1st and Ten: The Weekly Tendown, March 21-27 2010

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Dear Internet:

Today is Wrestlemania 26.  And this is the 20th Issue of the mighty Tendown.  Had I started a month and a half earlier, that would have been a helluva sweetass coincidence (another coincidence: earlier this week was the 99th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, which someone should have pitched as a stip to Russo when he was still booking TNA by himself - a Triangle Shirtwaist Fire match; they lock the doors of the Impact Zone, put some underage factory workers on a pole, that would have drawn a big quarter hour number) Did you read Last Week?  You really should've; I did a Cake v. Pie tournament that turned out well, I think.  It was an extra productive week for me in addition to that - my Wrestlemania preview is here, and my two fantasy baseball draft boards are here and here.  I'll put up my picks for the upcoming MLB season at mid-week, which is when you'll also get the March Athlete of the Month and Counterfactual Wrestlemania Silver at the the other place.

Extra busy!  Let's get to it.

First: Hey, look - It's a Book Tournament -  2009 books battling it out for literary supremacy, here's the final four:

Let the Great World Spin: A Novel v. The Lacuna LP: A Novel

Wolf Hall (a Om) v. The Book of Night Women

I'd say I can't speak about this as informatively as could I the hoops tournament - but given the condition of my brackets, you should probably move to someone else for your basketball thoughts (the smart bracket, however, got the Duke/WVA half of the final four right). 

But I am a good source for wrestling questions, and despite my general disapproval of most matters WWE (for you non wrestling fans who only associate professional wrestling with WWE - think of it like music or movies or whatever is the form of the culture in which you're most invested - WWE is the big corporate product, the most dumbed down, homogenized version of the craft - it's the 300 million dollar summer blockbuster; it's that Nickelback album that charted a half dozen different singles.  You wouldn't define it as the whole of the art form.  But you probably listen to the songs at the top of the chart and watch the films that make a lot of money; and sometimes, the machine produces something that fits your taste - or a director whose smaller movies you liked makes a giant studio film that has enough of who he used to be that it really works.  That's what it's like) Wrestlemania 26 is tonight, and that means that, as I did with the ten Best Picture nominees for the Academy Awards, I'd like to structure the Tendown loosely around the 9 matches scheduled for tonight's show.  I won't, I'll segregate my graps talk as best I can, keep it in a wrestling ghetto to avoid frustrating my readers who are disinclined to partake.  I'm good like that.

I watched the Hurt Locker this week, incidentally.  It wasn't any better than Black Hawk Down, both have that bang-bang vibe with a war setting, and, of war movies of recent vintage, I preferred Three Kings (and none of them are close to the documentary Why We Fight, which I'll take over Taxi to the Dark Side and the Errol Morris movie about Abu Ghraib).  I also saw Spread (better premise than execution, and after a promising first 40 minutes it lapses into a pretty conventional story) and The Proposal (bad, but not as bad as rom-coms are these days; in the past handful of years, romantic comedies have moved from formulaic to godawful; I blame Gerard Butler, who is as untalented as Megan Fox without her level of photo friendliness - you know who is a good looking dude though is Ryan Reynolds; I know he's in superhero shape for whatever comic book movie he's shooting - but he and soon to be single Sandra Bullock get naked in a slapsticky scene and that guy is put together.  Look how fat I am - I think as I watch the Proposal.  How will I ever keep my lady friend happy being this fat while men like Ryan Reynolds make movies that aren't as bad as the movies Gerard Butler makesThese are the important questions for consideration.)

