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A Political Slamboree

The recent election of Jesse "The Body" Ventura to the Governor of Minnesota made me realize something. Politics and professional wrestling aren't all that different after all.

Think about it. What does a pro wrestler have to do? He gets up in front of a camera and talks about his opponent. He tries to convince a bunch of fans (most of whom have already made up their minds) that he is the better contender. This pre-fight stage is mostly hot air and exaggeration. As a wrestler, he must have enough self-confidence to do really stupid things while pretending that his actions are perfectly normal for his profession. The crowd has seen these ridiculous things often enough that they believe they are actually normal. Most of them wouldn't actually wear those costumes, for instance, but they expect the wrestlers to wear them. He must also look aggressive enough to make people believe that he means what he says.

Off in a booth far removed from the action, announcers watch the fight. They have been trained to recognize all the moves. They sit there and make predictions about how the fight will go. Few, if any, people really care what they have to say. They are there to fill air time and to let people know what's going on - who is fighting, what is coming up, etc.

Outside the ring are the stands. Here, a small percentage of the spectators are gathered. These are usually the most avid fans, although sometimes it is just the fact that the fight happens to be going on in their neighborhood. They scream and shout, cheering for their favorite. They roar with delight when he is winning, and boo and hiss when he is losing. When one of the fighters breaks the "rules," the fans' reaction depends upon who did it. If it is the favored contender, they cheer at the damage done to his opponent. If it is the opponent, however, they become upset.

Some of the fans believe that what they are watching is real. Some talk about how it is faked, but don't truly believe it. Others say it is real, but believe, deep down, that it is not. Most, it seems, believe that the whole thing is faked, but watch for the fun of it. These people usually ignore the question of real vs. fake. They believe it is fake, but let themselves forget that fact. The term in theater is "suspension of disbelief." It only happens under the right circumstances. The audience must be willing to suspend its disbelief, and the performers must be good enough to make the suspension possible.

Outside the building, people across the country watch the fight on television. Some of these are avid fans, while others are merely channel-surfing. Some are not actually at the fight because they lack either the time or the money. They watch the fight, and they react with the crowd, but they rarely get as riled up as the ones who are actually there. When the fight actually begins, the outcome has already been determined. The decision, I believe, is largely based on popularity. Of course, popularity has been mostly determined by prior bouts.

The two (or sometimes more) combatants pretend to fight. They use long-established moves. Only rarely does someone try something truly new. Each of the fighters has a distinct style and one or more favorite moves. The moves themselves have been designed with the same basic premise: Make it look really damaging, but be sure that it doesn't actually hurt too much. These guys don't want to actually injure each other. They have to work together.

Some time, long ago, someone thought of throwing in attacks that are "against the rules." One of the wrestlers brings in something from outside the arena. It doesn't belong in the fight, but it can potentially do a lot of damage. The object is usually one of several common types. It's usually one thing in particular (for wrestling, it's a chair). Often, in at least one of the day's bouts, the fight will leave the ring. It will continue just outside of the carefully roped-off area that is supposed to define what is acceptable. Such deviations from the "rules" have become so commonplace that they are expected. No one really bothers to enforce these "rules." The main reason is that the crowd enjoys watching it. Of course, everything is done for the spectators, so people let it happen.

Looking back on all this, what has really changed about Jesse Ventura's job? For one, he gets to wear nicer clothing. Also, he only has to defend his position every couple of years. He doesn't have to worry about getting too old for the job. Finally, he has a chance to make a real difference, no matter how real or fake the process may be. All in all, the career change seems like a good move. It requires a lot of the same skills and personality traits. I'd say that it's more respectable, that it's less hazardous, and that it requires more maturity (but now that I'm thinking about it, I'm not so sure.) I will say that, after I looked at his views, he seems to have a lot more common sense than most politicians have. I wouldn't be surprised if this became a growing trend. Hulk Hogan for president!

Paul-Gabriel Wiener '01