Nobody’s Business

Chicago Tribune Syndicate – March 4, 1933
By Westbrook Pegler

WASHINGTON, D.C. – It was my misfortune not to be among those present at the dedication of the new wrestling champion of the world, or New York, or somewhere, one Jim Browning, from some little town in Missouri, who lay on his back in the Garden ring on a recent evening, wrapped his legs around Strangler Lewis, twizzled him around in midair for some time, banged his head on the floor as you might wallop a catfish against the side of a boat, to subdue his wiggles, and then ironed him out, amid cheers.

Mr. Browning, it seems, is a sterling sportsman who intends to be a true champion, jealous of the fine traditions which all true sports lovers will ever hold dear.

This causes me to feel that a very beautiful influence has come into the sport, and if times were less difficult there certainly would be a gala testimonial banquet at one of the big hotels one of these evenings with William Muldoon conspicuous on the date to glower around the room at the assembled poltroons and evil influences and thunder the terrible word “scoundrel” as only he can pronounce it.

As every one knows, Mr. Muldoon has been a great force for good in the sports of the ring during the last twelve years or so. True, there have been an extraordinary number of fakes and fouls during his administration and the kidnapers, house painters, bootleggers, and smugglers who infest the sport have been quite as active as they ever were before. But with Mr. Muldoon on the prizefight commission, there has been a comforting assurance all the time that if the boys ever should go too far Mr. Muldoon would take firm steps with them. They did go pretty far, but not too far. I wonder how far too far is. I also wonder how high is up.

This is not to suggest, of course, that the new champion wrestler, Jim Browning, would ever permit himself to become involved in any proceedings of a kind which would be likely to tear down the fine standard of sportsmanship for which the wrestling business is noted. He says he would not do such and the word of a new champion is good enough for me.

It will be a sweet change, this reign of ethics and high principals and conscientious competition in wrestling.

I have felt – I have sometimes felt almost positive about it – that some of the heavyweight championship matches discoursed for the customers in various rings around the United States were not being conducted on the highest plane. It is hard to prove one’s suspicions, because who can sit at a ringside and purport to read what is going on in the heart and soul of a great moist, hairy, blubbery mass of meat, momentarily invested with the highest honors in the game? One may and one does have suspicions arising from certain circumstances, but what fair judge would accuse a noble athlete of doing wrong merely on circumstantial evidence?

Remember, if you please, that however impersonally you may regard the party under the suspicion, somebody loves him and cherishes his baby shoes. It is hard to bear in mind as one looks at them involved in their tangles and gigantic sprawls upon the mat that wrestlers are human beings with the hopes, principles, fears, desires, and so forth of human beings, but Jack Curley has told me repeatedly that they are and Mr. Curley is in a position to know. Mr. Curley has kept wrestlers in his home. He has slept with them and sat at a table with them and he maintains that they domesticate very readily.

One incident comes to my mind which seemed to suggest that maybe sometimes the wrestlers wrestled according to instructions or some prearranged scenario. This was in a bout in Los Angeles. A sophisticated sports writer took his shiny new bridge to the wrestling bouts one evening and was terribly embarrassed when his helpmeet, sitting in the first row, maintained a running fire of squeals and screams throughout the main event, and rooted for the wrong wrestler. Our friend was chagrined to think that here he was, supposed to be a very smart man, an authority if you please, who knew exactly what was going on at all times, and here was his bride acting in a very dumb manner. He remonstrated gently when the bouts had ended, pointing out that she had made a mugg, as he said, of him in the presence of several thousand people.

“Because, you see, my pudding,” he explained to her, “everybody is supposed to know how the plot comes out in a wrestling match and when you root for the wrong guy it makes me look as though I didn’t know much.”

The beautiful, blushing bride did not belive that at all, so papa promised to prove the truth of all he said at the next week’s wrestling exhibition.

So that night, before entering the arena, he told her which gladiator was going to win and told her also that the victim would be thrown out of the ring three times, the first time at 9:45, and the next time at 10:02 and the last time at 10:13, after which, he said, the victor would himself be thrown around the ring in a careless manner for several minutes but would suddenly put forth a Herculean effort, hoist up his adversary, whirl him high in the air, and send him crashing to the boards -–limp, unconscious, and defeated.

The wrestling match proceeded in strict accordance with this schedule and the bride was convinced and also disillusioned, but what does that prove?

Couldn’t it all have been a coincidence?


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