As a child, I used to gaze with awe at the environs of the majestic Madison Square Garden.
Everything there was special: the ushers, who I envied (they got to see EVERY game!), the food, the drink (somehow it smelled and tasted better based on location), and – of course – the passionate, ‘all-in’ fans around me (still adorning their day’s professional work attire).
I especially loved visiting fans; there was something really cool about seeing people and jerseys from another city…or even country!…at arm’s length. Did they think the way I did about THEIR team?
Over the years, I’ve gone to literally hundreds of live sporting events. As fascination evolved into convention and sometimes cynicism, I sadly realized that pro sports was solely a business at the whims of broadcasting contracts and luxury suites. Arenas beautiful but with cold personalities. Those ushers? Volunteers or barely paid. Many of those seemingly passionate fans were sloppy drunk, also vulgar. The visiting fans still came…but were often just as drunk and/or fearful for their safety.
I remember it vividly when I burned out on pro sports.
I was sitting in the top row of a hockey arena…watching the home team get shellacked by the opposition. Most around me were indifferent to the game. Nearly everyone’s heads were turned down in the direction of a mobile device screen.
I saw only a handful of visiting fans. The locals – many staggeringly drunk already – left an hour in based on score. Advertising was everywhere, omnipresent, and spewed non-stop. Kids were sparse. No laughter, no joy, no spectacle. Sure, there was a game going on. But I was 100 percent certain it would be more enjoyable from a living room, whisky in hand.
When I thought this an anomaly, it was only reinforced several times over. Even playoff games ceased to be fun. The local arena didn’t help matters much, instituting a policy to literally intimidate (their words, not mine) opposing teams’ fans from showing up and/or enjoying their experience. Apple and Samsung were represented everywhere; I would guesstimate more than half in attendance were on their phones throughout.
Thank the heavens pro wrestling is fake.
See, when the ending is pre-determined and based on conventions, the event is forced to be entertainment. So much so, you literally have to go out of your way to ruin the experience. Sure, some matches are better than others. Fact is, not every match or wrestler is on a level playing field.
When some idiot crosses the line, however – as I’ve seen via Roman Reigns hate – the individual is quickly pulled back by those around him/her. At house shows, the presence of children is obvious; you can hear their screams of joy and disappointment (when their favorites lose) as a constant soundtrack. Extreme vulgarity or intra-fan hostility becomes off limits. There is also the obvious recognition that the wrestlers can hear you. Too much vitriol toward them, and – again – the idiots are pulled back.
While cable television and the Internet expanded the reach and audience of pro wrestling, it’s maintained it’s core values system. Ask any wrestling fan – even those from 40-50 years ago – about his/her experiences, and they’ll incredibly convey sentiments and a code still present today. The show is not about you but the wrestlers; don’t forget that. Expect someone to end up in your lap if up close…but don’t touch them or abandon your chair until advised. Kids are the priority; ensure they have a good time. first and foremost. Endlessly taking pictures and/or using electronics is poor form.
Also, talk to the fans next to you. In every instance, this makes for event long conversational buddies…if not longer duration. Race, gender, ethnicity, sexuality…wrestling seems to have knack for ignoring and crossing all of them within its fanbase. To this day, I stand in awe of the diversity of Dean Ambrose nation. Nor can I understand it in the slightest. Which makes it even more awesome.
Wrestling is never better from the couch.