Friday, July 13, 2007
WILL CONGRESS INVESTIGATE PRO WRESTLING?
Before jumping into my second column for The Fight Network, I’d like to extend a large thank you to the folks that responded to my debut effort.
As you might expect, putting together an article about Chris Benoit a few days after the tragic event had occurred was difficult and not at all where I was planning to start. Your positive feedback and comments regarding the piece were very much appreciated, and I encourage you to drop a line anytime the mood strikes. You’ll find my e-mail address at the conclusion of this column.
As I write this, it appears that the U.S. Congress may consider holding hearings as a direct result of the Benoit tragedy. Good on the U.S. Congress and all that. But I'm also old and cynical. Putting aside any praise for turning Congressional attention to an industry that has long needed investigating and regulating, it’s difficult to expect much to come of it. Sure, there'll be a few headlines here and there when somebody says something particularly "news-sexy" and provocative. Great! And then what?
Will Congress actually have the desire and, just as importantly, the testicles to look beyond the surface? Will the legislative branch find the courage to peel back the layers and dig to get at the deeply-established and far-ranging roots that comprise the very structure of the industry? How well will it be able to avoid indulging in self-serving political opportunism by limiting its focus to buzz words like “steroids”? Will Congress have the jam to inspect the entire culture of pro wrestling and sports in general? And finally, will it have the wherewithal to call upon knowledgeable people that are not beholden to the one man who has a stranglehold on the entire industry?
Like I said, I'm old and cynical. I also know better than to pre-judge something that hasn't yet occurred. Perhaps what you are reading right now will prove to be 100 percent wrong and some long-term good will result from the hearings, assuming they even take place. But until that comes to pass, color me skeptical.
Based on the storm clouds gathering on the horizon, there’s a very real potential for a "steroid witch hunt" that may ensnare a few middle-to-lower level employees and possibly a couple of names that are either on the downside of their careers or pretty much out of the business altogether. Meanwhile, the REAL problems could once again be swept under the carpet and life as it currently stands will carry on. Well, at least until the next tragedy takes place, when the outcry is ratcheted up once again and the whole dog-and-pony show is trotted out for an encore.
It’s hard not to recall how Major League Baseball was placed on the so-called "Congressional hot seat" back in early ’05. It was good theater, watching Rafael Palmiero wave a reproving finger at Congress while vociferously denying any manner of drug usage, only to expose himself five months later as a hypocrite and a liar. Same deal with Mark McGwire, who flat-out refused to cooperate with investigators when it came to discussing his possible indulgence in enhancement drugs. The members of Congress were so busy falling over themselves in fan-boy fashion that they happily accepted his and other player’s non-explanations without pressing further. And what was the upshot of the whole thing? What meaningful changes have since been enacted? Exactly.
The thing is, in wrestling, as in all forms of athletics, steroid abuse is a very real problem. But it’s only one part of the big picture. The question of how to fix a corrupt system is something that supersedes any one facet, be it in a worked or shoot sport. And if Congress, with all of the resources it has at hand, focuses on the drug aspect alone, then it'll have missed the point entirely.
We also can’t ignore the fact that steroid abuse is a high profile issue in the public consciousness, and 2008 is an election year in the U.S. Hmmmm ... what’s the sum total of 2 + 2?
To reiterate ... forget about any long-term affirmative consequences if the subject of steroid offenses becomes the primary fixation. Should Congress launch an investigation into professional wrestling with the goal being to catch and punish those that indulge in or supply drugs, and then refuses to take the probe any further, only one piece of the problem will have been exposed. The opportunity for real revisions and restructuring, to incorporate changes that would have a positive, profound and permanent impact will have been bypassed. Sadly and predictably, it'll all just fade away once the TV people find the next hot topic and rush away to position their cameras elsewhere.
Did I mention I'm old and cynical?
Whether you agree or disagree with what you’ve just read, don’t hesitate to voice your thoughts directly to me. I’m always interested in exchanging views with sports fans whenever they care to express themselves. I look forward to our next visit right back here at The Fight Network.
Richard Berger is a freelance writer and editor with an extensive background in professional wrestling. His career includes media production for Stampede Wrestling, ring announcing, regular columns for WOW Magazine and IGN.com, and special feature work for other publications. Between June, 2007 and June, 2008, he wrote a weekly column for The Fight Network and Live Audio Wrestling. To discuss Richard’s articles or just about anything else, contact him at: WriterGuy1A@hotmail.com.
The small sampling of his work found here was originally published at The Fight Network and Live Audio Wrestling. The majority will appear in a soon-to-be-released book along with new material. Stay tuned for information as it becomes available!