I believe most of you are becoming more and more aware of how precarious the sport of wrestling is, relative to becoming main stream.
It’s not that we’re not one of the most dynamic sports on the planet or that we somehow fail at building character, discipline and exceptional young men. Those pluses are a given.
But where we fail, in spades, is our inability to get that information out to rest of the country while finding a way to make the sport exciting.
You do know, that you can try and sell a brand new 2019 Mercedes S Class for $2,000.00 and have zero takers if it’s under a large tarp and no one’s aware you have it for sale. It’s not that it’s a bad car, or wouldn’t have people beating down your doors to buy it. It’s that it’s out of sight and no one is aware it’s available.
Welcome to the exact issue wrestling faces.
We have the best sport going, it’s everything you and I know it to be. However, no one knows about it, and that’s the sports fault. Actually, it’s all of our faults because we’ve failed at getting the word out. And if we fix that challenge, we fail again because we don’t have a Mercedes for sale, it’s more of a Studebaker. Basically, it’s not a product that others are interested in buying.
We can put wrestling on television, but that doesn’t help if the only ones who are interested in watching it come from our very limited fan base. I say limited because we have maybe 800,000 fans, and that sounds like a lot. But in a country of 350,000,000, that’s two-tenths of one percent, a cringe worthy number if you ask me.
Let’s think about this for a second. Who makes up the 800,000 fans? I don’t know the exact answer, but if I were to guess, I’d say a vast majority of them either wrestled at one time, or were cajoled somehow to fall in love with wrestling because they were a fraternity brother of someone who wrestled, or a boyfriend, girlfriend, or relative of someone who did.
But for the other 349,200,00 people, 10% of whom we need to become a viable sport, they don’t care what, how or why we do it, or the amazing developmental qualities the sport provides America’s youth. If we aren’t entertaining, and we’re not, no one who could be new to the sport is going to be new.
Again, that’s OUR collective faults.
The sport is boring, period. Don’t argue. The sport is boring with a capital B to all those you can’t ask because they never came to a match to ask.
And the rules are confusing.
Just think what would happen if Jeopardy asked questions that no one at home could answer? They’d be off the air so fast it would make Alex’s head spin. You can’t develop a fan base when you consistently make those at home, or in the stands, feel stupid.
Have you ever sat next to someone who was new to the sport? You spend more time explaining what just happened or answering “what was that call for” than you spend watching the matches.
Simplify things. Like 1 point for a 1 count if someone is on their back, 2 points for a 2nd count, 3 points for a 3rd count etc. Now granted the Rules Committee did get close to that change recently but only after I put a hole in my drum from beating it so hard over the last several years.
It’s things like that which make people scratch their heads. KISS . . . Keep It Simple Stupid. And really, who cares if back points are like that? As long as everyone knows what the rules are before the first whistle, both the athletes and coaches will adjust.
As to a lack of action, in the UFC, you see someone throwing a punch every 2.5 seconds. In wrestling, someone taking a shot every 2.5 minutes. See a difference here? Now, I know those numbers are off some, but they’re closer to being non-fiction than fiction.
We need action, NOT scoring, but action. Don’t get the two words confused. They’re vastly different.
If you try to improve scoring, you’re going to fall on your face. But if you find ways to increase action, then scoring will become a byproduct.
Baseball has relatively little scoring, as does soccer and ice hockey, but there is a lot of action in all three sports and why they’re televised, as well as in every newspaper in the country; and doing well financially. People are addicted to action. NASCAR is another example of a sport where action is king. Golf has action too, yes, golf! That’s because the producers know if you follow someone throughout a full round of golf, most everybody would have their chins on their chests snoring away after 15 minutes. So instead, they have multiple cameras covering the long drives, exciting chip shots and breath-taking putts from each of say 35 different golfers – in real time.
The Penn State – Ohio State dual the other night was great; #1 vs. #2, but only if you knew the sport. The first match at 133 had 0 takedowns with just as many shots, 0 reversals, 0 back points and two “let him go” escapes in regulation. So, approximately 10 minutes of running time with little to no action.
So, if we’re to fix our ills, out of the two dozen or so changes I’ve been espousing for decades it seems, here are what I consider to be the best of the best, and not in order of priority.
- The team who forfeits a weight class also forfeits any say in the order of bouts for the evening AND the choice of position at the beginning of the second AND third periods. That will get the coaches attention. Forfeits are even worse for the sport than that and should be penalized as such.
- Simplify scoring for our spectators. Make it easy for everyone to remember while placing a stronger emphasis on takedowns. Bout scoring; 4-3-2-1. 4-point nearfalls (1 point for every hand count of the referee up to 4 points) which was somewhat adopted recently. 3-point takedowns, 2-point reversals and 1-point escapes. Do you see a pattern here? Penalties are the reverse. 1-2-3-4. 1 point for the first offense and I don’t know why you have to warn someone for something he already knows he’s doing? 2 points for the second offense, 3 for the third etc. I don’t know what would happen if an athlete gets hit with a 5th penalty? Maybe we should force him or her to go out for another sport; no one can be that daft. But the point (pun intended) is to KISS, 1-2-3-4 or 4-3-2-1, something even 3rd graders can understand.
- An athlete can’t be saved by the buzzer if he’s on his back. The match continues until a pin occurs OR the athletes leave the wrestling area OR the official determines a pin isn’t going to happen.
There are 7 more “must do’s” coming in the next two blogs. These are, in my opinion, keys to transitioning the sport from ho-hum status to financially stable.
What people are saying about my newest book of fiction; Jacob’s Cradle. Just out and available at Amazon or your local Barnes and Noble book store.
“At 97 years of age, I’ve had a chance to read a lot of books. And Jacob’s
Cradle is now one of my top three favorites. I couldn’t put it down.”
Ray Syputa, Vice President, Chevron
“In Jacob’s Cradle, Mr. Schalles takes the reader through as many twists
and turns as he did his opponents when he wrestled. I truly enjoyed
the read and marveled at how Wade interlaced the intricacies of
wrestling with the scrambling storylines of criminals and protagonists.”
Lee Roy Smith, Executive Director, National Wrestling Hall of Fame