Last week, The Daily Beast put up an article about the use of social dating and hook-up apps by Olympic athletes in Rio. Real Woodward and Bernstein kind of stuff…
Historically, Olympic athletes, surrounded by other like-minded people, similarly aged, and mostly attractive, have been known to act a bit promiscuous during their Olympic trips. The couple of weeks these people spend in the Olympic village is something they worked their whole life for, and once their events are finished, it’s no surprise that a bunch of 20-somethings like to party it up. And as consenting adults, they have earned the right to celebrate their achievements.
We don’t touch on sports as much as I might like around here, but that’s cause things are already lacking any sort of laser focus. But this story gives us a fun crossover that involves The Walking Dead‘s Steven Yeun, and the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers…
It looks like Ed O’Bannon gets to chalk up a victory for him and his class action lawsuit against EA Sports and the NCAA. According to ESPN and Gamespot, the NCAA has decided not to renew their contract to produce video games using the NCAA name and likenesses. It means that NCAA Football 14, the most recent edition released this month, will be the last of the series for the time being. It turns out that the potential lawsuit started by O’Bannon has presented itself as an obstacle to continuing the relationship between the video game maker and collegiate body without incurring more wrath financially and legally from others.
For those that don’t remember, Ed O’Bannon was a former college basketball player that was frustrated with seeing his likeness in video games and other licensed products from the NCAA and was not getting paid for it. So, like any American would, he sued both EA and NCAA for lost royalties and licensing profits. Other former student athletes followed suit and the grand total they believe stands at billions of dollars that need to be paid out to them. The video game part of it plays a major part in it as we gamers know that the names are NEVER used in the game but the numbers, height, weight, speed, strength, and how they play are put exactly in the game even as they lack an identifying marker. Some people even go as far as just renaming the players to the original name just to have the full experience. Obviously, this is a hotly debated part playing out in the legal system as we speak.
What does this mean for us gamers? Well, that copy of NCAA Football 14 with Denard Robinson on the cover? That’s the last game you’ll see with any NCAA likeness and names in a game from EA. Now, there’s still going to be a college football game for next year from EA Sports, most likely to be called College Football 15. They still are able to partner with the Collegiate Licensing Co. in order to include teams and leagues so we won’t see the game completely using NAIA teams or community colleges not affiliated with the NCAA. They just have to negotiate with each team and league individually in order to get them included in the game. There have been talks to have one featured team such as an Alabama or Ohio State to represent the game as powerhouses to help overcome the loss of the big license but that remains to be seen.
What we can probably see from here on in is even more generic football players that won’t look like the players or resemble them by number or likeness, so as to not throw gas on the fire. The NCAA is obviously spooked by this lawsuit and wants to get away from EA Sports, who continue to put players in the game that resemble the underclassmen. They don’t want to get into deeper hot water so they’ve decided to cut their losses and move on and see how this legal dilemma plays out. Either way, it’ll be interesting to see how this will affect games. While not as big as Madden, the NCAA games still represents a good portion of the EA Sports cash cow and if there’s a lot of changes coming to the games, it just might be time for them to cut their losses too.
Of course the word vomit is going to get my attention, I’m only human. So I go looking for what on earth could be going on in this Louisville game. Part of me wishes I hadn’t because damn, that will turn your stomach. In one of those “freak” moments where something innocuous turns horrific, Ware goes up for a block and when he comes down his lower leg literally snaps in half. His teammates and coach are understandably shaken and upset as they gather around their fallen teammate. 3G pitch experts and safety inspectors have responded to these injuries by researching into the many ways that the court can be mad safer.
If you haven’t seen it, and have a weak constitution, don’t. If you are morbidly curious, you have been warned.
In a show of good taste, CBS chose to not replay it during halftime or game “highlights”, but like other gruesome injuries in years past, this will be a defining moment in Kevin Ware’s life. Much like Joe Theismann’s infamous career-ending injury in 1985 against the Giants and Shaun Livingston’s “exploded” knee in 2006, Kevin Ware will be remembered by this game.
Hopefully, this won’t be the end of his story though. Granted Ware’s injury is more along the line’s of Alabama wide reciever, Tyrone Prothro in 2005 (who was not able to return to playing), but there have been athletes who have returned from awful injuries. Marcus Lattimore is preparing for the draft and amazingly, Livingston is playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers, so it is possible. It goes without saying, we here at Grizzly Bomb hope for the best for this young man.
