About five years ago, I was forced to make up for lost time - and interest - in a hurry. During my first interview for my first full-time sportswriting gig, one of the editors interviewing me said something like, "Well, why don't you go out and cover something for us," like it was going to be my final exam for employment. Of course, I said, "Sure," and figured they'd send me to a basketball game.
Then the sports editor looked at the schedule and picked out a wrestling match - of all things - for me to attend. "Aw, man," I thought.
But I smiled and said, "Great." I knew with enough preparation, I could give it that old college try and probably do OK with it. Then the sports editor said, "The match is tonight." I only had about two hours to prepare.
I was a nervous wreck. I drove home and immediately began calling all the wrestling people I knew, which weren't many. I eventually found someone to explain how the scoring worked, which hardly helped because I couldn't even visualize how it would happen.
Luckily, another sportswriter whom I knew from another paper was at the match when I arrived. He helped guide me through the early bouts. By the later bouts, I was starting to get the hang of it, and surprisingly was getting into it. I left the match, wrote the story, got hired and pretty soon began to look forward to covering wrestling as much as, if not more than, any other sport.
Wrestling is the sport of life in its purest form - man vs. man, survival of the fittest. It's like two gladiators squaring off in a controlled arena.
Wrestling is not a game. There is no ball, or goal posts, just muscle, power, guts and sheer will, which come together in technique and strategy.
I can hardly imagine the adrenaline rush a wrestler feels in the waning moments before a bout, or how it feels afterward to have your arm raised in victory - or to be pinned to the mat in defeat - in front of fans, friends and family.
The highs and lows of this sport never are hidden.
I may never experience them, but I'm glad to be one of the 51,682 who have found them.
Andy Mason is assistant sports editor of The Herald-Mail. His column appears every other Thursday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2334, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org