My encyclopedic understanding of Wrestlemania probably doesn't serve as a romantic point in my favor, but I do take a somewhat exaggerated pleasure in being of an age where I've watched every Mania; either on PPV or within a matter of months via video, dvd, or today, more rapid, technologically sophisticated means.  I had tickets to VIII; memory eludes me as to why I was unable to attend.  Men, as you are aware, can use sports as means to communicate (I've previously coined the term wrestleationship) I started watching wrestling with my brothers when I was about eleven and they were 3 and 4 years old - we were, for the first couple of years, barred from watching by our parents, a rule which, like most which have been imposed on me, I completely ignored - we'd pile into my room, keeping the sound low, and spend Saturday and Sunday mornings watching WWF.  I went away to college in the fall of '88, but came home to watch Mania with them for a couple of years before the family moved across the country when I was a junior.  I started law school in '92 and hadn't seen my brothers for a few years when I visited in January of '95 - they had stopped watching wrestling, but when I showed my brother Joe Wrestlemania X, which featured what are still the two best matches in Mania history, he was back on board.  A few years later I moved near my family, and the combination of Japanese tape trading and the internet providing access to information made us both more sophisticated fans; we were able, for about a decade, to see each other once a week for a multiple hour viewing of current matches - I have a terrible, just painful time relating to other human beings, I've located it recently as Aspberger's (like Peter Krause's kid on Parenthood, which, as of yet, is watchable largely because of the likeability of a few of the actors as opposed to any interest in the storylines; I'd watch Lauren Graham read the phonebook and so far, it's not a lot more interesting than that) and whether that's clinically true or not - the level of panic in my head whenever in any social situation is difficult to express (I skipped my own 21st birthday party; I had a girlfriend once throw a costume party for Halloween and not invite me) and one of my very, very, very few occasions where I've looked forward to being in the same room with another person is when I get to watch wrestling with my brother.  In most situations, when I'm in a room with someone else I feel like I can't be me, that I need to crawl as deeply inside my head as possible - but when I watch wrestling with my brother -- Barthes wrote a dissection of professional wrestling a half century ago, he said:

In wrestling, as on the stage in antiquity, one is not ashamed of one's suffering, one knows how to cry, one has a liking for tears

Wrestling facilitates, as opposed to suppresses, expression - it draws me outside of my head.  Most of my passions are solitary; on my table right now are stacks of papers preparing for the baseball season, for the NFL Draft, filled with numbers only I will ever see; my brain runs on a fast but circular track, endless churning to arrive at only familiar stops.  I'm Groundhog Day.

But not so much today.  Today is Wrestlemania 26.  It's the best thing about this week.

After the jump - the rest of the Tendown
Or not - because after 5 hours, technology chose not to cooperate with me and Tendown is gone.  Woosh.

The number of Sundays where I am angry at the hours I spend writing this are greater than I care to admit.  Why do I do this to myself?  I need rest.  Jesus. 

1. Republicans Tell the Truth
There was some notable Republican truth telling this week - here's former Bush speechwriter David Frum.

A huge part of the blame for today’s disaster attaches to conservatives and Republicans ourselves.

At the beginning of this process we made a strategic decision: unlike, say, Democrats in 2001 when President Bush proposed his first tax cut, we would make no deal with the administration. No negotiations, no compromise, nothing. We were going for all the marbles. This would be Obama’s Waterloo – just as healthcare was Clinton’s in 1994.

Only, the hardliners overlooked a few key facts: Obama was elected with 53% of the vote, not Clinton’s 42%. The liberal block within the Democratic congressional caucus is bigger and stronger than it was in 1993-94. And of course the Democrats also remember their history, and also remember the consequences of their 1994 failure.

This time, when we went for all the marbles, we ended with none.

Could a deal have been reached? Who knows? But we do know that the gap between this plan and traditional Republican ideas is not very big. The Obama plan has a broad family resemblance to Mitt Romney’s Massachusetts plan. It builds on ideas developed at the Heritage Foundation in the early 1990s that formed the basis for Republican counter-proposals to Clintoncare in 1993-1994.

Barack Obama badly wanted Republican votes for his plan.

That's Frum admitting (1) this health care bill was essentially conservative in nature (2) the volume of conservative opposition to it was more about a strategy to demonize than about any connection to the merits of the bill and (3) the socialist/nazi talk is entirely made up as is (4) the tyranny talk, as it was Republicans, not Obama, who made the calculation that working with the other side would hurt politically. 

