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Thursday, August 20, 2015

I Wrestled A Grizzly Bear. No Kidding.

There are points in your life when you are faced with decisions. Decisions to act on your ideas or not. Well, this is the story of an idea that I acted on and in retrospect wish I hadn't. I wrestled a grizzly bear. No kidding.

This was around 1980 and I was working as the morning DJ for a small radio station east of Cleveland. The station was so small, we didn't even have a 24-hour license. We signed off at sunset and signed on at 6:00 AM.

I was the morning personality. We played MOR, Middle Of the Road, music. Which means we were not only dated, but we were boring. I think the average age of our listeners was around 70. You could hear them sucking on their oxygen tanks.

The problem I was having was that I was around 22  and I couldn't really connect to the audience. I was young enough and dumb enough to try various gimmicks that seemed to go absolutely nowhere. As long as I kept spinning Al Martino and ABBA records, the world was a happy place.

But I wouldn't stand for that. I had to do something spectacular to generate some excitement with the geriatric crowd.

I saw an ad in the paper about an event coming to the local mall. I decided I was going to participate in the event. What was the event? Wrestle a grizzly bear. A real bear.

Since I had no experience at wrestling grizzly bears, I did no training. All I did was have a t-shirt made with the station's call letters on the front and the slogan "Man vs. Bear Just Ain't Fair." on the back. It was red with white lettering. That was my prep. Ha.

For about two weeks, I pumped the wrestling event on the radio station. I was hoping to get a crowd down to the mall to cheer me on.

On the day of the event, I got there early to check out my competition. I was going to wrestle "Victor the Rasslin' Bear". Man, that Victor big. And he was undefeated.

I looked around and noticed that the only crowd were casual mall shoppers. No one had shown up from the radio station or from the audience. I'm about to die in front of an empty house.

Well, it was my turn to wrestle Victor. I get in the ring and the guy playing referee whispers in my ear, "Don't get behind him. He'll sit on you and snap your legs off like toothpicks." Great.

The reality that I could be severely maimed crept into my mind. My strategy was to stay in front of the bear and see what I could do from there.

The referee yells, "Go" and it's time to wrestle. Even though Victor was wearing a muzzle, his breath was enough to knock you out by itself. So I'm choking as I go to make my first moves. I wrestled a bit in high school and thought I could apply some of the techniques on the bear. Apparently, Victor wrestled in high school, too, because he actually knew wrestling moves.

He kept reaching for my leg, trying to perform a take down move. He used the other paw to hold my head still so I couldn't lunge at him. This bear was good and stinky.

I'm still trying to get over the breath issue and I'm fighting with all my might to make some progress on Victor. I did slip behind him once and I remembered the snapping toothpicks analogy and I quickly got in front of him.

The struggle went on for about  five minutes and then I finally collapsed and Victor pinned me. I left the ring totally out of breath and smelling like bear. I thought I was going to die.

I survived and that's about all you can say. No one showed up. No one called the radio station. No one even cared that I almost got crushed by a bear. In retrospect, I probably shouldn't have tried to wrestle Victor. He was just too much for me.

But how many people do you know can say, "I wrestled a grizzly bear." No kidding.

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