Straight Shooting
How to successfully raise a wrestling fan
January 30, 2000
By Fritz Capp

The following is a real life tragedy about to make its way into the court system:

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Wrestling provoked boy in Girl's death

Professional wrestling could be put on trial this spring as the attorney for a 12-year-old Broward boy accused of fatally battering his 6-year-old playmate plans to argue that the boy was just mimicking what he saw on TV.

The attorney, Jim Lewis, this week subpoenaed a Sprite commercial in which wrestling star Sting materializes in a family's living room and performs a pile driver and other moves on a skinny youngster. Lewis says the commercial is strikingly similar to what his client, avid wrestling fan Lionel Tate, is alleged to have done to Tiffany Eunick.

``If you watch and believe professional wrestling, they beat the hell out of each other and then get up and walk away,'' Lewis said. ``Wrestling glorifies violence and breaks it down as entertainment. At this age, it's difficult for children to distinguish between fantasy and reality.''

Blaming TV has been tried before, with limited success. The tactic was pioneered in the 1970s by Miami attorney Ellis Rubin, who argued that 15-year-old Ronny Zamora was imitating Kojak, his favorite TV character, when he gunned down his 82-year-old neighbor in Miami Beach.

Zamora is serving a life term.

In this case, it's televised professional wrestling -- the pop culture sensation steeped in cartoonish violence, sophomoric sex and maudlin drama -- that's getting the blame.

Although Tiffany's death last July originally was thought to be the result of innocent horseplay gone awry, the severity of the girl's injuries -- including a skull fracture and lacerated liver -- led to the filing of first-degree murder charges.

Lionel, who will be tried as an adult, told police he grabbed the girl in a bear hug and slammed her head into a table. He later said that he swung the girl around and her head struck a cast-iron railing at his home.

In the commercial Lewis subpoenaed, WCW wrestler Sting appears in the bedroom of a young boy after the boy takes a swig of Sprite. Lewis says Sting turns the boy upside down in a bear hug, appears to slam his head into the floor, and then drags the boy along a fireplace mantle.

The Coca-Cola company, which makes Sprite, had no comment. World Championship Wrestling, the Ted Turner-owned company that employs Sting, was also mum.

Representatives of the rival World Wrestling Federation said they broadcast public service announcements warning that wrestling moves should never be imitated at home.

``We believe any 12-year-old knows the difference between real-life consequences and television,'' said Jim Byrne, the WWF senior vice president of marketing and public relations.

``What gets watched in each individual home is up to the parents,'' he added.

Once limited to obscure time slots, professional wrestling has exploded in popularity over the past few years and become a staple of prime time TV.

Shows like Monday Nitro, Raw is War and SmackDown! are seen nightly, especially by young males. Lewis plans to play snippets of the shows for jurors.

Nationally, wrestling has been cited as a factor in incidents of youth violence in Texas, California and Georgia, said David Walsh, president of the National Institute on Media and the Family, a nonprofit group that studies the effects of television on children.

``For every case that grabs headlines, there are thousands of incidents of children taunting, putting down or making sexual insults to their peers,'' Walsh said.

``Lionel didn't mean to hurt this girl, he wasn't angry and he didn't have any reason to hurt her,'' Lewis said. ``He was just acting out what he'd seen on television, and unfortunately, he didn't know his own strength.'' (Credit: CAROLINE J. KEOUGH of Yahoo.com)

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After reading this I had to sit back for a minute to think. Because this boy accidentally killed a playmate the defense is going to use the line that because Sting is in a Sprite commercial it is wrestling’s fault for this tragedy? Isn’t that like the case of the child who killed himself and the parents blamed Ozzy because of his music?

I have to take a stand on the side of professional wrestling here people. Is it pro wrestling’s fault that parents do not teach their kids right from wrong anymore? Is it professional wrestling’s fault that today’s parents do not take the time with their children to teach them the difference between fantasy and reality? Has this country grown so lazy that they must look for people to blame for their own shortcomings?

I have a 2 ˝ year old son. To say that he likes wrestling is an understatement. Actually he has been watching it since before he could sit up on his own. Of course that is because I watch it and it is what was on television. I mean, did the kid have a choice at the time?

I used to be able to gauge the strength of the match that was on by whether he really watched it or not. It was actually quite humorous. If there was a high action match, his eyes would be glued to the set. If it was a scrub match with a lot of rest holds he wasn’t interested at all. Funny how, even at a young age, Danny could tell what was good and what wasn’t. Actually we all know that the high flying matches had a lot more action which would attract Danny’s viewing as opposed to rest hold matches that had no action, which of course would not be stimulating to a young mind, but I still found the comparisons interesting.

Needless to say he has been watching wrestling for over 2 years now. He absolutely loves it and why wouldn’t he? The flash and glamour of professional wrestling today is far different then from times of lore. It is colorful with larger than life figures. Today’s wrestling is also very fast paced which would keep a child’s interest.

Now Danny has all his little action figures and when the entrance music starts during the show he grabs that particular wrestler and holds it tight and then walks him to the ring. Quite cute if I do say so myself. He gets all excited when the opening WWF spot comes flashing onto the screen. He knows almost all of the guys' names and he does a great impersonation of the Rock. While he doesn’t really have an ultimate favorite he does love Mick Foley. (he impersonates Mankind’s walk to the ring and does a great Cactus Jack "Bang Bang") Triple H is also well known, as is the Big Show and Edge, along with Chris Jericho and Chyna. Of course we cannot forget Stone Cold Steve Austin, X-Pac, Road Dog, Billy Gunn (He DOES NOT know him by Mr. Ass), Kevin Nash, Sting, Goldberg, Hulk Hogan, DDP, Al Snow, Too Cool, McMahon, Rikishi and Kurt Angle. He gets excited when each one appears and has a match. (In retrospect, I think he does like Rock, Mick, HHH and Austin the most. I also apologize but ECW is not quite what he should be watching yet, although I am going to filter it down so he can get to see some great matches and get to know those guys also).

