[posted 8/18/10 to http://wrestlingbabylon.wordpress.com]
Linda McMahon now calls “fair game” the question of why her wrestlers die young at rates astronomically higher than those of astronauts or football players or rock stars. No matter how disingenuously rhetorical this concession may be, it is welcome.
One of the most welcome aspects is that McMahon has made the remark in the wake of the death of former World Wrestling Entertainment performer Lance Cade, who does not fit her historically cramped definition of the “only” five wrestlers who died while under contract to WWE. Cade – like Eddie “Umaga” Fatu, who died last December – was an ex-and-maybe-future star when his particular fatal variation of “heart failure” kicked in three days after Linda won the Republican Senate primary in Connecticut. So, presumably, the McMahon campaign and her husband Vince will not complain while Senate race watchers proceed to examine the papier-mache realities behind a corporate “Wellness Program” that supposedly includes “cardiovascular screening.”
Linda answers a question with a question: “Who knows what causes people to have addictions and do what they do?” The root question was designed to make people reflect on corrective measures. Her twist on it is designed to dismiss them.
There are indeed multiple components of the wrestling death pandemic, and some of them are indeed unflattering to the individuals who died. McMahon, however, is running for an office of public trust. We don’t need her chattering about her ants. (“I might have met [Lance Cade] once,” she told Brian Lockhart of Hearst newspapers.) We need her taking account of her ant colony.
In that connection, the media’s shorthand term “steroids” cruelly truncates a phenomenon that is lot more than a one-off choice by a glory-seeker to artificially pump up his or her physique. The drugs causing wrestlers’ hearts to burst aren’t just steroids, but a cocktail of steroids, prescription painkillers, and antidepressants. (And that is without even getting to brain damage, an increasingly well identified ingredient of the mix.) These are not incidental offshoots of fame and fortune, but direct byproducts of daily working conditions, for the few who achieve fame and fortune plus the many who are induced to try and fail.
Back in January I ran a seven-part series on this blog called “’The Question’ – Senate Candidate Linda McMahon (Still) Can’t Answer It.” And she still, still can’t. My earlier series (which was consolidated into a single long post at http://wrestlingbabylon.wordpress.com/2010/01/10/%E2%80%98the-question%E2%80%99-%E2%80%93-senate-candidate-linda-mcmahon-still-can%E2%80%99t-answer-it-complete-7-part-series-as-a-single-post/) included these points:
* Eleven performers from WrestleMania 1991 alone died before their 50th birthdays. One was a gangland murder that had nothing at all to do with occupational health and safety; the others jogged that issue in measures small and large. The numbers are overwhelming; they are preposterous. They peaked in single-year volume in 2007, and absent outside regulatory reforms, they will continue to occur at depraved and immoral levels.
* WWE “independent contractor” wrestlers sign a contract with a death clause. I am reasonably sure that Heath Ledger did not waive the liability of Hollywood studios if he had died on the set while shooting a movie scene.
* WWE, which turned Vince and Linda McMahon into near-billionaires during the ten-year period when they abandoned steroid-testing, began offering substance-abuse rehab to former talent in late 2007. In his nose-thumbing testimony before staff investigators of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Vince explained the decision in “two words: public relations.”