Madden’s Way? The Road to Hell…
OK, Mark Madden, Iâ<80><99>ll bite.
You begged me to respond to your WrestleZone.com piece on Bruno Sammartino, and, good Catholic boy that I am, I am not a guy who rejects the entreaties of a beggar.
You wanted attention? You got it.
Here’s my take on you: Youâ<80><99>re a faded sports talk guy fired a few months ago from an ESPN AMer in Pittsburgh for saying something both crass and unfunny about a prominent US Senator with brain cancer, now forced to talk sports in between spinning rock songs – and being warned to tone it down if you want to keep that job. You’ve been marginalized, and you can’t stand it.
The fans don’t pop for you anymore, and that kills you.
Yours is not much of a career path, certainly not one I would emulate, but itâ<80><99>s not like you can do television. We saw how that worked out.
Mark is nothing if not interesting. He is insecure (me, too), publicity hound (ditto – did you see me quoted in The Washington Post last month and in Readerâ<80><99>s Digest last year?), entertaining (not me), a talented writer (me, sometimes), and a guy who seems to be obsessed with Bruno Sammartino (ummmm, I guess thatâ<80><99>s me, too). Much of what Mark says is designed to get a rise out of someone, to get someone to pick up the phone and go on the air with him; heâ<80><99>s a professional provocateur, and a good one at that. Every town has one or more; their shtick is to attack popular sports figures even if they don’t believe what they’re saying. Its all about ratings. Believe me, Madden is one of hundreds of guys who do this for a living nationwide. He has made a lot of money, and has had an impact, in the often-fickle world of talk radio (although in a relatively small media market). Not everything he says should be taken seriously; as I said, much of it is shtick (although I doubt even he knows where his shtick ends and sincerity begins).
He is a resident of the Pittsburgh area, so he reads the excellent Pittsburgh Post-Gazette newspaper, which recently published a column by a Bruno fan suggesting that Bruno be honored in some way when the cityâ<80><99>s new sports arena opens, perhaps with a statue or by naming the nearby street â<80><9c>Sammartino Way.â<80> Madden, to no oneâ<80><99>s surprise, took offense; as he readily acknowledges, he is a well-known Bruno hater (actually, he seems to hate almost anyone who has been a success in Pittsburgh, including himself). One presumes he couldnâ<80><99>t get his objections to the plan printed by the Post-Gazette, so he dipped his pen into poison and came up with a cute little column that WrestleZone.com deemed worthy of publishing, a column titled â<80><9c>The Corner of Sammartino Street and Madden Avenue.â<80>
Maddenâ<80><99>s main bone of contention seems to be that there is no proof that Bruno was a big draw. Talk about a credibility issue. You mean to tell me the
Dig McMahon senior up from the grave and ask him what the hell he was thinking!
Madden admits he missed Brunoâ<80><99>s first title rein (1963-1971). How then can he make his case? Thatâ<80><99>s like saying you missed the last couple of years of Richard Nixonâ<80><99>s presidency but because you were around for the first few years you believe the case can be made that he was a great president. Sheesh. Mark, are you drunk? I know it takes a lot of drinks to get drunk at those strip clubs you frequent, watered-down drinks that they are, but you can afford it, right?
That must be what’s going on here. You got back from a long night gazing at the only pussy you’ll ever see and decided you wanted attention. And how do you do that? Go after Bruno.
Speaking of credibility, what credible journalist uses Wikipedia as an exclusive source? The entries can be changed in seconds, by anyone. Why would one use that website as anything but a secondary or tertiary source, if even that? Mark contends, using Wikipedia facts, that SuperStar Billy Graham headlined MSG 20 times and sold it out 19? Graham was only the champion for nine months! Sure, he could have headlined when he wasnâ<80><99>t the champion, but I would bet that in most cases his opponent wasâ<80>¦wait for itâ<80>¦Bruno Sammartino, both when Billy had the belt and when he didnâ<80><99>t. So who gets credit for the sellout? I hasten to point out, as well, that Bruno was drawing as strongly at the end of his career as he was at the beginning. Who else can that be said about? Not Billy Graham. Not Bob Backlund. Not Hulk Hogan. And not Ric Flair.
And how many times was Bruno asked to come back to appear at arenas when your friend Hulk Hogan was said to be so hot? How many times did Bruno appear at MSG when Bob Backlund was the champion because Backlund wasnâ<80><99>t drawing? How many professional wrestlers have held the world title for as long as Bruno did? And how many champions demanded to be relieved of the belt?
I donâ<80><99>t know Mark well, but from what I do know of him he is an engaging, often funny, usually profane, intelligent, articulate, but sad and lonely man.
Until recently, this 48-year-old never-married man lived with his mother (she passed away, so now, finally, he lives on his own). He gets his jollies, apparently, trying to tear down successful people. There is certainly a role for someone like him; after all, not everyone who is loved and respected deserves to be so, and people like Mark really are needed. They play a valuable role, pointing out that the emperor has no clothes. They often exhibit great courage in going against the prevailing wind; often they are sneered at, reviled, attacked. Sometimes they are right, but more often they are exposed as sad, petty and jealous, as in this case. Not to mention off the mark. The case for Bruno isnâ<80><99>t just about his drawing power (which, I believe, was impressive in Pittsburgh but not as impressive as it was in other big cities).
The case for Bruno is made because of his dignity, class, ethics, high morals, and loyalty to Pittsburgh. Of these attributes, which can be attributed to Mark Madden?
Bruno and Mark had a falling out some time ago, apparently over something Mark said about Brunoâ<80><99>s son David, and Davidâ<80><99>s use of steroids. Itâ<80><99>s a silly feud, and Bruno rarely thinks of it. But apparently it is foremost in Mark Maddenâ<80><99>s fertile mind. And I wish it were not. Mark apparently has a lot of targets in Pittsburgh, and is a big one himself, but to try to tear down Bruno Sammartino is a foolish and futile task. Look even cursorily at Brunoâ<80><99>s exemplary life and you will find little to criticize and much to admire and love. Can we disagree about Brunoâ<80><99>s drawing ability? I guess we can, but why would we? Donâ<80><99>t the numbers speak for themselves? However many sellouts Bruno had at Madison Square Garden – 45 or 117 or 187 or 211 – does anyone else even come close? Has anyone come close to holding the title as long as Bruno has? Can we please close the case on this foolishness?
Still, Madden asks legitimate questions. Should Pittsburgh honor Bruno Sammartino? Was he a legitimate draw in Pittsburgh? If so, where is the proof?
If so, is that sufficient reason to honor him? The fact is I donâ<80><99>t have the numbers. I donâ<80><99>t have records from Pittsburgh. Maybe they can be – in fact, should be – gotten from the records (public) of the State Athletic Commission.
But, as I indicated earlier, this is not merely about drawing power. The numbers would be there, although Iâ<80><99>m not sure anyone other than Mark Madden questions whether Bruno was a draw in Pittsburgh. Madden apparently thinks Bruno was only a draw in areas where there were a significant number of Italians.
One more thing – Mark Madden a better color commentator than Bruno Sammartino? Compare the performance of the two, and youâ<80><99>ll see how laughable this is. Mark is a talented radio broadcaster, but his talents didnâ<80><99>t translate well to television. Bruno, on the other hand, was an articulate, gifted, natural television broadcaster who performed well as a color commentator. The comparison is stark: Mark failed, Bruno succeeded.
Thereâ<80><99>s much more to respond to in Markâ<80><99>s column, and I may do so at a later time, but, for now, I think this is sufficient.