Recently I read a tremendous book about being a wrestling fan by Fred Esposito entitled I'm A Mark - Dreams and Destiny of a Wrestling Fan, a wonderful and engrossing look at what it means to be a pro wrestling fan.
A pro wrestling fan is a unique thing. For many years, and maybe even until today, pro wrestling fans were looked down upon. I know, pro wrestling fans are the butt of many jokes about intelligence, heritage, and taste but I'm not even talking about their perception by other people I am talking about by the wrestlers and promoters themselves! Yes, pro wrestling is probably the only sports or entertainment field where the people putting it on view their fans with disdain.
Yet, millions of dollars are spent by these fans following the simulated fighting and stories presented by professional wrestling and we fans have lapped it up for generations in spite of the fact that historically the promoters hated us and viewed us as "marks" a derogatory term dating back to the carnivals to denote a sucker.
In 2016, honestly, the term "mark" has become more of a term of endearment more than anything. Fans refer to themselves as "marks" in kind of an accepting self depreciating way much the way comic book and Star Wars fans have co-oped the words "geek" and "nerd".
Author Fred Esposito is one of the good guys. I know this for a fact. When I was sick with cancer, Fred reached out to me in a very kind way that I will never forget. I didn't know Fred. I still don't. But that's the kind of altruistic motion that this word sorely needs. There are few things I can think of that speak to character more than helping someone you don't even know in their time of greatest need.
I have often wondered why Fred chose me to show kindness to. After reading his book I see that we aren't so different. His story very much mirrors my own. We grew up as pro wrestling fans in the 1980's. That made us social outcasts and awkward for no really good reason other than we just were considered abnormal for liking one of the most popular shows on television. Go figure.
Entering adulthood we both, to varying degrees, got involved in some way in the pro wrestling business on a small scale and met some of those people we were fans of in "real life" and discovered that the actors behind the roles were sometimes not the best people and sometimes they exceeded our expectations.
From there we transitioned out of pro wrestling's circus into the internet era and became involved, in our own ways, in the internet fandom of wrestling now often referred to as the "IWC" or Internet Wrestling Community. I know that my boss Dave Meltzer over at WrestlingObserver.com hates that term but there is an undeniable wrestling fan culture on the internet and Fred captures that in his book as well.
If you are a fan of pro wrestling and have ever felt ashamed or ostracized for being one then Fred's book is a must read. If you have ever wondered what the independent wrestling scene was like in the 1990's then Fred's book paints a perfect picture of it including his dabbling with the cult ECW promotion.
I don't often "highly recommend" a book but in this case I do. Probably because it mirrors my experience so closely and partly because I want to see a truly good human being find success. Please consider checking out Fred Esposito's book: I'm a Mark - Dreams and Destiny of a Wrestling Fan with forward by Bryan Alvarez.