Last night my wife and a couple of my kids went to see what we used to call “big time wrestling” at the Fort Wayne Coliseum. As a kid I used to be into that, back when it was Hulk Hogan, Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka, Andre the Giant, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, the Iron Sheik and Sergeant Slaughter and now my one adult son especially is into it. I didn’t go, large crowds and noise don’t agree with me these days so I decided to download and watch Vision Quest from 1985.
If you aren’t familiar with Vision Quest, it was a film about a high school wrestler named Louden Swain who decides that he is going to drop two weight classes to wrestle a monster called Brian Shute. Along the way a beautiful girl comes into his life and threatens to distract his quest to lose the weight and get on the mat with Shute. It is a pretty standard sports movie, sort of a Rocky/Karate Kid but for wrestlers. As an 8th grader the year it came out who joined the wrestling team, I can’t overstate how powerful the film was for me and my teammates (and every other 1980s wrestler). When Louden and Kuch see Shute walking up the bleachers with a damn half telephone pole…..
And Shute asks Louden if he thinks he will make the weight, to which Louden replies “I don’t know, I hope so” and then Shute replies “I hope so too”. Damn, that was cool in 1985 and still is today even though Shute is clearly way bigger than 168 pounds.
The soundtrack might be the best for a sports movie ever. When Lunatic Fringe by Red Rider comes on the radio today, I still get chills. My best friend and I watched it so many times we could, and sometimes would, recite the dialogue from the entire movie from memory. But as I watched again last night, for the hundredth time maybe, I found myself really paying attention to the opening song by Journey, Only The Young, and the chorus….
Only the young can say
They’re free to fly away
Sharing the same desires
Burning like wildfire
I remember well what life was like in the 1980s as a high school kid. Even with the Cold War still in full swing and the threat of global thermonuclear war hanging over our heads, we were still so very optimistic. We looked forward to the future. For a high school kid in the 1980s, the future possibilities were limitless. We had fun every weekend, played sports, hung out with friends, fell in and out of love and then back in again. The music was incredible. The girls were feminine and beautiful, just discovering the power of their sexuality while at the same time remaining aloof and modest in their own way. Nobody wore sweatpants or pajamas to school. The mall was the place to hang out and no one got shot because some exuberant youths decided to shoot each other.
Do you remember what that was like? The boundless optimism, the sense that anything was within your grasp?
It wasn’t all perfect of course. Looming on the horizon in 1985 were the crack epidemic and the gang wars. Movies like Colors in 1988, and Boyz n the Hood and New Jack City in 1991 would introduce suburban and country White kids to a world we never saw, a world of drugs and drive-by shootings. Wall Street was mired in a world of insider trading with guys like Ivan Boesky, Michael Miliken and Dennis Levine getting rich and then getting busted. But in most of the country things were still great. The Gipper was President and it was morning in America again.
Fast forward to today. Do you get any sense of optimism, of hope, of any actual happiness among high school kids today?
What occupies their attention?
Getting upvotes on social media. The threat of everyone dying from “climate change”. Racism. 20% of teens thinking they are transvestites or homosexual. More racism. A nation in decline. Constant, fleeting little shots of amusement via TikTok.
I don’t see any sense of optimism or hope for the future. Most young people seem incredibly jaded and pessimistic, assuming things are only going to get worse in the future.
What would high school have been like for us if we had looked to graduation with nothing but a sense of dread? When we sewed the graduation numerals on our letter jackets, “90” in my case, it was an exciting time but that graduation year for the class of 2025 can’t really be something those kids are looking forward other than just the chance to get away from high school.
Again, things weren’t perfect in the 1980s. Some people were miserable in high school but isn’t it better that a few people have a crappy time than everyone being miserable?
While most of my youthful enthusiasm and optimism for the future was wildly overblown and unrealistic, isn’t that part of youth? The sense of wonder, of expectation and excitement, has been stolen from today’s soon to be adults. It is hard to imagine them as adults being anything other than resentful and unhappy. The sullen, slovenly and soft teens of today with their blue and pink hair, pasty skin and conditioning to see their very existence as somehow an affront seem destined to being the same as adults. How can teens that were forced to wear paper masks in school and not allowed to even go outside to hang out have the same sense of youthful vigor that we did?
The hope for the future that teens should have has been stolen from them by the same miserable people that endlessly hector the rest of us who just want to do our jobs, raise our families and be left alone. The only solace I take is knowing that those childless harridans will be ignored as they age and die by the unhappy teens who will become unhappy adults in the future.
Youth should be a time for unrealistic expectations and unfounded optimism, not what we see on display in today’s teens. Yet another crime for which They need to be held to account.