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PAGES: Jim Ross and Paul O’Brien, Slobberknocker: My Life in Wrestling
For those of you with loved ones needing a new podcast, think about this nearly 11-hour audiobook just released last month. Ross’ memoir of his career as pro wrestling’s equivalent to Vin Scully should be an interesting listen. Even if you don’t like wrestling, this book should be interesting for a number of reasons. Ross—one of the lead World Wrestling Entertainment announcers for over twenty years—grew up deep in the heart of Oklahoma, where his first love was football. He played center for his high school football team, and did some college radio announcing before his wrestling days began. Still a big college football fan, Ross did some commentary for Fox Sports while on hiatus from the WWE a few years ago. If you love wrestling, football, the Plains, and barbeque sauce, you’ll like Slobberknocker.
by Keith Aksel
Americans expect their opinions to matter. They vote, protest, and clamor for reform on every topic imaginable, all tied to a larger shared experience with democracy. As the world’s most prominent democracy, and the product of the first successful democratic revolution, the United States provides a key example of how participatory government changes its population. Over the years, Americans have questioned their government like no other people on earth, which is kind of the point of the institution of democracy to begin with.
But, the problem with democratic politics is that when you extend the democratic impulse to sports, you begin reading into sports something that isn’t there. Pro sports are not, nor have they ever been, democratic. And yet, Americans still seem convinced that their voices can change how sports leagues operate. This is a trend that misleads legions of fans, causing a misunderstanding of the role of pro sports in daily life
by Chris Foss
Aaron Rodgers’ prayer to beat the Lions. Auburn’s “kick-six” against Alabama. Teresa Witherspoon’s half-court miracle shot in the WNBA Finals. These are among the greatest moments in sports. From ownership on down to the players and the fans, the game-winning miracle unifies everyone affected by it like nothing else. For the losing side, agony enshrouds all, as though a loved one has just died. But for the winners, there’s almost no better feeling in the world. It is the deus ex machina. More than the “thrill of victory”, it’s the thrill of seemingly heaven-delivered victory.
The Greco-Roman deus ex machina was, to those ancient societies, a means of bringing sudden endings to theatrical performances. Merriam-Webster defines it as “a person or thing […] that appears or is introduced suddenly and unexpectedly and provides a contrived solution to an apparently insoluble difficulty.” Rather than feeling artificial or contrived, however, the sports version of achieving the seemingly impossible brings all of us—fans, players, coaches, even owners—closer to pure, unfiltered joy than anything else in life. The sports deus ex machina is just as rare as the movie/TV ex machina, and is totally unscripted, both of which make it all the more joyous.
The past two years produced some pro sports relocations that have brought older tensions in American sports back to the surface. Namely, who really “owns” a sports team in a given league? Is it the named ownership, the same people who make the call to move a team from one city to another? Is it the fans who invest their time, money, and heart into following a team? Is it the broader community that houses the team and its facilities, usually granting tax incentives to the team in the process? For fans of the St. Louis (now L.A. Rams) and San Diego (now L.A. Chargers, for some reason), such questions continue to follow each franchise to their new locations. And for pro teams currently slated to move from their homes, such as the MLS’s Columbus Crew, those questions are poised to become relevant in Central Ohio very soon.
The broader model of American sports is one that relies on franchising, a model that I critiqued on this site in the past. My general argument was that franchises are forced to start big and to stay big, and instead of shrinking or folding altogether in tough times, owners have recourse to simply move the team elsewhere and ostensibly start anew. Although this means these teams can remain afloat in their new cities, they can only establish tenuous ties to their communities, and the more they move, the less ingrained in their cities they become. I don’t believe, for example, that the Rams are done moving. Their past of relocation portends more moving in the future.