Sunday, February 19, 2006

Sports Entertainment Heritage

Back in the summer of 1997 I spend many hours sitting up at night holding a bottle for a Similac-chugging baby boy. To keep from getting bored, I turned on the television and watched whatever was on at 1 AM. The baby was too little to be interested in anything on television...most of the time. On Monday nights (Tuesday morning actually) TNT would show a replay of what was then one of the hottest shows on cable, WCW Monday Nitro. If I had missed anything during the first showing, I could get caught up by watching again during feeding time.

Something amazing happened. The baby only drank his formula during the commercials. When there was wrestling on the screen, he would turn his head to watch. Did he actually like wrestling? It certainly looked like it. I mentioned it to one of my co-workers at the time and he said that I had a second-generation wrestling fan on my hands. Not really, dude. More like a third generation wrestling fan. (At least. I don't know whether earlier generations of my family took an interest in the pro wrestling that existed back in the early part of the twentieth century.) Within a couple of years, even though he and his sister didn't get to see that much wrestling on TV, they had become aware of what was hot in wrestling, even if they did get things a bit messed up. They identified a display of WCW merchandise as "Stone Cold toys", even though Stone Cold Steve Austin was with the rival WWF organization. Another time, when Mick "Mankind" Foley was on TV, the kids demanded to know: "Is that Stone Cold?"

It was just as well that they got it wrong. Brand identification was aimed at an older demographic by that point in time. In fact, I was watching less and less of it because I was seriously getting embarrassed by what was on my TV screen when my wife and/or children were in the room. By late 2002 I had pretty much stopped following it altogether, and some of the storylines that I heard about second or third hand made me glad that I was missing it.

Flash-forward to this past Friday night. I had control of the TV remote (for once) and what should be on but WWE Smackdown. I decided to give it a chance; Smackdown runs on a more accessible network (UPN) and tends not to have the "adult" storylines that are a hallmark of USA network's Monday Night Raw.

Two observations:

  1. That Boogeyman is the weirdest dude I have ever seen in all the years that I have watched wrestling, and believe me, there have been a lot of seriously messed up guys in the business;
  2. That eight-and-one-half years hasn't changed my older son one bit.
About 1/2 hour into the show, the boy came over and asked me to let him sit on my lap. Since my chair was in the corner of the living room at an angle to the TV set, the boy just laid sideways across my knees so that he had a head-on view of the screen. The way that he was sitting astounded me. It was almost the same way that he would lie in my arms when he was a baby. And he was glued to the action on screen, just like in 1997. He was seriously into it. This boy is normally one of the sweetest, gentlest, most sensitive children you will ever meet. Watching wrestling not only transfixed him, it also transformed him.

He could not contain himself. He continually implored the good guys (whom he somehow managed to discern from their opponents with being told who was who) to hurt, injure, and even kill their opponents. Where does he get this? Does this demonstrate an empirical tendency towards violence in human beings? Or was the wrestling show just an outlet for pent-up aggression? He was his normal docile self yesterday. I may try this with him again next week to see if he acts the same way.

I haven't acted that way in over 20 years, ever since I figured out that the wrestlers weren't really fighting. Let the boy keep cheering and jeering. It's almost refreshing to see someone taking the entertainment seriously again.


jipzeecab said...

I'm surpised he didn't ask you why Mark Madden wasn't doing commentary any more..
Psychologists have been pontificating for at least the last 40 years that most of a child's outlook (about 85 percent)on the world is formulated by his experiences in the first 18 months of life.
I believe it was the philosopher John Mill who insisted on reading Shakespeare aloud while his equally famous son was still in the womb..
Zell Miller tried to get all Georgian mothers to play classical music to their infants to stimulate and "hardwire their brains" for complex things.
It's an ongoing process..

jipzeecab said...

That would be "James" Mill father of John Stuart Mill..(further evidence I should look stuff up before I write off the cuff).