Sweatpants

Sweatpants

Posted on October 7, 2021 at 12:00 am by Mike Best

I dress like a fucking moron. 

I’m aware of it, you know. The selfie jackets. The dragon shirts. Plaid jackets and sideburns, bleached blond haircuts. I’m not blind to how ridiculous I look. I just wanted to make sure you knew that. I have a closet full of t-shirts that may as well say “look at me” and the website can’t hardly keep an updated roster picture of me. It’s not an accident. It’s not something I’m blind to. I’m not quirky. It takes me roughly two hours a day to carefully cultivate the image that I don’t give a fuck what I look like and the perception that I don’t care what anyone thinks about me. 

It’s called controlling the narrative. 

If you paint yourself up to look like a clown every morning and the people laugh at you, then everything has gone according to plan. When you walk out from behind the curtain and tell everyone in Miami that the Dolphins fucking suck, and they boo you, then everything has gone according to plan. When you go out of your way to do unlikable things, and the people tell you that they don’t like you, it doesn’t hurt your feelings– the band plays their song, and the people sing along, and everyone goes home happy. All you have to do is play the right notes, and hope you don’t sing off key. All you have to do is maintain control. 

See, I didn’t always have control. 

I used to change schools a lot. My mom couldn’t keep a stable home because she couldn’t keep a stable job, and we never really put down roots anywhere long enough for anything to grow into a tree. It felt like every year was another revolving door of trying to make new friends and getting a fresh start, and it was always pretty rough for me. I was a pretty sheltered kid– I grew up on video games and action figures, while my mom was busy being fucked up on coke and sending me to Grandma’s house so she could “go to the gym” until three or four in the morning. There wasn’t a lot of time to teach me about things like taking care of myself, or my appearance. As an adult, I’ve had a tremendous amount of dental work done because I never learned how to properly take care of my teeth. I fucking stunk all the time, because she never instilled into me the importance or value in keeping myself clean. I made it through most of elementary school unscathed because I was too young and stupid to understand that people were making fun of me, but I guess it all really turned around when I made it to middle school. 

Sixth grade is when I snapped. 

I remember it really vividly, because it’s the movie projected against the plaster when I’m laying in bed at night, sleepless eyes glued to the ceiling in every bedroom I’ve ever had. I was walking down the hallway from Mrs. Bradley’s fourth period English class with this big armful of books, and all I can fucking look at is her. Melanie Duggan, the single most beautiful creature I’d ever seen in my life. I’d had it bad for her since the first day of school, and here I am carrying this comically large pile of books that maybe weighs as much as I do, and I’m just trying to weave through hallways traffic to just walk near her. Today was the day. I was gonna finally say something. Even if it was just a hello. Even if it was just a couple of passing words. Today was the day that Melanie was gonna know I existed. 

Fuck, she could probably smell me coming. 

I heard the books hit the floor before I actually realized they’d left my hands. I swear it sounded like a gunshot went off in my ears. Like everyone on the planet watched it happen. I’m standing there in a pair elastic ankled sweatpants and Velcro shoes, greasy hair matted to my head with a fucking two sizes too big pro wrestling t-shirt on in an age where that was about the least cool thing you could do. And this girl turns around to see this mess staring back at her like a moron. And that’s when I realize that the books didn’t just fall. 

They were slapped out of my hands. 

Thought you didn’t even like girls, faggot?

If it bothers you to read it, I promise it was worse to have it screamed in my face. Jake Church was about six inches bigger than me, but back then he may as well have been three feet taller. Roughneck trailer park kid with parents probably shittier than mine, but I was a smart kid and he was a dumb kid, and that made us natural enemies. He slaps these fucking books out of my hand and starts barking in my face like a a trailer park pittbull, and I froze. Melanie was just staring at me. Everyone was staring at me. 

And then she started to laugh. 

She wasn’t laughing with me. I didn’t have shitty sideburns or a t-shirt with my face on it, I was just a smelly kid in a pair of sweatpants, and the most beautiful girl I had ever met was laughing at me. My skin turned the temperature of the sun and my mouth was a desert. It wasn’t just her. It wasn’t just Jake. It was me— it  was the moment I realized I was different from all the other kids. It was the moment I became self-aware. It was the moment that I could look down at myself from above and see that I was the smelly kid in class, wearing sweatpants three years too late to be wearing sweatpants.

It was the moment I realized I was a loser. 

I can feel the tears on my cheeks, but it wasn’t like I’m somehow going to feel any more humiliated by it than I already am. I lean down to pick up the books, but Jake kicks them aside– he’s still yelling in my face, but I can’t make out what he’s saying. Everything feels far away. He shoves me to the floor, and Melanie is laughing and laughing and laughing at me. It’s the only thing that I can hear. She’s fucking laughing at me. Cheering Jake on, as he grabs me by the front of my shirt. We’re scuffling in the hallway and there’s this big crowd, and he’s hitting me in the back of the head, but it’s like I’m not there. Like I can’t even really feel it, even though it hurts. And I don’t really even know how it happens, but now we’re on the ground and we’re rolling around, and everyone is yelling now. Everyone is yelling. Is Melanie still there? Is she still laughing? 

I remember his face felt softer than I expected it to. 

I heard the sickening crack before I ever saw the blood. I swear it sounded like a gunshot. Like everyone on the planet watched it happen, except that this time it really felt like they did. Everyone was watching, but no one was laughing. Melanie wasn’t laughing. My elbow splintered the bridge of his nose like it was made of nothing– the doctors said that if I’d hit him an inch and a half higher, the bone spurs would have punctured his brain. I don’t know if the whole world went quiet, or if I’d just found peace. Found focus. I’m smashing my elbows into his face, over and over again, and Melanie isn’t laughing anymore. 