Why would Republicans make the decision to call a health care bill that was built on Republican ideas Communism? 

Frum told us that later in the week.

Republicans originally thought that Fox worked for us, and now we are discovering we work for Fox.

For this, Frum got fired from his conservative think tank.  Bruce Bartlett, who was in both the Reagan and Bush 41 Administrations and then got fired from his conservative think tank for criticizing Bush 43, explained why.

Since, he (Frum) is no longer affiliated with AEI, I feel free to say publicly something he told me in private a few months ago. He asked if I had noticed any comments by AEI "scholars" on the subject of health care reform. I said no and he said that was because they had been ordered not to speak to the media because they agreed with too much of what Obama was trying to do.

It's a show, folks.  A fundraising show to bring the rubes into the tent.  Conservatives know Obama's not a socialist/terrorist Nazi.  But "we largely agree with Obama, our differences are in the margins" doesn't move the needle - the Teabaggers aren't going to tune in and fork over cash to hear nuance.  They want Nazipocalypse.  And Fox News is willing to provide.  To use the language of wrestling - the hysteria over Obamacare is a work - and when Frum revealed that this week, he broke kayfabe - and he got canned.

2. And Here's Another One
An even better truth teller this week was Newt Gingrich.

Former Republican House speaker Newt Gingrich said Obama and the Democrats will regret their decision to push for comprehensive reform. Calling the bill "the most radical social experiment . . . in modern times," Gingrich said: "They will have destroyed their party much as Lyndon Johnson shattered the Democratic Party for 40 years" with the enactment of civil rights legislation in the 1960s.

Newt's exploding a current Republican lie, most recently told in the Texas textbook debate - that civil rights wasn't an ideological issue.  No.  The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was a progressive, big government social justice bill which prohibited business from discriminating on the basis of race - it was opposed on constitutional grounds by states rights opponents who eventually brought it to the Supreme Court in Heart of Atlanta Motel which ruled that Congress didn't exceed its power based on the Commerce Clause (U.S.C. Article I, Section 8). 

And, as LBJ predicted when it passed - it reshaped the electoral map when the conservative southern Democrats left the party, eventually to become Republicans and make up the core of the solid red south that has shaped national politics since and is the primary reason why Obama is the only Democrat from a nothern state elected President since JFK.

Newt's also revealing a bigger truth.

Even if it had negative consequences politically - the Civil Rights Act was still the right thing.

But hey - if Republicans would like to run against social justice - against the full slate of progressive measures over the past hundred years (that Simple Jack apparently believes is part of our march to Stalinism) from the Clayton Anti-Trust Act to the Social Security act - to minimum wage, clean air and water, maximum hours, minimum workplace health standards (such as set after the Triangle Shirtwaist fire) all the way to Medicare and civil rights legislation - all progressive, big government, social justice measures - if the Republicans want to call them all tyranny and draw Hitler moustaches and wear their scary guns - go nuts.  We'll see how it works out.  Fortunately, not all of us are at the mercy of the marketplace, like the WWE wrestlers who are classified as  independent contractors to maneuver around employment law protections.   

The Republicans were wrong then (here's Frank Rich from today talking about Republican opposition to social security and to the Civil Rights Act - turns out, it was supposed to the end of the United States, the end of freedom - the turn toward totalitarianism - oh no!) and they're wrong now.
3. Now, here's a promo.

It's Simple Jack saying cap and trade legislation would be just like 9-11 except for the burning buildings.  Exactly the same thing.  No difference.

4. What's in the bill anyway?
 In fact, I'd like to see Republicans run against the actual language in the new health care law.  Which of the following do you think an overwhelming majority of Americans would like to repeal?

1. Ends refusal of coverage based on pre-existing conditions (children this year, adults in 2014).
2. Ends dropping of coverage when people get sick.
3. No lifetime limits on coverage.
4. No annual limits (beginning in 2014).
5. Minimum of 80% of premium dollars must go to medical services.
6. Kids can stay on parents' insurance until age of 26.

And about 30 million uninsured become insured. 

