AS I SEE IT 5/6
In real life, George Steele was Jim Myers, a high school teacher and coach, a Michigan State graduate and football player.
A number of readers know that story. But most don’t know what led up to that. Jim Myers was dyslexic. Myers details the story of having a learning disability at a time when few knew what a learning disability was, and when no one knew what being dyslexic meant. In his day, a child was seen as smart or stupid. He dealt with the shame of that label through his early school years, and details those days in painful detail. Somehow, he made his way to high school where he got respect on the schoolyards where he fought and the football field where he became a high school star.
His football career led him to Michigan State, where Myers graduated, owing to an enrollment adviser who discovered how intelligent Myers was, if he could be given a way to let his intelligence show through his learning disability. Oral exams and other creative techniques allowed Myers to graduate from Michigan State University with his degree. Myers talks about his marriage and early fatherhood, and how that helped heal the pain of his childhood shame and made a fuller person.
Myers then began his teaching career, eventually returning to the very school where he lived in shame as a child, and took his intelligence, and more importantly, his work ethic and lessons of being different learned from his own time in school. His work ethic made him a hard taskmaster as a coach, but proved successful to generations of his students.
Back in these days, teachers weren’t paid much. Not even those who doubled as football coaches. So Myers details how he met wrestling promoter Burt Ruby and got into wrestling initially as a way to supplement his meager teaching salary. He talks about those early days of beer and bologna blowouts, gradually making his way into the 1970s and 1980s as George “The Animal” Steele”, He tells hilarious stories about how the character developed, including his trademark green tongue; and talks of his entry into what became the World (Wide) Wrestling Federation.
There are plenty of wrestling stories, rarnging from Hulk Hogan to Randy Savage and Bruno Sammartino. This isn’t a book where there will be great revelations or scandalous stories, with the exception of his own past dealings with dyslexia. The stories are largely nostalgic and humorous ones about the life of wrestling in those days. It moves forward to working with independent promoters, his work as an agent for Vince McMahon; and to recent struggles with Chohn’s Disease and a late in life religious conversion.
The book ends with what Myers may see as the most important aspect of his life’s work, the personal lives his student have led after high school, including a number of whom have taken up teaching themselves.
“Animal” is a fun read, and is well worth picking up when it becomes available.
Last note: Please remember to contribute to the One Fund Boston at Onefundboston.org for the victims of the Boston terror bombings.
Until next time….
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