No one is laughing anymore.

They aren’t laughing when the principal tears me off of him, like he’s trying to pull a rapid dog off of a fucking toddler. They aren’t laughing as teachers rush into the hallway in a blind panic, trying to figure out how to help the mess of ruined hamburger laying unconscious against the lockers. 

No one was laughing, except for me. 

I think about that kid in the sweatpants and the velcro shoes every time I put my smiling face on the back of a shiny jacket. Every time I tell the people in Miami that the Dolphins are garbage. Every time I make myself an unlikeable person who does unlikeable things. Every time a face feels softer than I expected it to. 

I hope you’re still reading this, Scotty. 

I had a much different message for you this week. It was full of anger and insults, jokes about red hair dye and disposable tag team partners. I was going to ask you how stupid you could possibly be, getting on television with my face on a cake and throwing a party while cosplaying with belts you don’t even own. Same promo you’ve read a million times, and I’m as sick of writing it as you are of reading it. I can boil it down to a sentence at this point: Scotty is a big dork and a deathmatch pervert, let’s all laugh. Let’s have an argument. 

I’m tired of arguing. 

Let’s just talk for real. 

Truth is? I don’t really want to fight you this week. I didn’t want to fight you when I watched your segment last week. I didn’t want to fight you when I begged them to book this match. I don’t want to fight you as I’m writing these words, and when I get to Refueled, I’m still not going to want to fight you. It’s stupid and petty. There is literally nothing to be gained from it. You should have taken your win in that tag match and moved on with your life, and I should have watched your segment and moved on with mine. Because I don’t want to fight you, Scotty. 

But I have to fight you. 

I don’t think you understand that. 

It’s petty, and fruitless, and unimaginably counter productive, but I have to fight you this week. Because you got on television with a cake with my face on it, and bragged about a win over me in an exhibition tag team match that I shouldn’t even give a fuck about, but I give a fuck, Scotty. I give all the fucks. I’ve watched that segment over and over, trying to convince myself that this isn’t a grudge that is worth either of our time or energy, but I can’t let it go. I watch that segment and I can feel the fucking sweatpants tightening around my ankles. I can hear the velcro rubbing against the elastic. I can smell the fucking stench on me and I have to rush home and take a hot shower so I don’t vomit into the center console of my car. 

I have to fight you, because that’s how I find the quiet. 

That’s how I make the laughing stop. 

Every time that someone tells me that I’ve had everything in my life handed to me by my father, when I know how hard I worked for every inch of ground I ever gained. Every time they tell me I failed at HOFC, when I know the division died because people were too afraid to face me. Every time a member of this roster opens their fucking mouth and has my name in it, I feel those books being slapped out of my hands, and the world goes red. Jake Church got shot in Iraq in 2007, and when I found out he was dead, I laughed. And I still laugh, every time I think about it, which is every fucking day of my life. 

So we’re going to have a match. 

Another match. 

We’re going to get into the ring and fight, because you set a trap and I fell right the fuck into it, just like I always do. You love this narrative that I’m the big bad bully of HOW and you’re the poor innocent victim, but look at you, Scotty. You’re an actual HOW legend. You’re a Hall of Famer. You’re on the Mount Rushmore of HOW, and you’ve been in nearly every historic, violent, dangerous match that this company has ever had. Yeah, you have goofy facial piercings and you’re trapped in another decade. Yeah, sometimes you’re a hokey bitch and I roll my eyes when you open your mouth. Yeah, the Battledome is still the single dumbest idea I have ever heard in my entire life. But you wanna know the truth? 

I’m fucking jealous of you. 

I have been making fun of your stupid piercings for ten years, but they’re still in your face. I called you Rasta McDonald for ten years, but you didn’t shave those locs until you decided that they no longer suited you. You use the music you wanna use, you wrestle the ridiculous matches that you wanna wrestle, you wear the clothes you wanna wear, and you live the life that you want to live. No matter how many times someone slaps your books out of your hands. No matter how hard they laugh. HOW is your Melanie Duggan, and no matter how hard she laughs in your face, you stand there in your elastic sweatpants with your wrestling t-shirt and you refuse to apologize for who you are. 

The truth, Scotty, is that you are stronger than me, and I can’t stand it. 

I wear my shiny shirts and I dye my hair and I pull my ridiculous stunts, and do all the exact same shit I make fun of you for. But you do it for you. Because you like it. Because it’s who you are, and it’s who you’ve chosen to be. So I have to cave your fucking face in. I have to knee you in the skull and finish the job all of the concussions started. I have to physically and violently impose my will on you this Saturday night, and I need to beat you, because I need to earn the right to take your imaginary fucking titles in another match the week after. I don’t want to fight you, but I have to fight you, because if I don’t, it will devastate me. 

I am DEVASTATED at taking a loss in that tag match, even if I didn’t get pinned. 

I am DEVASTATED that you were able to get on television and make fun of me for it. 

And if you manage to beat me on Saturday night, Scotty, I will be DEVASTATED, because anything less than absolute perfection fucking devastates me. I wish I could take that loss and move on. I wish I could turn the other cheek. I wish I could be the bigger person, but I can’t be, Scotty, and I’m sorry. I’m sorry for making you potentially fight me three fucking matches in a row in literally one pay-per-view period. I’m sorry for dragging you into this hole of fucking petty that I can’t seem to dig myself out of, so I just have to keep making it bigger and sucking the world into it with me. But I need to fight you, and I need to beat you, and then I need to put on a shiny fucking shirt and tell the next town we’re in that their sports team sucks, because I can feel the elastic around my ankles and it is fucking suffocating.

I paint my face like a clown and they laugh. 

It’s called controlling the narrative.