The 80s was a great time to be a young boy. I had Star Wars, Transformers, GI Joe, He-Man, and a lot of other options for entertainment. Star Wars was my number one obsession, and a close number two was pro-wrestling. I loved wrestling when I was young and so did all of my friends. We’d toss a blanket on the floor as a ring and then pretend to be our favorite wrestlers.
There were several wrestling shows on TV. If you planned your Saturday right, you could watch Mid South Wrestling, AWA, WWF, WCW, and WCCW. There were many Saturday mornings when my friends and I sat glued to the TV, cheering on our favorites. And I had a lot of them. My Mid South favorite was Dr. Death Steve Williams and the Rock-N-Roll Express, WWF was Hulk Hogan and Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat, WCW was Sting, and WCCW was Kerry Von Erich. Those were my heroes and I relished every time I got to meet a pro-wrestler.
I had a great mom that took me to every event she could. We didn’t have a lot of money when I was growing up, but whenever a show came to the area, we saved our money and we were in attendance. Afterward, my mom and I would race to the exits and try and catch a site of the wrestlers as they left the arena. Often times, they would stop and sign autographs and interact with the fans. I remember which wrestlers were nice, who snubbed us, and who was high. Hulk Hogan, I still haven’t forgiven you for escaping by a different entrance and evading all the little Hulkamaniacs waiting by the gate.
As I got older, I continued to watch wrestling. In the 90s a wrestler emerged that went by the name “Mankind.” He also went by the name “Cactus Jack.” He was this big guy that put his body through hell to give fans entertaining shows. This grueling character ended up somehow becoming a lovable fan favorite. Towards the end of his wrestling career, people began to chant his real name, Mick Foley. He went on to write several autobiographies about his wrestling career that all made it on the New York Times best seller list and he wrote children’s books and novels. Not the stereotypical wrestler.
I mentioned in a post a few weeks back that Mick Foley was one of my all-time favorite dads. He put his body though excruciating pain, but would take red eye flights back home to be with his family instead of staying in a hotel. He would shove his large frame that was swollen from a night of wrestling into a small airplane seat. I’m a 1/2 the size of him and I can’t get comfortable on airplanes.
After writing the post, I received a nice comment from the man himself, which made my day. Mick is a stand-up comic now and so I thought I would check his schedule to see when he was in NYC. It turned out he was going to be in Queens about 5 minutes from my house the next day signing autographs at a store. I got excited about that because I thought I would take my kids to get an autograph from a wrestler, just like my mom did for me when I was their age.
The only thing, though, is that I don’t let my kids watch pro-wrestling, so they didn’t have any idea who Mick Foley was. Now I take that back. My kids have watched a few matches, but only ones that I’ve pre-screened. They recently picked a favorite wrestler – Daniel Bryan – who is a great character with a lot of talent. He is pretty much the only wrestler they know. I pulled up some pictures of Mick, but if you Google him, most of the pictures show him a bloody mess. So instead of showing them pictures, I built him up with great stories and told them about his matches.
The day of the signing was a rainy mess. So the family waited in the car, while I stood in line. The two older kids became impatient in the car and ended up standing in line with me in the rain. It was a chilly rain and my kids were soon miserable. They were complaining and wanted to go home. But I talked them into standing in line. (Actually, I bribed them into standing in line) The image that I had for the day was quickly going downhill. I dreamed it would be a fun moment reliving my childhood with my kids. Instead it was wet, cold, and we were all grumpy. The special family moment that I had in mind was gone.
Then the line began to move and we went inside the store and there Mick was sitting at the table signing autographs. The kid inside of me got excited again. For those that you don’t know about Mick Foley, he’s also known for being a really nice guy – just watch his episode of Celebrity Wife Swap to get an idea. And he didn’t disappoint. He was kind and he even remembered the post that I had written, which made me happy. He did kind of give me the tough guy look when he asked if the baby had been in the rain, but then I assured him that the baby waited in the car with a parent. He signed an autograph and took a picture with us. When we got back to the car everyone was happy and in a good mood again.
Then my wife told my kids that sometimes things that we do are more for daddy.
Looking back on the day, it wasn’t what I was hoping for. I wanted my kids to love the same things I had loved as a kid. But my kids are not miniature versions of me. And as hard as it is sometimes for us parents, we have to recognize that they are not always going to like the same things we like or liked. I would love to sit down and play Star Wars with my son, but for reasons I can’t fathom, he now chooses Pokemon over the action figures. That’s what makes him happy. My daughter wants to paint her toe nails. Because that’s what makes her happy, that’s what I do.
So the next time a wrestler is signing autographs, I’ll probably be sitting at home and playing Pokemon and painting toenails. And that will be fine with me, because I was a kid once and have great memories doing the things that I loved. Now it’s my kids’ turn.