Marcus Lattimore, knee injury against Tennessee
Joe Theismann, broken leg against New York Giants
Tyrone Prothro, The Catch (if you really want to see the broken leg, click here, but it is really bad)
There are two distinct types of fandom I believe that share a kinship of sorts, in that they’re both inherently similar, attract the same sense of nostalgia and passion, and occasionally the same sort of ostracism from mainstream groups of non-fans. These two groups of fandom are mainstream Superhero comics fans and Professional Wrestling fans. While at first glance these two things couldn’t seem more disconcordant, there are actually many similarities at the base of their respective art forms.
Modern Superhero comics are an expression of idealism, and a way to communicate stories that can’t really be told in any other medium similarly. Whether these stories are meant to be experiences that are carried out vicariously through the character, or to establish a connection with a series of characters, the fact remains the same that these stories are and always have been about romanticized, idealized versions of characters that are larger than life. They’re bombastic, exaggerated, and are symbols more often than not of things we can aspire to be, or things to beware of and fear. These stories have been told for a long time, as myths of Gods and Demi-Gods, but are now represented as costumed, superpowered heroes who fight crime or the ills of society. They’re representatives of justice who are overcoming the odds they face against the villains, be they environmental, internal, or external. They’re here to right wrongs, teach lessons through example, or to serve as wish fulfillment for the reader.
The characters in wrestling have this exact same dynamic. They’re there to tell stories that are larger than life. They communicate the basic system of justice, wish fulfillment, and a moral lesson imparted via the action that happens in ring, both meta-textual and literal through the exploration of these themes. Watching Batman beat up the bad guy is fun in a comic book, in the same way that watching Stone Cold Steve Austin put his stunner on a villain wrestler in the ring is. At that base level they’re both providing a sense of justice imparted against the villain in that story being told, be it either on the page, or in a ring.
By that same token they’re both exaggerated characters who couldn’t, shouldn’t, and don’t really exist in real life, instead legitimately existing only within the contextual realities of their worlds. In the same way that a Batman would immediately get arrested and thrown into an asylum (a theme that’s often been explored in Batman comics), Steve Austin would have been fired, arrested, and put into jail for the many attempts at assault and battery, home invasion, reckless endangerment and what have you. Yet another theme that’s actually happened multiple times in wrestling, is a character being “punished” for their in ring activity with real world consequences, despite all of it still being inherently part of the story.
Roland Barthes was a famous literature critic and philosopher who wrote an essay about wrestling called “The World Of Wrestling”, in his book Mythologies, an exposition on modern mythologies and the undercurrent themes behind them. In it he writes:
[box_light]“But what wrestling is above all meant to portray is a purely moral concept: that of justice. The idea of ‘paying’ is essential to wrestling, and the crowd’s ‘Give it to him’ means above all else ‘Make him pay.’ This is therefore, needless to say, an immanent justice. The baser the action of the ‘bastard,’ the more delighted the public is by the blow which he justly receives in return. If the villain – who is of course a coward – takes refuge behind the ropes, claiming unfairly to have a right to do so by a brazen mimicry, he is inexorably pursued there and caught, and the crowd is jubilant at seeing the rules broken for the sake of a deserved punishment. [. . .] Naturally, it is the pattern of Justice which matters here, much more than its content: wrestling is above all a quantitative sequence of compensations (an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth). This explains why sudden changes of circumstances have in the eyes of wrestling habitueés a sort of moral beauty; they enjoy them as they would enjoy an inspired episode in a novel…”
“The virtue of all-in wrestling is that it is the spectacle of excess. Here we find a grandiloquence which must have been that of ancient theatres. And in fact wrestling is an open-air spectacle, for what makes the circus or the arena what they are is not the sky (a romantic value suited rather to fashionable occasions), it is the drenching and vertical quality of the flood of light. Even hidden in the most squalid Parisian halls, wrestling partakes of the nature of the great solar spectacles, Greek drama and bullfights: in both, a light without shadow generates an emotion without reserve.”[/box_light]
This is the same for comics in turn. Here we are watching a spectacle on the page as the Justice League fights Darkseid on the open streets, or the Avengers take umbrage against the legions of Skrulls who have invaded (it’s been a while since I’ve read Marvel), and the entire time this spectacle is communicated on a never-ending regular basis. Wrestling is a constant stage of stories being told, involving a rotating cast of characters who over the course of years grow, develop, change, become bad or become good, and eventually “die” as their real life counterparts, the actual wrestler as opposed to the character wrestler, retire.
