Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 18, 1999

Leonard Gray / L’Observateur / December 18, 1999

They had names like Grizzly Smith and “Bruiser” Bob Swetan. Theircostumes were simple – Smith wore overalls over his 6-5 frame. Swetanjust wore the basic trunks and a permanent scowl. Neither matched theflamboyance, either of the earlier Gorgeous George or the present day array of pumped-up prima-donnas. But they are all professional wrestlers.My favorite story about wrestlers was when my uncle and I were watching one Saturday afternoon and he was really getting into the action, his eyes glued to the TV screen. He was pumping his fists and rocking and half-rising in his chair. Finally, with one climactic blow, the opponent wentdown and so did my uncle, his chair being hurled backwards with him in it.

Once I picked myself back off the floor where I had collapsed with laughter, I made sure he was all right. Then that apparently cut out hisown wrestling fascination, since I’ve never seen him watch again, he was so embarrassed.

Wrestling is a guilty pleasure to many and simply a pleasure to many more. It’s almost becoming mainstream as it has become more and moreoutrageous, flamboyant and charged with sex, violence and pyrotechnics.

Busty women tease the crowd and “plotlines” are planned months in advance, far beyond what was ever done when I watched wrestling in the 1960s.

I never read any of the wrestling magazines then or now. And while Iconfess I can occasionally be lured by a wrestling program if I stumble across it channel-surfing, I won’t go out of my way to watch it on TV. I’venever watched wrestling in person, and cannot imagine paying good money to do so.

With good reason, it’s been called the modern-day equivalent to the ancient Roman gladiators, with television and pay-per-view added. Youmay also add merchandising, massive paychecks to match muscle bulk and legions of young fans.

I confess when I was a youngster, it never crossed my mind to model myself after a professional wrestler. Nowadays, though, it’s more andmore common.

Keep in mind, however, that these are “professional” wrestlers. They dowork for a living. They do get hurt. Once in a very great while, they do die.There is danger involved, and I would guess much more than a professional boxer.

I’ve never, though, picked up that level of blood-lust to watch someone bash and beat on another human being. I’m too mild-mannered, I suppose. Ipersonally haven’t been in a fight in nearly 30 years and I certainly don’t miss it.

Keep in mind, I’ve never been very physical. In my youth, I was painfullyscrawny. Nowadays, I’m still scrawny and unmuscled, but with about 40pounds of fat laid over it.

I don’t identify with wrestlers and I’m concerned about the coming generation who appears to be. Frankly, I don’t see the attraction that holdsfor anyone.

Not long ago, I heard a college girl talk about her desire to marry a professional wrestler, to get access to his money.

That bothers me.

Leonard Gray is a staff reporter for L’Observateur

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