Friday, April 24, 2009

Say your prayers, eat your vitamins

The latest issue of Rolling Stone has a great article on the pro wrestler, failed reality TV star and currently unemployed Hulk Hogan, a once-hero of mine who has fallen on hard times. The magazine's Web site has a cool photo gallery, but you have to buy the magazine to read the article. Not all information is free these days.

Like many children of the Eighties, I was an unabashed pro wrestling fanatic. My brother got me hooked on it, and for years I consumed everything I could about the "sport," from the WWF news shows to the regular weekend programs.

(Back when Saturday morning cartoons still kicked ass, you could watch three or four hours of cartoons, then flip over to the USA Network for an hour or two of wrestling. Yeah, I spent most Saturdays in front of the TV until 1 p.m., devouring mass quantities of sugar-infused cereal in the process, but I came out of it relatively unscathed despite the steady stream of sweaty, scantily-clad men I watched roll around on the ground with one another.)

One of the best Christmas presents I've ever received was tickets to see WWF wrestling at the Richfield Coliseum in Richfield, Ohio, on Dec. 26, 1986. It was all I wanted that year, and I about shit my pants when I found the tickets in my stocking. Hogan fought the relatively new but quickly rising bad guy Randy "Macho Man" Savage in a non-title match. I still have the photo my dad took of Hogan in his signature pre-match flexing display.

Eventually, wrestling and I grew apart — it was some time after I stopped believing it was real and turned my attention toward baseball, music and girls — but I eventually found my way back in college with the rise of the rival WCW league and the primetime wrestling wars at the turn of the century. At that point, it was more for the novelty factor and something to watch while drinking and fraternizing with my roommates. These days, I pay no attention to it.

But the Hogan article really struck a chord with me. It's sad, revelatory, comically absurd and inspiring, even — here's a guy who's quickly approaching his sunset years, who most days can barely get out of bed because he's in so much pain, and he's talking about getting in the ring again and returning to his former glory.

Like most celebrities, Hogan is more of a turd than his public persona lets on — he really shouldn't have said he "understands" O.J., even if that's how he really feels — but when you get down to it, he's just a flawed human being like most of us. 

So I found myself sympathizing with him. And rooting for him. No one likes to see their heroes fall, and I'm no different. Go get 'em, Hulkster.

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