Monday, February 18, 2013

The People Who Don't Wrestle

In the flutter of infotainment that flows by in an endless wash, one bit of data from last week stuck with me.  The decision of the IOC to drop wrestling from the lineup of Olympic sports seemed fraught with something, like one of those marker signals, a little flag,  a sad little yellow canary-carcass smudge at the bottom of a cage.

I never wrestled myself, although as sophomore in high school, I was asked if I wanted to.  I was small and naturally rail thin, in roughly the same weight class as Gollum.  I was good at it, but the rigors of practice would have gotten in the way of Lit Mag, school paper work, and pining after girls.    So I didn't.

Wrestling is an ancient sport, a primal sport, as old as recorded culture itself.   It was part of classical games in antiquity, meaning it's got cred and a deep history.  When modernity decided it might be a good thing to do a reboot of the Olympics, the inclusion of wrestling was a no-brainer.

But that was then.

Now, the Olympics are big business.   What matters is eyeballs and selling ad time, and wrestling?

Well, we're not talking the WWE here.

Real wrestling is physically demanding, intense, and focused.  But what it is not is flashy.  It's too tight, too tactical, too intimate.  Now, it must compete for permission to return to the Olympics.  But it's not big and OOOOH and powerboat leapy like wakeboarding.  It's inadequately telegenic, unlike the not-ancient Central-Committee-created-and-approved combat-useless weapon-dancing of wushu.

The Muckity Mucks Who Decide know this.  That is why they are not interested in wrestling.  It means nothing in their world.   If you're going to add value, and to maximize return, you want shine and sparkle so that you can entertain, and wrestling does not have this.  It is not marketable to the vast multinationals who are paying top yuan to put their product in front of the masses.

Physicality, intimacy, intensity, and a deep raw connection with the Other are not part of our market-driven lives.  The world as it is is not as it was.

But wrestling is what is always was.  It is dust and dirt, flesh on flesh, just as it was when Jacob wrestled in the darkness by the babbling Jabbok.  It is from wrestling that God's covenant people got their name, after all.  Yisrael.  The people who wrestle with God.

It's a pity we are in the process of forgetting this.  Wakeboard-A-El just doesn't have the same ring to it.