By Jim Phillips, Senior Editor
“Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.” –Pele
All artists sacrifice for what they love, and to their calling. Athletes are no different in that ilk, and while the artists may have a lifetime go from doodling with crayons to creating their masterpiece in their elder years, the professional athlete’s window to achieve that same is much shorter. Once the “bump clock” begins to tick, it is only a matter of time before your term is done in the ring, and many are willing to give up everything to reach that pinnacle of legendary status that will attain them professional immortality. But at what cost? Simply put, everything.
Sacrifice and perseverance go hand in hand, and while perseverance is the test of heart, sacrifice is undoubtedly the test of soul. You have to be willing to hold that reserve that you can dig deep into when times get beyond the point of acceptable loss and uncertain gain that can see you through to that next opportunity. Being in the right place at the right time is the colloquialism that we most often connotate with the spark of success, and getting a breakout opportunity. Being in that right place often comes from being there all the time and giving all of yourself to the profession you have chosen. No one ever gets a life changing opportunity sitting at home on the couch in the bosom of their family, as much as they may like it to happen that way.
Let us not drape the cloak of narcissism over the performer, as their families and loved ones also bear the burden of sacrifice, as mommy or daddy may be away during the special moments that can define them as being part of their children’s lives. This was galvanized during an interview segment in the movie 350 Days, when Wendi Richter talked about not being able to be in her young daughter’s life because of the hectic schedule she was enduring at the height of her run in the early days of the WWF. It was a seminal moment in the movie, and you could see the loss in her eyes and hear the pain cracking her voice as she talked about it. That piece of work should be seen by anyone that has a desire to become a true professional in the business, as well as the fans so that they may learn to appreciate more what is given them by these men, women, and their families. It is an inspired piece of film that embodies so many of these core values that are discussed in the JP Shorts series.
The sacrifice is not only one of family relationships. The costs leveled upon the human body are rarely equaled in any other occupation with the exception of stunt man/woman, or other athletes in the other contact sports. Those that are lucky enough or have worked skillfully enough in their careers are inevitably also the ones you see that are hobbling around and broken. The visible proof of a life of giving their bodies to each other, and ultimately, their craft…their art. For with success, and sacrifice, also comes pain.
Even with all the personal penance that is extracted from a wrestler, there is also the professional atonement that must be considered from time to time. You can never win em all, and to believe so is either naivete, ignorance or a lethal combination of the two that gives workers the delusion that they will never have to lose a match. Going under not only shows that you are able to do business, but also willing to give of yourself to put someone else over. The true greats were and are able to lose, while still getting over themselves, without over-shining the push. The biggest names in the business have had this quality, and it lends itself to why they have that term great connected to their names to begin with.
The stories of Mick Foley sleeping in his car so he could get the training he wanted from Dominic DeNucci, or Steve Austin eating noting but potatoes because he couldn’t afford anything else, and also the tragedy and aftermath that may come form the and untimely death and loss of a loved one to the perils of the business, both inside and out of the ring.
The price of success can levy a heavy demand on the lives and bodies of the men and women who seek it. Is it the fame, or fortune, possibly the acclaim that can be denoted in the history books that drive them? It could be all these things, but I tend to believe that it is because that is all they know; the love of competition and need for the warmth of their achievement in the glory of it’s embrace. Until next time Bruthas and Sistas….Peace.