Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The eulogy that wasn't

24 hours ago, I was preparing a written tribute in this space for Chris Benoit and his family. In an admission that will admittedly brand me an internet smart mark, I will say that he was my favorite wrestler. The operative word here is "was."

My words were going to express the notion that my all-time favorite athlete, Steve Yzerman, retired almost a year ago and that I wrote a tribute to him. I was prepared to express how much harder it is to pay tribute to someone who's passed away than to someone who's retired ... until I learned the circumstances.

There are a million different perspectives out there about this tragedy, and I can respect all of them -- except for the immature clowns on message boards who either want to use the blood of innocents to bash pro wrestling fans, or, on the other extreme, to defend Benoit as "a good man who became sick at the end" and can't let go of the man they wanted to believe existed.

For those who only now know him as a tabloid headline, let me give you the meat of the tribute I was going to write for him. Chris Benoit was a man who said that he treated his profession as art, and many of us loved him for the way that he applied that philosophy to his matches. He almost never had a bad match, even with the least talented wrestlers in the industry. He could work any style in a believable manner. He gave us some of the greatest moments in wrestling history, whether it be the shocking standing ovation he was given at the end of the 2003 Royal Rumble, his Wrestlemania XX triumphant moment with the late, great Eddy Guerrero, his J-Cup highlights from Japan or any hundred other matches. He worked hard, set an example of how to be a professional for wrestlers coming up, and really shined with his leadership in that capacity.

Now for the parts I wasn't going to include ...

Because of what he did in the ring, the fact that his colleagues invariably cited him as one of the most respected wrestlers in the industry (the quintessential "wrestler's wrestler," if you will) and his quiet, humble nature, we all overlooked a few things. Like the fact that he got together with his current wife Nancy at the expense of her existing marriage (and his relationship with the mother of his other children) during the infamous "Kevin Sullivan booked his own divorce" period 11 years ago. And the obvious use of steroids, HGH, or any similar product to pack the unnatural amount of musculature on his relatively slight frame. Nobody's perfect, right?

Well, that's an obvious understatement right now.

In the end, Chris Benoit was all of those things, and that was all we knew at the time -- so it was valid to look at him with the great appreciation that we did. I don't begrudge myself the fun I had at the time from his efforts.

But now? Appreciating Chris Benoit for his work would be like appreciating Adolf Hitler for some paintings that he might have created. Benoit murdered his wife and child in cold blood before taking the coward's way out at the end of a rope. The details of last weekend, combined with confirmation of previous spousal abuse that was not publicly known until now, conspire to make this story keep getting more nauseating by the hour. He deserves none of the glory that many of us were ready to give him when we first learned of his demise prior to absorbing the gory details. He deserves ... well, exactly what he's getting right now and for eternity. Let's leave it at that.

We who appreciated Chris Benoit saw in him the good side of an industry plagued by repetitive and numbing premature death and general sleaze. We thought he stood for the positive side of what is admittedly a morally challenged industry. But in the end, he exemplified to the "nth degree" the open sewer that the business really is. It's a sad measure of how addictive the entertainment can be that so few of us (and I don't exempt myself from this) will abandon it in long-overdue outrage.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home