Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Sport. Whats wrong with it and how to fix it.

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Two large men throwing each other around on some canvass, ahh, wrestling. You may laugh at the big men in spandex tights, but the World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. may just be changing the sporting world!
You do not have to be in possession of a Jewelers eyepiece to work out that its fake. Nor do you have to be working for the Department Of Waste Disposal to know that its rubbish! Indeed, following a court ruling in 1999, American wrestling as then represented by the WWF and Co, could not be called a sport - it has to describe itself as 'sports entertainment'. And yet this more profitable perversion of sport, may, just may, have hit upon the future of sport as we know it. Before getting to the beef, and for the benefit of anyone whos spent the last five years in Mosul, lets remind ourselves of what World Wrestling Entertainment Inc has actually done. Under the stewardship of ex-grappler Vince McMahon, a spectacle in which medical freaks like Andre the giant lumbered around a ring in pursuit of a fat man in swimming trunks, has been transformed into one of the biggest entertainment concerns on the planet. Mostly this great metamorphosis has been achieved by appealing to the very basest instincts of man. In the weekly drama that surrounds the actual wrestling, plotlines that would shame Shakespeare at his most outrageous have been played out with scant regard for the intelligence of the viewer, or the moral health of society. People have been kidnapped and families have been ripped apart, and the ownership of the entire circus changes hands more often than a Q-reg BMW in Scotswood. In one particularly memorable plot, McMahon had his long suffering wife Linda - that weeks proprietor of the whole shebang - drugged and stuck in a loony bin; he then went to visit her with the sole intention of flaunting his nubile assistant in front of his chemically incapacitated spouse. One of the innovations that really put wheels under the WWE in the last 10 years was the introduction of fleets of softcore pornstars who double up as unlikely partners for the drooling monsters of the squared circle, and who themselves occasionally take part in some of the most ludicrous events to happen under the umbrella of the martial arts. My favourite was the evening gown matches, in which two or more of these survivors of a Russ Meyer wet dream scrabbled at each other until one, or preferably all, of the pretty party frocks were ripped off to reveal cubic yards of fake-tanned flesh and bikinis that wouldn't decently cover Barbie. Just how successful this cocktail of bash, cash and flash has become can be judged by the enormous audiences, both live and TV, these performances attract on both side sof the Atlantic. Think about the merchandising and endorsement opportunities. Two WWE autobiographies, Mick 'Mankind' Foley's 'Have A Nice Day! A Tale Of Blood And Sweatsocks!' and The Rock's' The Rock Says', trail only Dennis Rodmans 'As Bad As I Wanna Be', as the best selling sports books in history. Not to mention that Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson is now the biggest and baddest cinema box office draw on the planet. His films grossing billions and his rumored movie paycheck is currently only behind that of Tom Cruise and Robert Downey Junior. But its not the theatrics of WWE that presents a danger to the future of real sports, but rather the profoundly clever thing that McMahon and Co worked out. Wrestling, they decided, had something the everyone loved, men kicking the shit out of each other, but the good bits were separated by too much padding, i.e. the actual grappling and wrestling. Their stroke of genius was then to remove the tedious bits, and now each short match consists of only high risk, high violence manoeuvres, performed at the very edges of what the bodies of these incredibly athletic rhinos can tolerate. Phenomenal dives from unlikely perches onto the prone bodies of opponents are the new wrestling's stock trade. It may be as much like traditional Saturday afternoon grip n' grapple with Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks as chalk and Dairylea, but the punters love it. Non of which has gone unnoticed by the suits who run our other sports. They all, of course talk of protecting the integrity of the games they oversee, while all the time envying the profile and money-generating power of this steroid dripping, genetically modified version of wrestling. You only need to look at the meteoric rise of MMA and the multi-millionaires of the UFC. The pressure brought to bear by the ultimate paymaster, television, will cause further unrest. It doesn't take too much imagination to see how other sports might one-day be repackaged with all the non-essential bits removed. Football (or Soccer) has already gone some way down this road in America. Penalty shoot-outs after every match that ends normal time in a draw, are an attempt to solve the problem of how to squeeze the blood of results from the stone of a game whose unit of scoring is too rare for the good ol US of A. Athletics however, is less well set up to take advantage of the wrestling phenomenon, most of its events get to the point double-sharp. The exceptions are the log distance track races, where we are forced to endure several loping laps of the circuit before the inevitable sprint finish. Here's my suggestion; Make the runners do the first 9800 metres (the part of a normal 10,000 meters spent in tactical jogging) on treadmills in the warm up area, then wheel them straight into the stadium and make them run the last 200 metres as a competitive sprint. I'll leave the rest to your imagination. Formula One on a Northumbria Bus skidpan (It makes no difference, even in a coma, Schumacher would still win with one hand on the wheel and a mobile phone jammed between his ear and shoulder); cricket, where the only delivery allowed is the a bodyline style bouncer and the only scoring shot is the big slog for six; beach volleyball without the pretence of bikinis you know the sort of thing. Maybe one day a terribly dressed pikey who you'd never heard of 2 years ago could fight Floyd Mayweather and it be the biggest pay per view box office draw the world had ever seen? Maybe the new discipline could even be applied to daily newspapers sports columns. Cut the shite about Paul Pogba's latest bust up, bullshit transfer speculation and general cackle, and cut straight to the chase, every day would just consist of some combination of the following words: first half, clash, blood, genius, great, agony, shock, rival, defeat, glory, sex, groin, strain, fiasco, transfer, dope, test, backhander, and errrr, Paul Pogba!

Thought we'd give you a bit of music to go with the words this time round, and as it's been a while since we posted I thought we'd slip you something a bit special. A live recording of TOLAS fav, Vladimir Ivkovic playing alongside Finnish wunderkind Lauri Soini (more on him in the coming weeks) at the Flow Festival in Helsinki, and it's an absolute beauty. Enjoy. X

Till next time.
Big love. Mark. X