There is little question that wrestlers are America’s cream of the crop when it comes to being the toughest and best conditioned athletes. This image we’ve earned is really something to be proud of – but, with this comes, responsibilities.
The first is to be aware that society tends to believe that anyone who falls into those two categories can only speak in single syllables while scratching unmentionable parts. So, it becomes terribly important for our sport to be disciplined when selecting the words we use and the way we present ourselves because big brother is always watching as is all the little brothers who look up to us.
This line of thinking brings with it the thought . . . why don’t coaches’, assuming they don’t already, tutor their athletes on how to handle interviews with the media? Nothing says more (or less) about a sport, the person or the institution they represent than the way one handles him/herself in front of a camera. What is being said and how the message is delivered speaks so loudly that it becomes a seminal moment that either elevates the sport or keeps us scratching.
It’s all about perception – and doing a lot of small things right. This changes the narrative in our favor when everything is added together.
For example, can anyone explain why the sport finds it acceptable for any coach, trainer or member of any institution to sit in an athlete’s corner during competition without wearing a coat and tie? Yes, we’ve gotten better over the years but we still have too many instances where it appears we simply don’t understand the level of admiration that wearing a coat and tie brings to any profession; and coaching is a profession, or could it be that we don’t respect wrestling enough to change?
I just don’t get it. How tough it is to own a tie and then decide between a Windsor or Half Windsor? If it’s the cost, Good Will has them for a dollar, slightly less if you don’t mind food stains.
I just find this to be somewhat sad and without question confusing. Why doesn’t everyone realize that those who wear a coat and tie receive the benefit of any doubt when their actions fall into gray areas? And given how feisty and opinionated those who sit matside can be, not looking professional only hurts their chances at helping their athletes. Not to mention the sport.
So I have to think that if the coaches won’t demand it of themselves and those who represent their institutions, then the rules committee needs to step in and attach a penalty to each level of attire.
Wouldn’t that be a sad state to have to do that but maybe its day has come.
If you wear jeans, it’s a 10 point team deduction. A polo shirt costs the coach 7 points. And then there’s the ugly tie rule, anyone having a modest sense of fashion has to forfeit 2 weight classes. Now I’m obviously kidding but this is so important for the sport. If we can’t see the need to appear professional then we deserve the way we’re being treated and whatever happens to the sport.
We should be proud that we coach the toughest athletes in the hardest sport; but if we don’t combine that with professional attitudes and appearances, we’re surrendering our destiny to others.
March Madness is Madness
Please someone, anyone, tell me why we’re still wrestling our NCAA tournament in the middle of March? I’ve never heard one good reason from anyone other than, “we’ve always done it that way.”
And that ladies and gentlemen is the nitty-gritty of our struggles. It’s exactly how the sport responds to any suggestion that is made for change.
To the question of March Madness, why are we still fighting Men’s and Women’s basketball for media coverage and losing our pants, it’s beyond logic? Name an NCAA sport that holds its championships in April? The media is starved for events to cover then, why not give them wrestling? Why are we still pulling our athletes away from their families during both major holiday dinners (Thanksgiving and Christmas) so they can make weight? Why are we still thinking its smart (and safe) to drive our athletes to matches in the snow when we could trade the last half of November and first half of December for April? Why haven’t we looked at the benefits of having access to more football players who might consider wrestling if we started the sport a month later? Why haven’t we thought about the benefits of increasing our end of the year attendance numbers given that the scholastic season would have ended at a minimum of a month earlier? Why haven’t we thought about why our academic averages are in the toilet, especially for freshman? Might it have anything to do with the first competitions of the season and the first time down to weight takes place during final exams?
Why do we continue to be stupid or stubborn? Anyone, someone, why are we continuing the Madness in March; the logic escapes me.
Our Bubble Is Opaque
I was watching the Big 10’s last week with my wife. During a commercial break one of our wrestling suppliers had produced a video that showed Jordan Burroughs doing dips with a massive length of ship-sized chain around his neck.
I didn’t think anything of it, but I started to when my wife said, “wrestling never learns.”
I said, “what?”
Deb replied, “Wrestling’s always living in a bubble, and they’ve been doing it for so long that it’s become opaque.”
Then I got her point. In today’s world of PC, millennials and sensitivity training, the idea of having a man of color being shown with chains around his neck . . . well, that’s probably not the visual wrestling wants to portray.
As members of the wrestler community we’d never see anything more than a tremendous athlete in training. Strong, proud and determined through his work ethic to remain one of the world’s best.
But there are a great many more in society that see something entirely different. We could argue even if we granted those individuals some latitude; is this really worth anyone getting their tail feathers ruffled over?
I’m afraid the answer is a resounding yes.
We shoot ourselves in the foot enough as it is, why are we giving all the other sports who, like us, are trying to climb the ladder of relevancy, a saw?
So the logic follows, if we want to be accepted by the press and society, outside of the very, very small .0023 percent of the American population that understands our sport, can we afford to be, or appear, to be insensitive?
When I was the administrator in charge of AAU Wrestling, our President, who understood the American public, always made me pass around, before going to press, anything I was producing for mass distribution.
He beat into me, “Get as many eyeballs on it as you can before it leaves our building! Ask them to tell you what they think the message is you’re trying to convey? Then check to see if the photographs you’re using are representative of our diverse membership and society in general? Think as others think, not as you think.”
The image they had of Jordan training might not be a big deal to us, but I can assure you it is to others. So the question becomes are we happy with the way things are or would we like them to be different? If it‘s the latter, then it has to happen first from within.
In conclusion, I feel badly that I didn’t initially notice anything being inappropriate regarding Jordan’s workout attire. And as much as I disliked the conversation, the point my wife was making was a valid one; wrestling must understand there’s a very large world outside of our bubble that we overlook way too often.