“Are you not entertained?”
They were the words hollered from Russell Crowe in Riddley Scott’s Hollywood blockbuster Gladiator to a crowd of cautious onlookers. The box office hit was set in a time when wrestling was a few hundred years old and far from what we witness today.
Wrestling has roots in the ancient Greece games and has been a cornerstone of every modern Olympics since with the 1900 Games in Paris, France as the only not to feature the ancient art form on the docket.
In a jaw dropping twist, The International Olympic Committee (IOC) voted to dump wrestling from the 2020 games yesterday. The decision, taken by the 15 members of the IOC executive board, has yet to be ratified by all members of the body but looks likely to be upheld as seven other disciplines vie for inclusion.
The rationale placed behind dropping wrestling from the ballot for the games planned for Istanbul, Madrid, or Tokyo is that it’s not a fan-friendly, entertaining sport that channel flippers will stop to check out.
While I want to go on a tirade of how ridiculous it is that wrestling isn’t eligible but the “sport” with the dancing horse qualifies while I test the boundaries of how many times I can swear in an article without getting a pink slip, but I think my pal Carlin Bardsley already covered that on today’s installment of “In the cage with Bards” that can be found here.
As far as I’m concerned, this severely damages the growth of wrestling as a sport on an international level, it taints the game at high school and college levels and the ripple effect ultimately hurts MMA as well.
For a lot of college athletes, an NCAA title is a major achievement there’s no doubt about that but now after you collect a national title you reach a dead end, no longer is there the light at the end of a tunnel and a reason to soldier on.
Are wrestlers going to have the same level of dedication to sacrifice their youth, cut weight and sever friendships without the lure of an Olympic medal at the end? I don’t know.
The prospect of a gold medal has been the ultimate endgame for thousands of wrestlers, now that carrot on the string is taken away, these are still exceptional athletes who can find another sport to be a great contributor to and chase the dream on plan B.
Television is a powerful tool, pushing that needle and gathering interest is how the system works but if we start removing anything that isn’t as enthralling to the casual viewer because Beach Volleyball really gets the teenage boy’s blood pumping, where has the integrity gone in the ultimate proving ground for sports?
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