A Cold Day in Center Field

I watched the Major League Baseball All-Star Game with friends last Tuesday night. The game doesn’t have the same meaning to me that it once did. What was once the ultimate showdown of good (National League) versus evil (American League) is now a glad-handing, nauseating exhibition, glorified only by the fact that the winning league gets home-field advantage in the World Series. I’ve soured a lot on professional sports over the past couple of years. Money has an unbreakable full nelson on every aspect of every sport, every game. Maybe it’s always been that way, but the emotion and spirit of competition seems to be gone, as well. The presentation of the game is sterile and lifeless, driven by endless sponsorships and partnerships with every brand in existence. There are no characters in sports anymore. The only ambitions the players seem to have are a fat paycheck and establishing their own brand. Who cares about the team, right? Perhaps I’m jaded, or maybe I just need to find some new sports to watch.

Go on….

Irresistible Force Meets Immovable Object

Hogan and Andre square off.

I recently watched Wrestlemania 3 for the first time in probably seven or eight years. It’s still a strong, well paced wrestling card with a lot of exciting matches and an atmosphere of big-fight, main event importance.

One of the subtle things I love about Wrestlemania 3 is how the Pontiac Silverdome gets darker as the show progresses. The show starts in the afternoon, and sunlight filters through the translucent, domed roof. As the event courses through bigger and more important matches, the sun sets, and the arena is much darker than it was earlier in the afternoon, adding to the tension and anticipation, as the collective attention of the world seems to focus more and more on the ring. It’s a neat effect that adds to the mystique and importance of the show.

Naturally, the arena is darkest, at its most-focused, for the main event, the biggest wrestling match in the history of the sport: WWF World Heavyweight Champion Hulk Hogan versus Andre the Giant. Unfortunately, this colossal confrontation has not aged well. The match is fought in the shadow of the phenomenal Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat versus “Macho Man” Randy Savage Intercontinental Championship match, which occurs about an hour before Hogan versus Andre and is widely considered one of the greatest matches of all time. Andre’s health was already beginning to fail at this point in his career, and his moveset, speed, and agility were significantly limited compared to his early career. He was still a powerful man, but well past his prime. As a child, I had no idea, not to mention the company wasn’t about to expose the health issues of one of its biggest stars. Lastly, the long-suffering reputation of Hulk Hogan continues to degrade over time through sex tapes, family strife, and poor business decisions. As fun as it may still be to watch his old matches, even when the wrestling character is separated from the man, Hogan is far from the American hero we once knew.

Still, where Hogan versus Andre lacks the grace and technical prowess of Savage versus Steamboat, the narrative makes it a compelling match: two friends driven apart by a manager, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, who holds a longstanding hatred of the champion, dating back to their time spent in the American Wrestling Association (though that is not acknowledged within the WWF’s canon). Heenan manipulates Andre into challenging Hogan for his title, but it is not for Andre’s benefit—Heenan seeks only to put Hogan out of wrestling and procure the WWF Championship for his own. Could Hogan overcome the giant? Could Andre so callously turn against the man he called friend? While the match is not a technical classic, the narrative behind Hogan and Andre’s Wrestlemania 3 collision ensures the match holds up today.

Go on….