If that's what the Republicans are going to use to sweep to victory in November - and then eventually gain enough support to repeal the bill "You Can Take My Pre-Existing Conditions When You Can Pry Them From My Cold, Dead Hands!"  "Hitler Hated Rescission Too!" then more power to them.

5. What about the Polls?
So, what I heard the Republicans say, even this week, is that the problem is Obama isn't listening to the will of the people.  It's tyranny, right?  After all - 70% of the public is opposed to health care reform (Imus, on Fox Business this week, said 70-80%).

Imagine, if you will the following alternate universe.

McCain got more votes than Obama.  But there was one state with an electoral dispute.  Obama's brother was the Governor.  The Secretary of State in charge of the election was an Obama campaign official.  The US Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision so outside the judicial norm that the opinion specifies it can't ever be used as precedent votes to stop the count and award the election to Obama.  The 5 justices who ruled for Obama - all Black, 4 men, one woman, all appointed by Democratic presidents. 

Then whatever the equivalent would be to the mid 2001 tax cuts for the wealthy, passed by reconciliation after a tiebreaking vote from the Vice President. Let's say that's how health care is passed. 

And then Obama gets the briefing "Bin Ladin Determined to Attack Inside the US".  And then 9-11 happens.

If what we have today is tyranny - if the world in which we live now is one where the US is on the brink of democratic collapse, so we all need to grab our guns and our gold - then what exactly, happened in 2000?
Anyway, the conservatives had a nifty maneuver when they would say health reform was unpopular with 70% of Americans - they'd take the conservative Teabagging types opposed to it as a too big intrusion of government into health care --- and the liberals (like me) opposed to it as a too small intrusion of government into their health care, 'cause we want single payer - or at the very least a public option (the NFL changed the overtime policy this week; it's now first to 6 points instead of sudden death; if you asked me if I was for it, I'd say why not expand it to regular season?  It's not a good enough reason to support a coin flip by saying "hell, that's how we always do it" - tradition isn't enough reason to refuse to change something)

And so they'd take those two numbers and say - everyone's with us!

But look at the USA Today/Gallup Poll from this week:

New health care bill:

Makes most important changes needed: 4%
Is a good first step - more changes needed 48% (that would be me)
Makes the wrong type of changes 31%
System doesn't need changes 8%
No opinion 10%

So - 52% in favor. 
And 39% opposed. 

And the plurality opinion is mine.  The problem with the bill is IT ISN'T PROGRESSIVE ENOUGH.

So, the next time you see the talking heads on television - the republican saying "Americans hate this new bill and want it repealed" and the democrat saying "Americans will grow to love it" - recognize that the answer is "we'd love it if it were more liberal."  More government.  Less insurance company controlled.  We don't need more moderation - we need less.  We don't need more bipartisanship - unless that second party is to the left of the Democrats. 

That's your tyranny.  That's your "why won't you listen to the American people." 

We're not a country of Teabaggers. 

This guy

is not us.

6. Unless he is.
From a new Harris poll.

•67 percent of Republicans (and 40 percent of Americans overall) believe that Obama is a socialist.

.•57 percent of Republicans (32 percent overall) believe that Obama is a Muslim

•45 percent of Republicans (25 percent overall) agree with the Birthers in their belief that Obama was "not born in the United States and so is not eligible to be president"

•38 percent of Republicans (20 percent overall) say that Obama is "doing many of the things that Hitler did"

•24 percent of Republicans (14 percent overall) say that Obama "may be the Antichrist."

It could turn out that this just isn't the country for me.  I think about that sometimes - I went to the wrong college; my college was religiously affiliated and lacked any sort of progressive presence - and then I stayed for law school - at which there was a flourishing chapter of the Federalist society but no progressive counterpart - does that mean the school should have changed?  Not really - it means I should have gone somewhere else. 

If Americans decide they want to elect Sarah Palin and a Republican congress and repeal the health care bill - why do I stay and keep paying tuition when there are other schools to attend?

