I have two nieces who I babysit four days a week. They are two and three years-old.
Every day we inevitably watch cartoons. There are some good ones – Lion Guard’s pretty great folks, even as an adult – and others are a chore to watch. One cartoon like that comes to mind: Shimmer and Shine.
It’s about this girl who apparently has two genies who grant her three wishes every day. And every single day the genies mess up, make a mess, and then they sing.
It’s a weird show. And don’t get me started on the kid who always says "It happens. Happens a lot."
Shimmer and Shine is clearly not for me, but my niece Mason loves it. She will sit in her small rocking chair by the television grinning the entire time. By the end, she’s jumping out of her seat and giving me a hug and asking if we can go in the backyard and get on the swing set.
Seeing her happy makes me happy. I always end up saying yes.
Maybe it’s being an uncle that’s made me more sensitive to children. Last night, I watched Braun Strowman beat the ever-loving tar out of Roman Reigns. It was a brutal match that ended up bloodying Reigns. And all through the match, I noticed a little boy in the front row with (who I assume was) his father.
The kid would leap and holler when Reigns fought back and his father would smile down at his son. When Strowman had the advantage, the kid watched through his fingers.
Part of me is overjoyed at how wrestling means so much to this family; it certainly means a lot to me.
…But then Strowman won. And he introduced stairs and continued beating on a bloody Reigns. And a vocal section of the crowd chanted "Thank you Strowman!"
The little boy watched through his fingertips as his father cocooned him from the rowdy crowd.
Reigns staggered up the steps, blood on his lips and teeth as the crowd serenaded him with another chant:
"You deserve it!"
Those chants unsettled me. It’s one thing to not like Reigns, I totally get that. There’s a lot of sins WWE’s committed with him.
But even so, I can’t get that little kid out of my head.
When I was a child, I wasn’t big on wrestling. My introduction to wrestling was my parents buying me a WCW game for the Nintendo 64. Guess who I liked from it?
It got me into wrestling a bit. I remember watching him in awe as a kid. He was so cool! He had a baseball bat – I loved baseball! My grandfather was a professional baseball player once upon a time and I was going to be one too.
Tonight, sitting here and seeing that little boy, I wondered what it would have been like to sit in a crowd in 1997 as fans wished pain upon Sting. What would it have been like to see Sting coughing up blood as fans chanted that he deserved it?
I say all this to ask…have we gone too far?
It’s one thing to not like Roman. I’m not his biggest fan by a long shot. The whole Rumble disaster, the fact he’s pretty much the only guy who gets to look like a threat to Lesnar, the fact they’re on course to fight again…but to eagerly chant as he’s reduced to a bloody heap?
That’s not a good look. And I can’t even imagine how some kids must have felt watching as people cheered their hero getting destroyed.
I think it’s a bit selfish, honestly. It’s a reaction that lacks empathy. It’s a reaction that demands WWE’s attention in a whiny, petulant tone.
The harsh reality is that not everything in WWE is going to entertain you because it’s not all for you. Much like Shimmer and Shine is a show for my nieces, not me. If we were back at the Rumble booing Roman, I’d be fine with it. But this Strowman feud is its own thing; Reigns isn’t being pushed into every nook and cranny of the show.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t boo Roman if you feel so inclined. It really is a new era of wrestling; cheer and boo who you want. But the impassioned joy of seeing Reigns bloody and hurt…it has me feeling that the Roman rage has gone too far.
I don’t want this to come across as something too sensitive, you know. I am usually on the opposite end of that spectrum. Nothing seems to bother me most of the time. But this is supposed to be a show for people of all ages, of all backgrounds.
At some point voicing your opinion merges into something ugly and hurtful. And I fear the Roman rage has done that at last.