Today I am going to write a love letter to a sport I don't actually love.
Did you hear that, Wrestling? I'm writing a love letter. To YOU.
I'm not talking about professional wrestling, although like all the other kids in my neighborhood, I did grow up watching Rocky Mountain Wrestling with Killer Kowalski on weekends.
No. I'm talking about amateur wrestling.
My dad coached at Granite High School when I was little, and he'll be the first to admit he didn't know what he was doing at first. He hadn't wrestled in school not officially at least so his learning curve was steep. He kept a 1950s version of Wrestling for Dummies in his back pocket at school and practiced wrestling holds on his kids at home. (I've written about dads roughhousing with daughters before, so I won't go there again. But, you guys, those were good, good times.)
As fun as half nelsons at home were, however, I didn't much feel the wrestling love when I went to actual matches. Not at all. In fact, I remember being horrified by the sight of guys grappling in earnest on the mats, their eyes bulging, their mouths gaping like goldfish. And the way the gym smelled! Oy! Call me a Sally Sensitive, but the overpowering odor made me wilt. Melt, even, just like that witch in "The Wizard of Oz." (You know the one. The green one who said, "I'm melting!")
I still wasn't crazy about wrestling as a spectator sport when I was in high school myself, although I gained huge respect for friends like Leroy who didn't eat Thanksgiving dinner just so he could make his weight division. Talk about self-control! Imagine! Going all pie-less on Thanksgiving Day!
Later when I became an adult (relative term, I know), my respect for the sport grew as I watched many of our neighbor boys wrestle for West High School. They didn't get the attention football and basketball players received wrestling has never been one of the sexy sports but they committed. And in return the sport made them more fit in every single way.
The reason I bring this up is that I was surprised by the IOC's recent decision to drop wrestling as a summer Olympic sport. Really? Wrestling? Isn't wrestling one of the original Greek-type sports? Weren't the ancient Greeks famous for ripping off their togas and shouting "half nelson" at each other and then throwing down right there in the middle of the public square while guys like Socrates made book on the side?
I'm pretty sure those ancient Greeks weren't playing pingpong back in the day.
Listen to me, IOC. Wrestling is to the Olympic tradition what the Empire State Building is to New York City, what fireworks are to the Fourth of July, what John Wayne is to Westerns, what the peacock is to NBC, what Lady Mary and Matthew are to "Downton Abbey."
(OK. A lot of you yelled at me when I said I didn't love the Downton so much anymore. However, I'm still your friend and I feel your pain. My husband is still in shock over Sunday's finale.)
But whatever. The real point is this: I know things change. And I know wrestling isn't the first sport to be dropped from the Olympic games. In the 1900 Paris games, for example, live pigeon shooting was an actual event, won by the Belgian Leon de Lunde with 21 kills, thus instilling a lifelong fear of Belgians in pigeons everywhere.
But wrestling isn't pigeon shooting. No pigeons are harmed when Olympians wrestle. Did you hear that, IOC? Which is why you should reconsider.
Ann Cannon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or facebook.com/anncannontrib.