Last week, my youngest son and I talked about the Chris Benoit murder/suicide. For those of you who don’t know, Chris (allegedly) strangled his wife, smothered his son then hung himself over a period of many hours, maybe days. My son was stunned. He’s followed Chris’s career as a professional wrestler for a decade or so.
All three of my kids have watched wrestling since they were small. They followed the story lines and had fun with it. They used to stage wrestling matches in the back yard. They had the action figures. Even as adults, they follow it. Two of my sons have gone to live shows.
They were blindsided by the emerging evidence that Chris was on steroids.
I wasn’t shocked. That morning, before the news reported any details, when my youngest son asked me what I thought, I told him Chris had likely been on steroids and had a psychotic break. My son didn’t think so, he assured me he had been a body builder, and very health conscience. I didn’t argue…
I knew the truth would come out. I did a great deal of research on steroids when I wrote THE SEX ON THE BEACH BOOK CLUB. I have a very small thread in there about a baseball player who died of steroids—and those who had to live with the guilt of his death. Those who were making money off the baseball player and looked the other way when they had reason to believe he was using anabolic steroids.
I believe the same thing happened with Chris Benoit, and is happening with athletes all over our country. To be competive, many athletes take some form of anabolic steroids. Some know the dangers, others don’t. Many feel pressured, that they have no choice if they want to stay competetive.
High school kids take steroids too. Many do it hoping for the edge to get the collage scholarship. I heard the story of a baseball player who took steroids for just that reason. Then he stopped cold. That caused severe depression and the young man killed himself.
It’s not an isolated story. It happens as you can see from this article “>. As you can also see from the article there are a lot of people, including coaches, who care deeply and struggle to keep kids from doing this.
The problem? Money, BIG money is being made off the athletes using steroids. In the world of entertainment wrestling, the bigger, the stronger, the crazier, the better. And people like Vince McMahon, owner of WWE, defended the orgaizion in this interview on the Today Show
Vieira asked if this event would change WWE’s handling of steroids. McMahon said it’s hysteria, and they won’t know if the hysteria over steroids will justified or not until they get the toxicology report. Regarding how they handle a former WWE wrestler being considered a murderer, McMahon said that “unfortunately he was” part of the organization, but they had no way of knowing he could turn into such a monster. She asked if WWE contributes to the creation of monsters, and McMahon said, “absolutely not”.
McMahon’s head-in-the-sand defense makes me seriously pissed off. I doubt he had any direct link to Chris take the steroids. But he’s turning his head the other way because he doesn’t want the gravy train to stop.
Which brings me to two points (finally!)
When it comes to my sons, it’s my job to inform them. And I have. My youngest son knew the dangers of steroids, and he didn’t want Chris to have made the decision to take them. I didn’t try to change his mind, I let him deal with the facts as they came out. Then we talked again. All my kids are saddened by Chris Benoit’s last actions. I have told them that it’s perfectly fine to hate what he did in the end, but remember all that they liked about him through the years. It’s even better if they understand that he made choices that were unwise and led to a psychotic break. It’s also fair to understand that he may have felt a pressure to use steroids in order to stay competive. My sons learn a very sad lesson from Chris and his family’s tragic death, but life lessons are the best teachers.
My oldest son says he doesn’t want to support wrestling any more. That’s fine, that’s his choice and he may change his mind. My youngest son is still processing it. I don’t know what his decision will be.
Now can you see my passion for this issue? How much I care? I didn’t know a whole lot about steroids until I started researching it for a plot line, and then it caught me. The character in my book who looked the other way? That character was flat and underdeveloped until I gave him this back story of knowing a baseball player that died of steroids, and then living with the guilt of having looked the other way. Suddenly, this character came alive on the page for me. I understood him, I knew why he’d walked away from his old life, I knew how he had managed to change and morph into a better person. I’m going to assume my passion and caring about this issue and how it has such a ripple effect spilled over into my writing
That’s a good thing for a writer. Real passion brings life to characters.
But I sure didn’t want to see it play out in a similar fashion in real life.