[posted 11/11/10 to http://wrestlingbabylon.wordpress.com]
Wrestler-author Mick Foley, the hardcore legend, has another one of his interesting interviews, with Michael Landsberg of the Canadian cable network TSN’s Off the Record. The podcast is at http://www.tsn.ca/window/podcastcentre.aspx?xmlURL=http://images.tsn.ca/podcasts/otrpodcast.xml&mp3URL=http://podcast.tsn.ca/otr/fullotr_111010.mp3.
Charming, uncommonly intelligent, and sincerely interested in using his celebrity for the greater good, Foley is impossible to dislike. However, his insights on concussions and their public-health meaning – both his own, which he estimates at more than 100, and the general problem – are incomplete. A civilized society is not about “chasing your dream” without limits, because those kinds of dreams can have unacceptable costs for the rest of us. Foley, like most pro wrestlers, is too much of a “mark for himself” to understand this.
On the subject of Vince McMahon, Foley testifies to the promoter’s good heart and points to two examples. After the infamous Hell in a Cell match in which Foley inflicted ridiculous damage on himself, McMahon said he didn’t want Foley to do that sort of thing again. (I’m not going to detail the Hell in a Cell performance here, because these phony-shocked descriptions have turned into their own subgenre of pornography of the spirit, and miss the point.)
And when Foley complained of mobility problems, McMahon urged Foley to retire for his own good, even though he was at his peak as a draw for McMahon’s World Wrestling Entertainment. (Of course, the retirement didn’t take; it rarely does. Foley now works for WWE’s very weak competitor, TNA, and doesn’t rule out returning to WWE.)
Unfortunately, anecdotal evidence that Vince McMahon cares about the people who maim and kill themselves for his near-billionaire wealth – which just funded his stunningly unqualified wife Linda’s unsuccessful $50 million bid for the United States Senate – doesn’t cut it. I’m pretty sure McMahon doesn’t beat his pet dogs, too. As a matter of policy and civilized sense, what we need to be asking is what McMahon’s junk-entertainment factory tells the successor in Foley’s top spot, and every other glory-seeker competing for it, what, if anything, no one is allowed to do in the name of “getting over.” When there is no answer to that question except defensive, corporate, “cost-effective” double-talk, the answer is government regulation.
My essay “Concussion Issue Reaches Critical Mass in American Culture and Politics” is scheduled for publication tomorrow at Beyond Chron, the San Francisco online newspaper (http://beyondchron.org).