7. But he goes first
Hey, Rush - a promise is a promise.

8. Russell is a Bad, Bad Man
I recognize you stopped watching Survivor a few seasons ago.  But this was error, as the current season of All-Stars featured the best piece of strategy of the week.

Boston Rob (who you know) and Russell (runner up from last season, he plays a very aggressive heel game) have been circling each other most of the season as leaders of rival factions - this week they went head up; Russell had an immunity idol, Rob didn't literally know this but believed it to be so - and believed (reasonably so) he needed to get rid of it now rather than wait for Russell to make a move on him.  To do that, Rob coordinated his alliance to split a vote - half to Russell, half to Parvati (winner of the previous All-Star season).  Therefore, if Russell played the Idol, voiding the votes against him - then Russell's ally Parvati would go home.  If Russell didn't play the Idol - then the tie between he and Parvati would mean a revote - but it would then be too late to play the Idol - and the 6 votes controlled by Rob would then vote Russell out. 

See?  So - either Russell plays the Idol, saving himself -  but losing his ally Parvati.  Or Russell sits on the Idol and goes home.

But Russell outflanks Rob - he sniffs out the plan and goes to Tyson, in Rob's alliance and assigned, under the plan, to vote for Russell, and convinces him that he is going to vote Parvati out.

Well, Tyson decides, even though I'm supposed to vote against Russell - why do that?  If Russell votes Parvati out, that means there are 4 votes against Parvati and 3 against Russell.  Parvati definitely goes home - why antagonize Russell by voting against him - who knows - he may be in power at some point, so I'll vote against Parvati too (and not tell Rob, and that's important).

Because here's what happened.  Russell didn't play the Idol - he gave it to Parvati to play.

So - when Rob's alliance cast 4 votes against Parvati instead of 3 - none of those votes counted. 

What did count were the 2 votes against Russell (and not 3, 'cause of Tyson).

And those 2 votes weren't as many as the 3 votes that Russell's alliance cast against...wait for it...Tyson.

So, the Idol is gone - but Rob, and not Russell, lost an ally.  I guess I'm on Team Rob, but it's challenging, as a straight guy, not to root for Parvati.  That Parvati/Amanda alliance from the previous season of all-stars was almost unfair. 

I saw no 4 star wrestling again this week; TNA had a PPV Sunday with a 3 3/4 star Guns/Bucks tag; a 3 1/2 junior match to start the show, and a 3 star Angle/Kennedy match.  Also, Monday they had a free 3 star RVD/Jeff v. Beer Money tag.  I watched a 3 1/2 star match from two Sundays ago, I think, from developmental, just this week - Low Ki putting over Justin Gabriel.  Oh yeah, on Superstars there was a 3 1/4 Rey/Kidd. I have on my hard drive the first Evolve show, the most recent DGUSA PPV, the January show from PWG, and a lot of recent puroresu including the Dragon Gate show where they did the title change.

I also saw the documentary about Bret that was on the Fight Network, and that would be worth your watching. 

9. Mike and Christine
The best piece I read this week was this about transgendered sportswriter Mike Penner who became Christine Daniels and subsequently attempted to transition back and then committed suicide.  It follows a piece about 3 transgendered sportswriters from the most recent episode of Bryant Gumbel's HBO show, which remains the best televised sports journalism in the country.

10. In case you forgot

I'm on Team Bowersox~  She's from Maumee (shout out to my Ohio peeps).

Idol's a death cruise this season; Ellen's still got that "I don't know what to say here" look, Simon's counting the days until jumping ship, and there isn't a non Bowersox on the show I ever, ever, ever want to hear sing again.  They need to use a retroactive judges save and bring back Lilly.  It's a full on disaster.

But Wrestlemania won't be.  Multiple potentially good matches, the return of Bret Hart; an emotional moment with the end of Shawn Michaels's career - I'm on board with Team McMahon for at least one more day (not in Connecticut however; if those people vote for Linda they are batshit crazy) and am all the way sold for the big show tonight.

