Would you endure a smack with an open hand, without moving an inch before the impact, knowing that your rival can concentrate all his anger, rage, contempt and testosterone in the attempt? And two? And up to three? Say no, please. Masochisms, the just. But in the United States, anything is possible, and even more so if there's big money involved. The macabre formula was launched in mid-January as a television program -Power Slap, broadcast by the TBS network- and in just eight episodes it has raised enough blisters to be submitted for study before the US Congress. It is not for less. Specialized critics do not give credit. They wonder, it is not known if with sarcasm or sincere concern, if the following will be live stabbing between contestants for the amusement of the staff. All for the audience in a nation that has long since lost its bearings.
To Dana White, the man behind the grotesque spectacle, the idea seems perfectly legitimate and even more bearable for the participants than other displays of extreme violence such as the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship), the organization of which he is president. "Imbeciles", he snapped when asked about the many critics of him, remembering the time when he was attacked for defending mixed martial arts, now in full swing in the US. On his show, the "athletes" receive "three to five smacks per event," which compared to the "300 or 400 punches" a boxing fighter takes is nothing, he reasons. And those who don't want to see it, you know, don't look, says the promoter, that he has managed to amass a juicy personal fortune estimated at 500 million dollars.
White explains that he got the idea from watching YouTube videos of Polish and Russian guys shaking off slaps. "I liked it right away," he said confidently, taping eight episodes in Las Vegas, where many of the UFC's fights take place. Plus, the videos were generating loads of traffic, so he got to work getting approval from the Nevada Athletic Commission. Later, TBS gave him the approval to start broadcasting it.
It has raised enough blisters to submit it for study before Congress
It would have seen the light on January 11, but a video of White himself slapping his wife during New Year's celebrations in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, forced the broadcast to be postponed for a week. White apologized for the assault on his wife, blaming alcohol.
The premise of the eight shows that have aired is simple. The opponents play heads or tails who hits first and the one who takes the hit, without moving in the slightest, has 30 seconds to recover from the impact. The first "combat" of the first episode is enough to understand that it is not an easy task. The man who is slapped immediately falls to the ground and appears to lose consciousness. When he comes to he doesn't even know where he is, attended by doctors.
Kortney Olson, bodybuilder and owner of her own company, also lost consciousness after her rival's blow, who, seeing her in such a state, could not help but hug her and cry. "It was a horrible experience," Olson explained. It will be the last time she participates in it.
White is very serious. He has created up to four weight divisions and expects the categories to fill up. His idea is that he fights to climb positions in the ranking, as in other internationally regulated sports. But for the moment he has already encountered the first serious problem. TBS announced the cancellation of the broadcast on Tuesday after receiving a barrage of criticism. There are not a few experts who have warned of serious brain damage for those involved. Bennet Omalu, the prestigious Nigerian neuropathologist, does not rule out deaths if they go ahead. He considers it an insult to human intelligence. "It's a very stupid and unsafe sport. It's primitive," he said. Bill Pascrell, a congressman from New Jersey, and Don Bacon, his counterpart from Nebraska, announced in February the creation of a congressional committee to investigate the legality of the program.
It is a very stupid and insecure sport. it's primitive
It is not the first in the annals of American trash TV where violence is the main claim. The figure of Jerry Springer, the undisputed king in that section, immediately comes to mind. His crude display of banality lasted 27 years at the point of fights on the set with issues such as incest, infidelity, jealousy, drugs or outstanding debts involved. A full-fledged freak show.
Its equivalent in Latin American version was commanded by the Peruvian Laura Bozzo, another presenter turned into a mass phenomenon who made her guests pass, knowing that they were going to get involved in a matter of minutes. And therein lay the morbidity of the matter. He presented them with a cuteness that became famous over time: "Let the wretch pass!" he exclaimed, always referring to a cuckolded husband, a jilted boyfriend or a similar specimen who was forced to try to defend his pride in the middle of the set, despite the fact that he was not even able to place half a cake before two built-in cabinets fell on him -the swordguards that Bozzo had at his side-, ready like prey dogs to pounce on their puny catches and restore some order to such a television circus. White has managed to take it to the next level.
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