Now I do not have to tell you that a child at his age does want to copy what he sees in the ring. (For those of you wondering no he doesn’t stay up late to watch RAW or NITRO...I tape them...he does stay up for part of Smackdown though because of it’s earlier time slot) In fact, Danny and I have had many "matches". (Barry Horowitz should have Danny’s agent and booker because after two years he has yet to "do the job"...so much for time honored tradition huh?) He always calls me "Broni" and hits me with some sort of wrestling maneuver when he is ready for another match. The fact of the matter is he does a great leg drop off the back of the couch. He likes to Rock Bottom (which is quite a feat considering he is only 3 foot tall and I am close to 6 feet). He also does a great chokeslam, and I get a kick out of when he runs to his room and comes out with a sock on his hand yelling "Socko" before he applies the Mandible Claw. He runs the couch back and forth like he is "coming off the ropes" and in fact climbs onto the couch sometimes like it is a wrestling ring. All in all, Danny and I have a lot of fun. You should see him walk around after pinning me with his arms held high. It is quite a sight

Now is this warping him? No way. Not at all. In fact he was having trouble getting his numbers in the right order until I started having him "pin" me. It was really easy to get him to relate to the three count which in turn now has him counting to 10 with no problem. (Sometimes he thinks he’s King Kong Bundy...a three count is just not enough)

You see, it’s all in how you use the knowledge he is being given. Danny is a well-adjusted, very happy child who says please and thank you, smiles all the time and while he is sometimes rough as all boys will be, at the same time he is very gentle and caring even at his young age. Not the picture people would like to paint of a young child who has been influenced by wrestling is it?

Sure he used to go after his mom and even cracked her a few times trying to "play" with her. I don’t have to tell you that she didn’t appreciate that very much. No problem...I showed him that he only does that with daddy and we haven’t had a problem since. He doesn’t try to "wrestle" with anyone but me and he is around pretty many kids from time to time. We have yet to see an incident. If you take a moment with your kid to teach them something, it is funny how quickly they respond and learn.

Does he get outrageous sometimes? Of course he does...he’s a kid. I have been hit with his little plastic chair, cardboard boxes, pillows, dog toys, books, step stools, buckets and almost anything else he could get his hands on during one of our "matches".. What did I do? Well the first couple of times, I laughed as I envisioned a miniature Mick Foley, but after that I had to teach him that you don’t always use weapons in the ring (or on daddy). Then I had to teach him what was safe to use and what wasn’t and why. (I hated getting cracked with that drumstick in my face...cardboard is my weapon of choice as far as he is concerned) Has he listened and learned? Of course! Children are like empty vessels waiting to be filled and it depends on what you fill your child’s head with that makes all the difference in the world.

Don’t get me wrong, all of Danny’s television viewing doesn’t just include pro wrestling. Sesame Street, Bear In the Big Blue House, PB&J Otter and Blue’s Clues are just some of the things that he likes to watch. I do not believe in a television-raised child though, so he does have a lot of books, which includes a good portion of Disney, Dr. Seuss and Sesame Street among other children's literature. Of course he loves his wrestling magazines (Wrestling World For Kids is his favorite). If you take something that a child likes and use it to the positive, you can get a lot more out of it than meets the eye. While Sesame Street helped with teaching him the alphabet, I used the wrestling mags almost like flash cards for letters. While he was looking at the pictures I would point to letters and ask them what they were. When he was wrong I would correct him. Now when he looks at wrestling magazines he sometimes comes up to me with the mag and points at the pictures and then reads me off the letters in the name associated with the wrestler. When he is done he is very proud of himself and looks to me for approval, which of course he gets. All it takes is a little ingenuity and understanding to be able to take something and make it work in a child’s best interest. Wanna bet he is reading within a year?

Professional wrestling is not the culprit here and should not take the brunt of the blame. It is time that the people in our country start to understand that they are responsible for the children that they produce. The above lawyer is using professional wrestling as a scapegoat for his client. If he wins, this will open up the floodgates of litigation against wrestling promotions for their content, which is not the way this should go. I believe that it is the parents who should be brought into court for failing at the most basic rule of parenting and that would be caring enough about their children to teach them the basic principles of life.

Is it so much trouble anymore to sit down with your children? Does your career or meetings or whatever mean so much more than your children that you cannot take a few precious moments of your valuable time to spend with them to give them your valuable insight? Can’t you take your eyes off of the television set long enough to interact with your children to teach them what they need to learn? If you cannot do these things then you shouldn’t have become a parent because you DO NOT have what it takes to do the job properly.

Do not sit there and tell me I have no right to say these things because I have every right in the world. In a few years Danny is going to go to school and have to deal with your television raised kid and will be subjected to his/her brand of non-parental guidance objectivity. At that time, if your kid inflicts injury on mine because of lack of teaching on your part, I guarantee that it will not be a cop or lawyer showing up at your door.

It is time that people stop trying to blame professional wrestling for all of the problems in the world. It is athletic entertainment plain and simple. Do not look to put the blame on something else if you cannot find the time to do what you are supposed to be doing and that is raising your child. If you think so little of your kids that you cannot take the time to teach them what they need to be taught, then you have no one but yourself to blame for the consequences, no matter how severe those consequences may be.

And with that I am outta here. Remember wrestling is nothing more than it appears to be.


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