The Carnival… Where is the Joy?

We all know the association between the world of wrestling and the carnival world. Hell, the lexicon used by both is the same. The carny folk ply their wares and make their money looking for marks who think they are smarter than the carnival. But, as expected, the mark falls for the trick and money is made. Even when the mark wins, he still doesn’t really win, for the fact that he takes home a cupie doll (humor me) doesn’t change the fact that he probably spent ten times what it’s worth, even if he only spent a dollar to win it. Moreso, the games are rigged in favor of the carnival. Just like a casino. The odds are always against you. Even when you win, you never really win.

But maybe it’s not the point to win. If a person knows the carnival is rigged, why do they go back? Why spend $10 on a bag of popcorn when you can buy a Bachmann’s at the supermarket for $3? Why spend $5 playing a game where the prize is worth $1? Why spends hundreds of dollars going on rides run by rubes who couldn’t care less if the ride collapses while you’re on it? Because despite knowing all of this, people know they’re going to have a great time at the carnival. So they go with money in their pockets, ride the amusements, eat the overpriced food, play the games for hours on end and come home with some dollar store treasures. And what always happens on the ride home? Complaining. They bemoan the loss of money. They complain about everything they just enjoyed. And what happens next year? The carnival comes back to town, and they’re loading up the car again.

It’s a good time.

When I was a kid, I wanted nothing more than to head to the local feasts held around the county at any school or park. Spending money I got from my folks. Hooking up with my friends. Getting sick on the rides. Getting sicker from the food. Hoping to, maybe, spend some time with a young lady. The carnival was magical. I didn’t care if I came home with no prize and no cash, it was all worth it.

But the carnival began to aggravate me as I got older. Now I have to fight for parking. I have to deal with crowds of stupid people. I sweat my balls off in the sun. I get sick like an idiot from the food. I can’t go on the rides unless I wanna puke my brains out. And when the day is over, I go home miserable, in need of a shower, and, worse still, with no money and some shitty prizes to show for it.

I went to the local carnival last week with my wife and kid and some family friends. I knew I was going to spend money. I knew it was going to be hot as balls. But you know something? I started enjoying the carnival again. To see the smile on my kid’s face as he ran from ride to ride made me happy. He even played some games. And he even won a prize. Was it worth the $5 for the game? For the cost of the prize, no. But for the happiness I felt that my kid was having a good time? Hells yes.

Think you’re guessing the connection? Why else would I tell you a story about my returning enjoyment of the carnival? Because sometimes, it’s not in trying to recreate the old memories, but it’s through the new memories and experiences that the good times can return. I’m never going to be the kid or the teenager that’s going to the fair to hang out with friends. I’m now the dad that’s opening a new horizon for my son. It’s a different connection that helps me find even more happiness than I knew; more of what we call the “good stuff.”

Look, the carnival was always going to be the same awful place it always was. Crowds. Assholes. Ripoffs. Port-o-potties. Terrible food. Shitty games. Nothing will change that. But the perception of the carnival can always evolve. And as long as there aren’t all-out gang shootings, there’s always something there that can bring happiness.

Which brings me to wrestling. When I was a kid, I liked wrestling because it had larger than life characters portrayed by larger than life men. The matches themselves didn’t matter (I was more of a WWF fan than NWA, and while I did enjoy and appreciate the NWA style and stories, I was a kid and the WWF had that appeal to it). I knew the JYD was going to headbutt the shit out of some poor bad guy. I knew that Tito Santana could nail that flying forearm at anytime, and if he didn’t knock his opponent out of the ring with it then a pinfall win was soon to follow. I knew that the Hulkster could take anyone’s finisher and kick out, waive his finger in the air, and finish off the poor slob with a boot and a legdrop. Those were good times, and great memories. You knew what was going to happen, but the experience of it was still awesome.

There are lots of things about wrestling that aggravate me these days. Terrible storylines. Unbelievable wrestlers (read as not believable, size-wise or otherwise). Awful wrestling. And probably the worst offender, companies still telling the fans what they want, instead of companies listening to the fans. It truly feels, more often than not, that what wrestling is providing is just the “same old shit.” You don’t have to ask me about it. Just listen to the fans.

But it’s in the evolution of wrestling where I still hold out for hope. While lots of people are enamored by the storyline involving CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, and AJ, most of the stories in WWE at this point are awful. Every time something good starts happening, it seems to, without fail, take a terrible turn. But there is hope. Hope that wrestling starts listening to the fans. Like TNA did last night. I’m not saying that all of their problems have been solved, but at least the outcome of the World Title match gave me and lots of other fans hope. Wrestling can lead us to those new horizons without giving us the same old shit. Take some chances, tell some more meaningful stories, make titles mean something again. Yes, continue to entertain people with silly things like Santino and the cobra. Just don’t do it at the expense of one of the titles that could have a great story around it to build it up again. All we are asking for is a new horizon. Make the old seem new again, or even better, give us something completely different. We keep coming back. Give us reasons to continue to do so. Give us some more of the “good stuff.”

And this is where I stand. I can always find the glimmer of hope in what wrestling offers. It would just be nice if, more than occasionally, those glimmers become rays.

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