The Wrestlers

On Sunday afternoon, I saw Darren Aronofsky's The Wrestler. It's the comeback story of an aging pro wrestler, Randy "The Ram" Robinson. "The Ram" is a battered, broke, lonely hero, living in a trailer park when he can pay the rent and his van when he can't. A heart attack hastens his retirement after which he tries to mend his damaged relationship with his daughter, as well as pursue a romantic relationship with his favorite stripper, Cassidy. Both of these attempts fail. Mickey Rourke and Marisa Tomei give stellar performances. The story is rough, harsh, abrupt, shocking...and tender. The film is a strong R, please hear that.

On Sunday evening, I saw the latest installment in the story of another wrestler. It's the won't die story of an aging megachurch pastor, Ted Haggard. He preached for years that we don't wrestle against flesh and blood, but he sure as hell wrestled with some - his own. A gay sex scandal full of drugs and deceit hastened his retirement a few years back. My gut tells me he's battered and lonely, although not-so-broke; he's not living in a trailer park or a van. The last I'd heard he'd gone through the "steps" of some accountability-group-directed-step-program and was considering days ahead as a counselor; he'd healed and was ready to move on and help others with their damage. Dear God.

The film is a fiction told to tell the truth and as such caused me to care about Randy "The Ram" Robinson. The news story appears to be a truth told to cover lies and as such elicits a radically different response in me: I don't care. The Wrestler is an honest story. The Haggard saga seems to be an ongoing exercise is managing appearances. I'd pay six bucks to see the film again. I'm fine not to ever hear another word about the other story.

As I thought about these two wrestlers, I also thought about us, and me, the other wrestlers. If we're alive, we're all in the ring to some degree. Yes, we're wrestling against principalities and powers but we're also wrestling with our own flesh and blood, ourselves. The choice I, we, have is the same choice "The Ram" and the pastor had: honesty or spin. The latter seeks a bright red bow wrapping everything up nice and tidy. The former seeks something much deeper, much more true and lasting - redemption - and trusts our landing off the top rope is ultimately in the director's infinitely tender hands.


  1. This movie intrigued me, as I watched it win best actor and that it was up for best song at The Golden Globes. Yes, I watch that tripe. With glee. I'll have to see it. I think the redemption was sought not only in the role, but in the person of Mickey Rourke, as well. Just guessing, anyway.

    And re: Haggard...sigh. God protect those whom he tries to "help".

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Hubs and I want to see this too...I always love it when you say "fiction tells the truth" resonates so deeply for me!!

    Nothing sickens me more than crap like Haggard...not because he screwed up but because he's "healed" and all packaged up, like you! There's no man priest or pauper or prince that's able to escape the evil, hurt and pain in this world and the package may be pretty but the inside is a mess...

    that's when I human, let go of pretense and let the Man do His thing!

  4. I think what resonated with me in the movie, "I'm just a broken down piece of meat." I think about how many years it takes for us to admit that, how much pain, and suffering we must go through, to finally confess it. How much tenderizing has to be pounded into us to finally get there. It's not the final statement, but almost the one that begins it all.

    I, join in with the same need of Ted, to begin with that thought, "a broken down piece of meat." what a glorious beginning we could have as rotten meat being re-made into a filet mignon.

  5. I agree with the heart of what you are saying. It's not until people can be real and open about the fact that we all "fall short," that we can be healed and walk with others on their path to healing.

    Do keep in mind that it was a PR writer who probably interviewed, wrote (editing out parts), and published that article. Let's hope there is more to the story and that it involves a bit more humility and struggle than what they are trying to spin onto the page.

    Does anyone find it is as ironic as I do that his name is "Haggard?" Sounds a bit more like the first wrestler to me...

  6. Gretchen,

    I think you're right about Rourke. And as I said, the movie is a strong R. Marisa Tomei plays a stripper and well...

  7. Tiffani,

    "wtf"? Ding-dang, lady - you made me laugh.

  8. Xan,

    Interesting how the broken down piece of meat plays well on the silver screen, but we avoid it like the plague in real life.

  9. Shanda,

    You're so right - it seems like his name reveals so much about his life.

    This story is local for me and yes, there is much more to it; however, I fear it just gets worse.