And that's how we'll end Tendown.  I'll see you next time (I have to make these about 50% less time consuming to write) if there is a next time...

Your pal,



Kirk said...

I remember why you didn't go to Wrestlemania with me.

Jim said...

Kayfabe. Come on.

Blog said...

HBK/Taker II was a great spectacle that proved, without a shadow of a doubt, that both men should retire now.

***** for drama, ** for in ring action.

Jim said...

I liked it much more than you did; I went 4 stars, thinking of it as similar in quality to last year's match. I don't disagree with the conclusion though - if they worked once a year going forward that would be the best possible result; I think, though, Shawn is serious about not wanting to work again. That was a helluva retirement promo he cut last night, you need to see that if you've yet to.

Blog said...

Actually, I had the match at **** 1/4 total, since I believe that drama is about twice as important as the in-ring action. What they can do is limited, but what they do is extremely intelligent and effective. HBK and Taker got the absolute maximum out of what they are capable of.

Oh hell, thinking back to the moonsault to the injured knee, and the megadeath tombstone, I'll take it up to **** 1/2.

Saw most of the speech on my cell phone on the way home. Excellent. I hope that serves as a blueprint for many aging wrestler retirement speeches in the not too distant future.

Mark said...

Where do you think Michaels ranks in the all-time list, Jim (and Blog, if that is in fact your real name)?

I'm wholly ignorant of non-US stuff but, in terms of all-round excellence (in and out of the ring), I don't think there's anyone whose work I've enjoyed more in the 25 years I've been watching. I put him narrowly ahead of Benoit, Jericho, Bret and Flair. In that order.

Only thing I didn't like about the retirement promo was him thanking Jesus. Annoys me when athletes do that. Give yourself some credit, man.

Blog said...

I don't believe in a best of all-time rankings, because the eras are so very different. But someone's gonna have to prove how anybody's accomplishment is better than Rikidozan gathering over 90% of the television audience for all of his battles with Lou Thesz before I'll go along with such a title.

Michaels was awesome though. But have you read his book? It's totally appropriate for him to thank Jesus Christ, as that really is who saved him. Not his wife, not Hunter, not his own will power. Belief in Jesus Christ as his savior. Deal with it.

Have a Good Friday.

- Blog

Jim said...

It's really hard - I just don't know how to consider pre- 1970s anything; I mean, I've seen one Lou Thesz match. Rikidozan's obviously more important than any current wrestler could be, as Joe points out - but I pretty heavily subordinate those considerations when I'm thinking about match quality as I've written about before. I've got a post someplace with the matches of the decade - and if I haven't put up a post of every 5 star match I've ever seen I've been remiss. What you'd see on that list is Kobashi and Misawa. I so much prefer puroresu, particularly that Giant Baba 1990s All-Japan style, to any other wrestling - that a list of the past quarter century would be pretty heavily dominated by Japanese workers. I'd absolutely go Kobashi, Misawa 1-2 and in that order - and after that it would take some thought - Jumbo, Kawada, Kenta would be in that discussion. Benoit and Rey and Danielson and Eddy would probably all be in the top 10. Liger, right, Liger would be there too. Michaels would be in my second ten, with Bret and Flair and Steamboat. If I'm going back a little further, as I'm pretty comfortable with the amount of work of seen from say the late 70s on - then I'm adding Terry Funk and Dynamite. That's 16. Muta. 17. I need to get to 20 now. Hard...maybe Stan Hansen. Angle. Marufuji. 20. If I were going to systematically look at it, and one day I will, but right now I'm writing Counterfactual Silver, I'd look at my star ratings and really consider longevity - I'm just doing this from the top of my head. I'd like Michaels more if he'd throw a suplex every now and again - I don't want to sound like the guy who hates Shawn Michaels - I'd absolutely put him in my top 20 (Owen, yeah, Owen - Owen and Tiger Mask would make the top 25; maybe with Vader and Hashimoto and Savage - and if we were going to 30, Dean and Sasuke and...Foley, I think...2, I'll stop there. 28! Good times.

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