Monday, February 8, 2010

First times

Julia LaBua is a wrestling fan. A few weeks ago she sent this email to her co-workers.

“Subject: An offer you can (but shouldn't) refuse


You all know that I am a wrestling fan. Most of you probably wonder why. To try to answer that question, I am inviting you to attend the Jan. 31 meet against Michigan State as my guest (spouses, partners, and kids also welcome). This offer includes a ticket to the meet, a soda, and a hot dog (if you indulge in such foodstuffs), as well as answers to all your questions about what’s happening down there on the mat (n.b. They may not be the correct answers, but they will be answers).


When: 6 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 31

Who: Iowa Hawkeyes vs. Michigan State Spartans

Where: Carver-Hawkeye Arena

Why: Where else will you have the opportunity this year to root for a team of defending national champions?

RSVP: by January 20 to Julia”

The University of Iowa athletic department held a “Family 4-Pack” promotion that night and Julia took advantage to take potential new fans to their first wrestling dual meet.

Here are Julia’s comments on the results, “I just got home from Carver, and I thought I'd update all of you on how my "Hawkeye Indoctrination" plan went. It was a HUGE success, as far as I'm concerned. The final tally was 15 of my co-workers, spouses and kids. The 2-3 of us who know a bit about wrestling were able to explain enough to the others so that they more or less understood what they were seeing. I can tell you that explaining the concept of riding time to a middle-aged woman from Colombia (South America) is a challenge! But she was totally into it even though she didn't know anything about wrestling beforehand.

I was careful to point out key matchups ahead of time -- for example that Gomez was ranked #1 at 133, so that when Dennis pulled out the win in overtime they were all very excited and impressed. I also made sure nobody headed to the concession stand for their free hot dog during Metcalf's match.

Obviously the outcome of the dual was never in doubt, but several of them commented to me afterward that they didn't realize how exciting it could be on an individual-match basis even when the team scores a shutout. Oh, and Hilda, the 5-year-old daughter of one of my co-workers, was very concerned at the end about Erekson and his bloody head. She kept asking if he was OK, and if we thought his nose hurt. I wish I could have taken her down to the mat to meet him. Maybe next time.

The consensus afterward; ‘Wow, that was really fun! We should make this an annual office tradition.’ Just what I wanted to hear!”

I am a grandfather in a modern blended family. I took my son-in-law, Brian, and his kids Cassie (14) and Connor (8) to their first wrestling meet the same night that Julia took her co-workers. Brian is an MMA fan and I was a little afraid that, without the striking and choking, he might find wrestling boring. I shouldn’t have worried – he really got into it – especially the Dennis/Gomez match.

Connor liked the ice cream, pop corn and the juggler at intermission.

Cassie surprised me. She talked about the matches and asked questions all of the way home. Monday she bragged to her industrial technology teacher (who is an assistant wrestling coach at her school) that she had gone to her first wrestling match. I’m taking her to the Northwestern meet this Friday. We may just have another wrestling fan in the making.

I remember the first time I heard Ed Aliverti’s voice. I called in sick to work, went to Carver Hawkeye Arena and bought a ticket from a scalper for the opening session of the NCAA tournament. “Welcome wrestling fans to the world’s oldest and greatest sport!” It wasn’t just the words – it was the conviction with which he said them. You knew that what he said was true. And just when you might be getting a little bored because you didn’t have a favorite wrestler competing would come his famous, “Possible fall on mat 5!” Again – the timbre of his voice raised your excitement level and you were drawn back into the drama.

Ed lost a long battle with cancer last week and as his longtime partner, Sandy Stevens, said, “It’s a sad time for the wrestling family”. No one emerges from the womb as a wrestling fan. Many things have fed the growth of my love for the sport. Ed Aliverti was one of them. Thank you, Ed. We’ll miss you. Maybe he’s calling Abe Lincoln and Plato to the mat right now.

3 comments: said...

First off, I didn't know that Ed had passed. Condolences to their family; the wrestling world lost another great one.
On the upside, I was able to go to my first Iowa match. They came out to Utah and wrestled UVU. I had to drive 3 1/2 hours through rain fog wind and snow. I was able to bring a friend and his girlfriend. My friend wrestled and it was fun to see him light up at being able to watch the best wrestling team in the nation. We were both concerned that his girlfriend would be much less interested, but she had a blast! One new wrestling fan in Utah and one new Iowa fan to go with it!

Jim Brown said...

Well done!

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