Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 22, 2000

Lee Dresselhaus / L’Observateur / August 22, 2000

So…..here’s another of modern life’s little ironies.Rats are vermin. Rats are not nice. Rats are nasty. Rats are, well, rats. Yetwhen the “castaways” on the “Survivor” island decided to kill some to make a meal, there were idiots lined up to protest the unnecessary cruelty of the act. They were dismayed at the barbarism of the whole thing. One ofthe news clips I saw actually showed someone dressed as a rat, no doubt to show how sympatico he or she was with the cause of vermin rights.

Those rat protesters, and animal rights weirdos in general, like to assume that they have reached a higher plane of consciousness than other mortals and they will instruct the rest of us on our conduct, even with rats.

Actually, I think most of them have way too much time on their hands, and that has a lot to do with how much sympathy they can shovel toward what they consider a good cause. That holds true with most dyed-in-the-wool,march-for-days-with-a-sign protesters. By the way, ever notice howsimilar those people are to one another? I think they come off a rack at Protesters-R-Us or something.

Anyway, here’s the little irony I’m talking about. I wonder how many ofthose folks who will hoot and holler about animal rights plop themselves down in front of the television a couple of times a week to watch as members of the World Wrestling Federation pound each other senseless, or pretend to anyway. This is the New Age of the Blood Sport, and I don’t hearanyone howling about that.

It’s too entertaining, isn’t it? Wrestling, while it’s been around for years, is a bigger hit than ever, drawing millions of viewers on television and tens of thousands into arenas wherever they go. For some reason – which has successfully eludedme so far – people are fascinated by the sight of huge guys with shaved chests wearing tights and pounding the tar out of each other with fists, chairs, and even using the occasional referee as a bludgeon. The more theplayers act like Speedo-wearing Neanderthals on acid, the more the crowd loves it. Is it choreographed? Sure it is. But the crowd doesn’t care. Theillusion of violence, the lure of the blood sport, is strong enough that they overlook trivialities such as the fact that what they’re watching isn’t even real. Usually, that is.Now, if you want a real blood sport, check out the tough man competitions.

These are contests in which opponents really beat each other’s brains out to see who the toughest guy is. From what I can tell it’s basically a sortof elimination thing. The last man left standing – literally – wins. Thereare very few holds barred. They punch, kick, knee and elbow each otheruntil one goes down or gives up.

See what I mean? We’ll protest rat rights and tell our children and anybody else who will listen that it’s wrong to be mean to vermin or to victimize chickens or, most recently, that it’s wrong to exploit innocent cows for their milk. I wonder who the genius from PETA (People for theEthical Treatment of Animals) was who decided that it was OK to tell people to drink beer instead of milk, by the way? But, you’ll note, nobody is protesting the message our kids are getting when they watch two human beings whomp one another until one falls down and can’t get up. Ifit’s a really good show the victor might stomp on the loser until pulled off by the ref. We’re becoming violence voyeurs, connoisseurs of man’sinhumanity to man. Brought to you by (fill in the blank). I see that now there’ll soon be a new football league, too. It’s called theXFL. The Extreme Football League. It’ll be rougher and tougher than the NFL,with harder hitting and fewer restrictions, a sort of jungle-rules football.

So far, Chicago, Memphis, and Orlando have gotten teams and there are more to come. If it lives up to what I’ve heard about it, you can bet it willdo well in the New Age of the Blood Sport.

Think about this….people will object to a rodeo because some neo-cowboytype rides a bronco or a bull or ropes a calf and those thoughtful folks think it’s cruel. Now, if two cowboys were to get out there in that arenaand beat each other bloody, well, that’s OK. That’s entertainment, andthey’d even put junior on their shoulders to get a better view like they do at World Wrestling Federation extravaganzas and at tough guy contests.

Let me just clarify one small thing. I’m not advocating cruelty to animalsand I’m not saying it shouldn’t be brought to light when it happens. I’mjust pointing out the small matter of messed-up priorities when it comes to our sensibilities.

And as far as those blood sports go, I don’t watch wrestling, nor tough guy contests, or anything like that. My tastes are more refined. I’m a boxing fan.

LEE DRESSELHAUS writes this column every Wednesday for L’Observateur

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