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Forget Boxing, the 2012 Election is More Like Professional Wrestling


MSNBC, Fox News, CNN, and the other major news networks are doing the color commentary for American politics. Chris Matthews, Sean Hannity, Chris Hayes, Rachel Maddow, Joe Scarborough, and others are the Jim Ross and Jerry the King Lawlers of the TV pundit class. Their job is first and foremost to spin a story and keep the public interested in the shows. High ratings equal more ad revenue.

4. Managers were once featured characters in professional wrestling. Managers were a great asset because they could help a physically gifted wrestler who was not talented verbally to get his story across to the audience. Some would babysit and mentor wrestlers on the road in order to keep them out of trouble. A great manager could also add an "X factor" to a wrestler, by being a secret weapon of sorts to help him or her win a match. The  greatest wrestling managers were amazing personalities who had devoted followings: their relationship with a wrestler could guarantee them a shot at instant credibility and popularity with the fans.

Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly are the best talkers on the Right. Ed Schultz and Lawrence O'Donnell are the best talkers on the Left. In professional wrestling, the former would be amazing heel managers because of their smugness, craftiness, and ability to make the audience hate them; the latter would be great assets for a face who was not particularly gifted on the mic, and who needed someone sharp and passionate to help them tell their story.

5. Fans are integral to professional wrestling. If we do watch on the TV, attend live shows, buy the DVDs, share our stories, and pass on the legacy from one generation to the next, then the hobby and the "sport" will die. The greatest matches in professional wrestling manipulated the crowd's emotions, took the fans on a journey, and played out an epic struggle between two titans. From Andre vs. Hogan, to Steamboat vs. Flair, the epic battles between Flair and Dusty, and the amazing series of matches between Michaels and Undertaker, the common element was the hot crowd and the fans who were deeply and personally invested in what happened inside of the squared circle.

There are two types of fans. There are "marks" who believe--even in this era--that professional wrestling is not scripted. There are "smart marks" who know that professional wrestling is an elaborate soap opera. But for those of us in the latter group, this fact makes us want to follow the sport even more closely, to learn its history, and to really try to figure out the various angles. Why? Because on some level most smart marks wish they were either professional wrestlers themselves or somehow directly involved in the business.

In American politics the Obamabots, Right-wing mouth breather Tea Party types, the foot soldiers, as well as low information, yet nonetheless very enthusiastic and passionate voters for both the Democrats and the Republicans, are the marks. They are so caught up in the show, the spectacle and its transcendent rhetoric and simple storylines with "good guys," "bad guys," and its accompanying moral clarity, that they do not see that it is all a work, a charade of sorts.

The bloggers, and those others who aspire to be members of the chattering class, are the smart marks. Their level of information, sophistication, and knowledge about the game is much deeper than the average fan. However, because they know more--and have invested time and energy to gain this expertise--the smart marks of American politics are much more invested in the outcome because on a basic and practical level many of them are invested--financially, personally, career wise--in who wins the match.