler in the US is to attain an NCAA Wrestling Championship, most elite wrestlers then go on to attempt to make Team USA and go to the Olympics. With the end of these wrestlers' hopes of winning an Olympic gold medal, college wrestling is facing the possibility that kids who have spent their whole lives working for a chance to go to the Olympics will now never even have a chance to try.
Worse yet, many colleges in the US that have wrestling teams also have Olympic training centers. These wrestling clubs receive money from the US Olympic Committee and provide off-season employment for many former college wrestling stars, as well as a place for rising stars to get experience in freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling. These centers will close, and it's possible that colleges may drop wrestling from their list of sports because there will no longer be a chance of providing a future Olympic star.
There is a move afoot to petition the White House to help bring back wrestling (see WhiteHouse.org) but unfortunately, President Obama has little influence on what the IOC does. The vote to drop wrestling was done behind closed doors, and was a secret vote among IOC members. This isn't something that Obama can do much about.
Sometimes I think that part of the problem is the way wrestling is depicted on TV. For me, living in the south, I only get to watch wrestling on TV through the Big Ten Network, which I get as part of a sports package through my local cable company. The dual matches they show often look like some lost telecast from the 1950's, with the almost empty gyms, the often goofy announcers, and the dour proceedings.
Maybe what wrestling needs is a twenty-first century face lift? Maybe it needs to shed it's rather archaic image and embrace a more, TMZ version of itself. Here are some suggestions:
1. Loose the singlet. I love singlets, but most casual sports fans don't. Almost every time I mention wrestling to my non-wrestler friends, they comment on the gay-ness of the sport (hard for me to argue, really). Maybe it's time wrestlers wore baggy fight shorts and compression t's? Or wrestled bare-chested?
2. Loose the headgear. Headgear makes it difficult to tell one wrestler from another. I swear there are like three guys on Penn State's wrestling squad that all look like David Taylor. Drop the headgear and let us see the wrestlers!
3. Get the NCAA to cut a deal with Spike TV. Drop the BTN and let Joe Rogan call the plays.
4. Bring in submission and jiu-jitsu. Kids like UFC, so make wrestling teams into farm teams for the UFC. Striking is out and cages are not a good idea (would you let your high school kid fight in a cage?). But controlled submission matches and grappling would liven things up. It also would give kids something to strive for: a UFC career.
5. Build up the personalities of the wrestlers. Most BTN broadcasts of dual meets feature a few seconds of some breathless interview with David Taylor or Matt McDonough. The wrestlers always say the same things (uh...yeah...we just need to dig a little deeper). The questions are always the same (What were you thinking when you took your opponent down). Teach the kids how to answer questions and let viewers know who these kids are. Feature short summations of their careers. Show us why a match between wrestler A and wrestler B is important, and exciting!
Okay. I'm done.
I think I'm going to get in a match either this week or this weekend, and then next week the Grizz comes to town from St. Louis. He's always fun to wrestle. Can't wait.
We will return to Middleboro in a day or two.