WrestleMania came through town and was, by all accounts not told by fans, stooges, 12-year-old boys or employees of World Wrestling Entertainment, a spectacular success.
And how do we know this? The traffic leaving Levi’s Stadium was horrific.
That’s the new local benchmark for popularity, you see – how long it took you to get to the freeway.
But on a national level, pro wrestling has hit a new high note – not Andre The Giant and Hulk Hogan at the Silverdome high, but higher than nearly anything since. Why, if it were any bigger, it would be as important as the idiots’ argument about how to fix the extra point in the NFL.
And yes, if the extra point bothers you, you truly are a monumental idiot. The national bladder is synchronized to a three-minute bathroom break after every touchdown and has been for years, and making six more collision-based plays per game will not only create more opportunities for CTE among players, it will do so in homes across America as waiting times grow and time in the room is diminished. And if you don’t think there will be fistfights over bathroom issues this fall, you are as big an idiot as the people who worry about PATs.
And if you are in both camps, you are two idiots, and that’s no way to live.
Anyway, WrestleMania came and went, and before you knew it, the networks not run by Vince McMahon were throwing themselves over the remains, most notably the new heavyweight champion, someone named Seth Rollins (I’m not going to fool anyone, I don’t follow wrestling). And among media folks who do follow the entertainment, the discussions about scripting, staging and long-term storylines have long since eclipsed the actual felonious deeds.
We are, it seems, once again, covering the processing of sports rather than actual sports.
This is not a new phenomenon. Every story that talks about what ratings such-and-such event got is covering process. Every Twitter fight about what athlete wouldn’t talk to what media member at what event is covering process. Why, it is bleeding into the NBA Playoffs, which haven’t even begun yet, as in Best Case Scenario for ABC (Warriors-Cavaliers) and Worst Case Scenario (Grizzlies-Hawks).
In fact, every time you say, “The sport is better when the Yankees/Dodgers/Cubs/Red Sox/Patriots/Cowboys/Giants/Maple Leafs/Rangers/Lakers/Celtics/Bulls/God Help Us All Knicks are good,” you are not covering the sport. You are covering process. Hell, you’re all but saying, “Sports would be better if the events were fixed.”
And WWE is nothing but process. Unashamedly, unabashedly, proudly about process. Will Seth Rollins play better as the champ than Brock Lesnar or Roman Reigns? When will Daniel Bryan get his time in the big spot? Is Paul Heyman a better on-air salesman than Bobby Heenan was? And who is writing Randy Orton’s material?
And this is not meant in judgment, either. WWE stands further from the hypocritical center of modern sportertainment than most other pastimes because it is letting you see the sausage being made (while coming short of showing how the livestock is killed to get the meat). People eat this stuff up because it is a peek inside the outermost curtain, in the same way that people love to bloviate about the extra point as though it is closer to the national heart than player safety, discipline or the amount of our national treasure we would rather throw at a new stadium than upgrading a school or hospital.
Those are hard subjects, so we avoid them. Talking about whether Roger Goodell is evil or tool-like is fun. And how college basketball can save a crap year if only it will give the nation Kentucky-Duke the way God and CBS intended, that’s fun too.
Why, I can guarantee you Jed York had more fun at the outdoor hockey game or WrestleMania than he did watching the football team he actually owns. Part of that is the fact that being the landlord beats being one of the participants.
But part of it is that being a participant where the result is unknown kind of sucks, because the unknown sometimes ends up being unpleasant. Sometimes your favorite team doesn’t win, and sometimes your favorite player stinks the joint out. And this isn’t just the being-a-fan experience talking. Arizona coach Sean Miller had to tweet out to critics of his team’s loss to Wisconsin Saturday by saying, “Finally to the people that try to make us feel like our season was a failure. Go cheer for ASU!”
Arizona lost four games this year. Their fourth kept them out of the Final Four. Therefore, Arizona sucks, and I need to say something about it. Yay process!
But it’s all bigger than that. We are suddenly a nation that abhors surprises when they actually occur, and need time to process them based on what they mean to staging the next event. If Kentucky had lost to Notre Dame Saturday, a lot of people would have skipped this coming weekend because their brackets – their own version of process – would have no longer had meaning.
All this has come together to reinvigorate the pro wrestling business as a cultural touchstone – at least in our new and never-not-annoying feed-the-beast-at-all-costs-no-matter-what-it-is culture. Seth Rollins’ 15 minutes starts now, except that it could be 15 days, 15 weeks or 15 months, depending on whether he can be a more convincing babyface than a heel.
And everyone needs Kentucky-Duke because anything else won’t get numbers, and everyone needs Warriors-Cavs because all the alternatives suck, and the extra point causes cancer because a minute without mesomorphs running into each other for the sake of one more bit of false drama eats at our collective soul. And Aaron Rodgers is a poopyface for not sharing with us his innermost thoughts about Frank Kaminsky.
Within 10 years, we as a nation will just break the fourth wall and out-and-out fix matches for the sake of the process. It makes the true contrarian wish fervently for Michigan State-Wisconsin, and Trail Blazers-Raptors, and Predators-Lightning, and for Rollins to lose his belt in a month to the bastard son of Doink The Clown. Just for the chaos.
Oh, and for the extra point to remain in place as is, as one defiant middle finger in the wilderness to the process and all who worship it. It shouldn’t be changed in any way at all, as a punishment to all those who spend time fulminating about how wrong it is and how it must be changed – as a reminder to stop sweating the smallest stuff because of your addiction to the stupid old process.