Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A Wrestler's Tears

A burly, sweaty guy is forcefully holding me down, his hot bull-breath, heating me up so close and fast that my neck gets wet. I squirm through his legs to try to take him over and get him on his back, we can finish with me on top. I work to be the top and finally win.

Sounds like a raunchy scene from a porn movie, don't it? Well, it ain't. Why does such a straight sport have to look so gay? It's exactly what I observed at the local wrestling match for my older brother's first born, somewhere in the boonies of Atlanta's wilderness. A subculture of Americana playing out in front of my Miami-safe, gay-bubbled eyes.

My older brother, stocked full of pride that I would finally be able to witness his son's Gladiator-ness action. He hauls my ass out of bed at 6 AM so that we can make it in time for the "weigh-in", where teams of really young and tiny boys get weighed in like piglets going to farm on their way to be fattened up for an eventual slaughter. Only difference is these little piggies are their family's pride and joy destined to fulfill their dad's uncompleted life dreams. These little boys, burdened with the pressure to eliminate any signs of weakness before they even hit puberty. Some get thrown into this Herculean arena of adult expectations as early as 4 years old (mat rats). They seem to be willing enough to satisfy their parent's demands until they get into the ring. As each match begins, you hear the father's and coach's cattle calls into the ring.

Losing is not an option!
Man up!
Get strong!
Dont make excuses -make adjustments!
Suck it up!

All this is heaved upon these willing, young and feisty pups before they are even mature enough to know how to deal with the emotions of it. It's a surprising reaction to see them burst into tears at the end of each match; faces red and eyes swollen.

Not just a tear but a rush-gushing of tears. Sometimes the tears come even after a win. It's the adrenaline high pressure to comply, muscle overexertion and overwhelming mental processing of their own strategy to win that breaks even the toughest of wrestlers to a whimpering-wet Sponge Bob.

To see these young Spartans walk by with their blank faces and eyes red from tears is a moment of poetic, human theater- a front row seat to a loss of innocence live and in HD. You want to reach out to them and tell them it's alright and that they did okay but at the same time you feel like you will rob them of the maturation process unfolding before you. They will with each game gain emotional intelligence, stamina and learn how to stand their ground in life. Most importantly, they learn that even when your opponents pin you down and you are about to lose, that with srength and a little bit of cunning, you can "pull a reversal" and turn a failure into a victory.

It all sounds so healthy and normal but I can't keep from thinking what this whole scene means to a child that happens to be born gay? What a sad prison of disappointment that would be for him. It'd be enough to run away and live a life on a river somewhere a' la Huckleberry Finn. The whole wrestling thing seems to be an unspoken insurance policy that their sons won't grow up to be "swishy in the hips". Unfortunately, there aren't any Glee clubs in this part of America.

Wouldn't it be progress if our world wasn't so harsh that we had to teach our kids to be so tough? Wouldn't it be evolution that our civilization could reach such heights of civility that skills of battle would be trumped by those of selflessness and consideration for their fellow man to live in a sustainable peace? Like the great Minoans who would compete over which man could jump gracefully over a horned bull without being mauled by it's horns. Displaying human strength, agility and grace in one Olympian flip in the air over the back of a bull.

When will we get to this point in our humanity? When will our values of defense budgets over educational budgets and corporate profits over civilian quality of life no longer be so fiercely important? When will greed and hoarding of wealth no longer be more important than the simple civility of spending time with your loved ones without all the complicated and expensive toys? Hopefully, it won't take a near-death of our civilization for us to wake up and evolve a little more towards bull jumping and less harvesting of innocent, wrestler's tears.