When I was growing up during the 1960s and early 1970s, most Saturdays my brothers and I watched “All-Star Wrestling” on television. On one occasion while we were watching a wrestling match, a big brawl broke out between me and three of my brothers. We were in the middle of the family room beating on each other, and my mom came into the room, turned off the television, and ordered all of us to “go outside with the other animals!” It was a common occurrence for my mom to send us outside to burn off our energy and aggression.
When I was 13 years old (1970), the local television station that featured “All-Star Wrestling” advertised an event that was going to be put on in Peoria, Illinois. Some of the same wrestlers we saw on television were scheduled to come to Peoria to compete at the Peoria Stadium. My brothers and I were able to talk my dad into taking us to see the event. Since the Peoria Stadium was outdoors, the wrestling ring was set up on the football field. The event took place on a Saturday evening, and the ring was lit up with lights.
Out of all my brothers, my younger brother Peter was the biggest “All-Star Wrestling” fan. He was seven years old when we went to see the event at the Peoria Stadium. He knew all the wrestlers by name, and the wrestler he admired most was Verne Gagne, who at that time was the American Wrestling Association (AWA) World Heavyweight Champion.
Although my dad had told us that all the wrestling matches were staged, we didn’t believe him. He said that the winners were chosen ahead of time and that the matches were rehearsed. He also told us that Verne Gagne lived in the state of Minnesota, near where his uncles Joe and Unes Williams lived. When we continued to doubt my dad, he told us he would call one of his uncles and we could ask his uncle to verify what he was telling us.
The following week my dad called his Uncle Unes and told him about our conversation. After Uncle Unes confirmed everything my dad had said, my brother Peter got on the telephone and asked him if he could get Peter a picture of Verne Gagne. Uncle Unes told Peter that the next time he talked to Gagne he would ask him for a picture.
About six months after the telephone conversation, Uncle Unes came to Peoria to visit his relatives, and my dad invited him over to our house for dinner. I remember it being a cold winter night. After my dad greeted him at the door, Uncle Unes yelled out, “Where’s Peter?” When no one responded he yelled louder, “Where’s Peter?!”
Within a couple of minutes, several of us were crowded into the front entrance hallway of my parents’ home. Uncle Unes held up a paper bag and pulled out a framed picture of his friend Verne Gagne posing with his AWA championship belt around his waist. On the picture was a personal message to Peter written with a black marker and signed by Verne Gagne. When Uncle Unes handed him the picture, Peter’s face lit up with a look of astonishment and disbelief.
After dinner, we all sat in the living room together while Uncle Unes told us stories about his friend. He told us that he had attended some of the practices where the wrestlers choreographed their matches. He said that the wrestlers were performers whose job was to entertain the audience while making the matches look real.
I called my brother Peter a few years ago after I read an article on the Internet about how Verne Gagne had injured a fellow resident at a nursing home. The article stated that Gagne, who was 82 years old and suffering from Alzheimer’s, had gotten into an argument with the resident and picked him up and slammed him down onto the floor. I asked Peter if he remembered getting the picture of Gagne from Uncle Unes, and he said, “Yeah, I’m looking at it right now. I’m standing in my woodshop, and I have the picture hanging on the wall right in front of me.”
I thought about “All-Star Wrestling” last week when the politicians in Washington, DC, wrestled with each other over legislation that was needed to avert “the fiscal crisis.” This so-called crisis was originally created by those same politicians when they placed an arbitrary expiration date on tax cuts that had been in place since 2003.
As the fiscal crisis deadline approached, like the skilled wrestlers we watched on television, the politicians put on a superb performance. They called each other names, bragged about what they were going to do to their opponents, and used emotion, drama, and outrage to build up suspense. They then heroically saved the country by working out a deal with only moments to spare. After they saved us from “going over the cliff,” they proudly stood in front of the cameras and patted themselves on the back for their great performances.
Whew! We were saved again by our courageous leaders. Maybe we can get some of them to send us autographed pictures.
What happened in Washington last week is happening more and more frequently – deceitful activity disguised as achievement. Nothing of any value was really accomplished. For 98 percent of the working population, the tax rates that were already in place stayed the same. There was no action taken to cut spending. None. Even though the performers – oops, I mean politicians – were aware of the fact that 46 cents of every dollar that is currently spent by the federal government is borrowed, they didn’t do anything to reduce the borrowing.
Couldn’t they have at least cut the borrowing by one cent – down from 46 to 45 cents for every dollar spent?
So what we witnessed was our elected representatives hiding their failure to accomplish anything of real value behind a cloud of activity. In the end, what they did was nothing more than a well-planned and rehearsed performance of frantic activity disguised as achievement. They boarded planes and flew back to Washington for emergency meetings, held press conferences, “negotiated” behind closed doors, took a vote behind closed doors, held more meetings, negotiated some more, held more press conferences, voted again, and then declared victory. There was a massive amount of wasted activity with nothing of any real value accomplished.
Do you know what? We’re all guilty of this type of behavior – substituting activity for accomplishment. If I asked you what measurable accomplishments you had last year in the important areas of your life – spiritually, mentally, physically, emotionally, intellectually, and financially – what would you tell me? Although you would be able to recite numerous – sometimes frantic – activities, you would probably struggle to name even a handful of real accomplishments.
So here we are in 2013. What are you going to accomplish this year – spiritually, mentally, physically, emotionally, intellectually, and financially? What are you going to get done? The key word here is “done.” Not what are you doing or what are you going to try to do, but what are you going to get done? Are you willing to write down what you’re going to accomplish this year and ask someone to hold you accountable?
This thing we call life isn’t an “All-Star Wrestling” match. It’s the real deal, and the years are slipping away from us. At the moment of death when we meet God, He’s going to ask us what we accomplished with the gifts and talents that he gave to us. I don’t know about you, but I want to have a long list of accomplishments I can hand over to Him.