In comics, these characters never “die”, as any comics fan can attest to. Any “death” is merely a means to an end for further character development, and is almost always retconned given enough length on any timeline. The same is once again true for wrestling, as multiple characters have “died” either literally in the story, literally in life, or figuratively by leaving the company. In 1996 one of the most famous wrestlers for the then WWF was Razor Ramon, a character based highly off of Tony Montana from Brian De Palma’s Scarface, and a wrestler who captivated audiences with his signature look, mannerisms, speech and style. In real life, he ended up leaving the WWF, not taking the “Razor Ramon” character with him, and showed up on then rival wrestling promotion WCW as “Scott Hall”, his real name, but still the same character, albeit in plain clothes. In this manner his death was merely “retconned”, but in real life to another wrestling promotion. To make things even more similar to comics, WWF responded by simply casting another wrestler as the “new” Razor Ramon, who debuted to a major outpouring of fan hatred. Comics have done this countless times, most notably with Robin, Batman’s sidekick. It’s the only two mediums that have ever done this in this fashion, with any sense of regularity. It’s a dichotomy that exists with many examples, one being the death and resurrection of Superman, which is paralleled in turn by the multiple deaths and resurrection of famed wrestler, The Undertaker.
Furthermore, the serialized nature of both Superhero comics and professional wrestling, as I previously mentioned, is nearly identical. No two mediums share a similar amount of dissonance between the creator, writers, performer, and creative output. With comics, the story isn’t always told as we think it is by a man who writes and a man who draws, much like with wrestling the story isn’t only told by two men in tights who enter a ring to fight. There’s a committee or a gathering to create a consensus of how to best manage these characters, to tell stories that can be spun indefinitely, while still providing satisfying character arcs. Often this is the issue that both professional wrestling and comics run in to, what with the constant disconnect from what has been previously established, what is truly considered “canon”, and what is suddenly decided to be ignored and/or retconned out of history.
DC Comics has done this most famously and recently by entirely re-establishing a status quo, by erasing the entirety of their old history (except for the stuff that they didn’t) and starting over. While this approach hasn’t been directly emulated by professional wrestling yet, its parallel is similar to the creation of a new promotion based off of new interpretations of older wrestling characters that previously existed. In our modern state, this is TNA Wrestling, a promotion that competes weekly with WWE, yet mainly banks on the star appeal of its talent that became famous in other, more popular past promotions. It is in essence a “reboot” of all those wrestlers from other promotions, to start over with new characters, or a revamped version of their old characters, essentially creating a similar version of DC’s New 52, albeit unintentionally. It’s a correlation that some may find a stretch, but to look at the repackaging, and re-designing of a wrestling character, and to not compare it the repackaging and re-designing of a superhero character to me would be willfully ignoring that similarity.
There’s also the case that both comics and professional wrestling have distinct, and iconic “eras” or ages. In superhero comics we have the Golden, Silver, Bronze and Modern eras, all respectively dividing up distinct portrayals of these heroic characters in ways that reflected the zeitgeist. Wrestling has its own set of eras, divided up in into similar labels; Golden Era (which is pre-Hulk Hogan), The New Generation Era (where now legendary wrestlers like Undertaker, Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels rose to prominence), and The Attitude Era, which is arguably the highpoint in professional wrestling’s history as the WWF became very popular with the advent of wrestlers like The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin portraying anti-heroes in their medium in a new and exciting way. This was followed by the “Ruthless Aggression” Era, which is an era that developed in the midst of a massive double down between the two main competing wrestling promotions at the time, WWF & WCW, with WCW merging into WWF. At the time this was unheard of, and the comic equivalent would be Marvel buying DC outright, and every single superhero from both companies were then poorly implemented into a series of comics that dovetailed creatively, despite immense potential. Lastly and currently there’s the PG Era of wrestling, where focus has shifted recently into a more family friendly orientation. These Eras in both mediums illustrate further how similar they are, and shows how their lasting serialized nature necessitates being broken up into Eras, in order to better keep track of how they both reflect society, attitudes, and current events at the time.
The problem is, people see the vast majority of it as dumb or meaningless, and write it off as time wasted. Recently this has started to change due to the popularity of Marvel’s recent movie paradigm, but unfortunately I don’t see this changing in a similar fashion for professional wrestling. However, the dichotomy still exists, as in both forms of entertainment we’re watching the same old stories, those mythological Gods and Demi-Gods fighting for a sense of justice, combating moral relativism, and showing us who we are through storytelling. They are the only two mediums that do it in the way they do, and if you’re a fan of one, you should give the other a try. I implore you.