Regarding broadcasts, the general consensus within the wrestling community, and among its leadership is; isn’t it great that ESPN, the worldwide leader in sports programming, thinks enough of us to televise our NCAA Championships?
But is that really a good thing?
Not if you’re capable of thinking outside the box, or seeing outside the box as I tend to do.
Sure, having the NCAA’s nationally televised is extremely exciting for the fans we do have but if you think it’s going to expand our minimal support base; it’s not, it hasn’t, and it won’t. Actually, any broadcast of wrestling is one of the main reasons why our fan numbers have been flat lining for decades, while the population of the U.S. has tripled during that same period.
Simply stated, television doesn’t help wrestling, it hurts our sport; and here’s why.
What we do isn’t a product that people who are unfamiliar with our sport want to watch, and by placing it in an average of 850,000 households for three days every March, that only guarantees we’re not going to attract new fans.
At least if they were in the arena they could ask questions of our fans about what’s going on. But seeing the matches without having anyone to explain what in the world is going on only guarantees one thing; that we just lost another 850,000 potential fans.
As you know, you only get one shot at making a first impression, and we only get one shot at turning someone into a fan.
Instead we confuse those who might see the broadcast because 1) our rules are not intuitive and 2) they’re too frequently applied. Simply stated, the matches aren’t fun to watch and like going to the movies, how would you feel if the projectionist kept stopping the show every two minutes so he could reset the projector? Have you ever counted the number of times a referee blows his whistle during a match? That’s the rules committee’s doing . . .
Another question; how many of you would watch Jeopardy if the questions were so hard to answer that you had no chance of getting even one right? It’s never a good idea to make anyone, especially a potential fan, feel stupid.
That’s exactly what we’ve been doing for decades, especially those who have just tuned in to give wrestling a try? Our sport is way too complex for a first year wrestler to understand let alone someone who’s watching the sport for the first time; and that’s our rules committee’s fault.
And what action we do have is so anemic that we can’t excite anyone even if they decide to overlook the intellectual rebuke, and that’s our rules committee’s fault.
In football, all you have to know is it’s important to get the ball into the end zone while the other team is trying to stop you. Ditto for basketball; putting the ball in the little round hoop while the other team is trying to keep that from happening. The UFC is rather basic too; the object is to kick the hell out of your opponent, with very few rules or interference from the referee. But not wrestling, heavens no. At least in the UFC you get to see someone throwing a punch every 2.1 seconds. But in wrestling, someone is trying to get a takedown every 2.1 minutes. Why is that anyway? Because there’s no incentive to score often, actually, it’s just the opposite.
Again, that’s the rules committee’s doing. They’re so busy trying to make the sport caring, cerebral and safe that they’ve forgotten what we do is nothing more than hand to hand combat that has points attached.
And I really don’t get it! Why don’t the coaches, why doesn’t our sport administrators, and why doesn’t the fans see what’s happening in our sport? We’ve slowly morphed over the years, sort of like death by a thousand cuts, from being a three position sport; standing, top, and bottom, to just one; standing, or should I say, standing around?
And if USAWrestling had their way, we’d be adding a push out rule to our collegiate programming. How dandy would that be? Can anyone say Sumo.
Speaking of USAWrestling, in my next blog, I’m going to share some thoughts on how Colorado Springs is slowly undermining folkstyle programming to their benefit.
Recently I’ve even heard it said that Webster is telling us that the word ‘pin’ is the least searched word in the dictionary. What does that tell you? Maybe it has to do with that aspect of wrestling making the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service’s endangered species list.
Is television good, of course it is. But not for any sport, or any show that either confuses its viewers, or bores them to tears. But wrestling is special in that way, we do both.
Please don’t tell me that I’m off base because you can name a dozen great match-ups that excited you at last year’s NCAA Championships. I’ll even give you that there might have been 25 great match-ups. But when you divide those 25 matches by the 310 bouts that actually took place, you have an excitement rating of 8%. Heck, if a student doesn’t even know what he’s doing, he can get at least 50% right on a true and false test.
So we either have to decide to thank ESPN for their kindness and continue to stumble, or tell them no thanks until we get it right. Either way, we need to get off our duffs and start working toward making wrestling considerably more fan friendly; and as a result, watchable. Remember, it’s the fans money that makes us solvent, which we aren’t.
A point scored is a point earned anyone?