I’m not a professional wrestling fan and frankly know virtually nothing about that “sport.” But at least I’ve heard of the term “Wrestlemania.” When I looked it up this morning to get a little more insight, I read that it refers to an annual wrestling extravaganza that has been going on for nearly three full decades. It began, believe it or not, with a tag team match featuring, of all people, Mr. T. The commentator at five of the first six Wrestlemanias was none other than the Governor – Jesse Ventura. This was back when he was Jesse the Body, and not yet Jesse the Mind. And lest you wonder if Wrestlemania can pack as big a punch in the turnstiles as it does in the ring, consider that on more than ten occasions, attendance has topped 65,000. Once, in Michigan, over 93,000 people showed up for the festivities. And why not? Because when you show up, you may end up seeing not only wrestlers, but major celebrities. The list of those who have officiated, sung or otherwise performed at these events include Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, Lawrence Taylor, Pete Rose, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight, Willie Nelson, Reba McEntire, Little Richard, John Legend …. You get the point, Wrestlemania is big-time, mainstream Americana.
And now, we have it beat. Wrestlemania – meet Scandalmania.
I can’t pick up a newspaper any more without reading about a scandal. Nor can I turn on Cable News and expect to go scandal-less. Hell, even on ESPN – more scandals. Last weekend, being a big Tiger Woods fan, I watched the Players’ Championship. And after it was over and Tiger won, did anyone on sports radio want to talk about his golf game? Of course not. They wanted to talk about how: (a) Sergio Garcia, his playing partner on Saturday, complained that Tiger, while standing dozens of yards away, breached golf etiquette by pulling a club out of the bag when Sergio was about to hit; (b) Tiger claimed that he asked a marshal if Sergio had already hit the ball and didn’t take the club out of the bag until after the marshal said yes; (c) two marshals said on Monday that Tiger never did ask them if Sergio had hit the ball first, and one of these marshals said that Tiger’s misstatement reflected badly on his character; and (d) two other marshals then came to Tiger’s defense, with one of the marshals admitting that he was the one who told Tiger that Sergio had already hit the ball.
Who am I supposed to believe? Sergio? Tiger? The first set of marshals? The second? What’s a scandal-sipping, fact-checking, judgmental schmuck like me to do?
OK. Let me get serious for a moment. I don’t wish to downplay the importance of any of the reported events of the past fortnight. Nor do I wish to suggest that they are important. On substance, I’m going to stay neutral on all of the reported stories – from the governmental scandals to the war of words at the TPC Sawgrass Golf Course. My point is simply that just as those of us who wanted to hear about the actual golf recognize that there is more to a tournament than the stuff described above, those of us who care about this country’s governance recognize that there are issues aside from the reporting of scandals. And we cannot afford to spend the entire second term of Obama’s Presidency dealing with scandals. In fact, we cannot afford to spend the entire second term of Obama’s Presidency dealing with what the media and other talking heads think of Obama’s Presidency. Believe it or not, this country actually needs the government to do things. Economically, environmentally, geopolitically … we have a TON of work to do. And nobody seems to think that any of this work is urgent – other than dealing with scandals.
No, my friends, just like sports fans can’t live on “Wrestlemania” alone, the American public cannot satiate itself solely with Scandalmania. I’m not suggesting that all of the recent scandals are as phony as professional wrestling. (Remember – I’m staying neutral on that point.) But even if there were ten scandals and each one rose to the Watergate level, they still shouldn’t occupy all of our attention. Let’s not forget the bigger picture, folks – our soldiers are in harms’ way in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria remain engulfed in violence, Pakistan has a zillion nukes, Israel and Palestine have been at war for 65 years and counting, the world is passing horrific climate change milestones, we are seeing horrible economic inequities domestically of the kind that would make Dickens begin to take note, we have a huge National Debt, nearly everyone agrees that there is a crying need for immigration reform, our nation is awash in assault weapons and mentally-ill firearms owners ….
Like I said, we have a lot on our plate. Let’s not forget that the next time we begin to sink our teeth into Scandal number N+1.