A Tactful Lesson: Three Elements.
We open on a shot of an auditorium-styled classroom. Rows of seats are staggered upward, facing a wall with a projection screen lowered in front of it. A large desk is off to one side, presently littered with a few papers and some writing tools. The students fill the seats and shortly after, Larry Tact strides into the room wearing an unbuttoned, collared white shirt with green pinstripes, a pair of black jeans, shoes, and his golden blonde hair tied back. He also holds a bottle of Poland Spring water, which he places on the desk after taking a drink. He surveys the class, and nods in approval after a few moments.
LARRY TACT: "Looks like everyone's here... and I'm not about to take attendance. I'll just lay it out from the start: this isn't really for my benefit-- though the pay is nice.
A few snickers sound out at this.
"Really though, you're the ones who'll draw the most from this. As you know, I'm here in place of your Professor Press... Dick Press... uh, Richard Press, that is! Yeah... apparently, he had some kind of physical ailment to tend to... and while I don't know the guy, personally, I'd probably get a name change while out.
Nobody really holds back their laughs throughout the class, at this.
Well, I'm just saying! The guy must have got a lot of bad "exercise" jokes as a kid. I mean, seriously, what parents would give that kind of name?! Anyway, moving on.... this class is all about Public Speaking, or at least that's what they told me. Being that I've got a degree in business, along with some background in negotiations, and have carved out a nice career through 'public speaking'... I guess I fit the bill for a short notice replacement."
A burly-looking kid in a t-shirt and jeans, near the front, speaks up.
MR. BURLY: "Professor Press went to the hospital last week, I heard on the school website. And when I heard you might be the replacement, I was like, 'Wait, Larry Tact? The WRESTLER??' I gotta ask, what the hell're you doing here?"
TACT: "What's your name?"
MR. BURLY: "Ken. I've watched you since WFW. You and Anarky at Cherry Blossom Chaos was the BOMB! Even though you lost, it was still sick stuff."
Tact chuckles and nods.
TACT: "Well, Ken, believe it or not, I do have interests outside of wrestling. I've been fortunate enough to dip into a number of different fields... and having good connections doesn't hurt. But it's important to remember where you've been, as well. So an old friend from my alma mater approached me last week, asking if I could do some lessons for the rest of the semester, because of a freak injury to the professor. I felt like I could give something back to the place that provided a lot of guidance and knowledge for me. And this..."
He makes a motion spanning the class, then snaps his fingers.
"Like I said, I'm all too familiar with speaking in front of people. It's a snap; I do it on a regular basis... sure, for wrestling events, but also for seminars and the like. In short... it pays for my long nights out on the town."
The class laughs.
"Just curious, though... who knows me from wrestling?"
Surprisingly, over half of the large class raise their hands.
"Whoa, interesting. I guess this is one of those classes all the sports players sign up for, huh?"
The class laughs, and he grins, waving a hand.
"It's all good, I'm actually thinking I might as well make use of it. I'm really not that fond of the 'structured curriculum' Professor Dick has set out here.... I mean, really, it's a little restrictive."
A busty-looking redhead bursts out, echoing through the room.
DD: "OH MY GAWD! Like, can we just talk about, like, your TEAM match with Jonathan Marx instead?!?"
Tact cocks an eyebrow momentarily, taken by surprise.
TACT: "Ah, well, that wasn't really what I was getting at... you a big fan of mine, too?"
DD: "Actually, um, NO! I'm really, like, IN LOVE WITH JONATHAN MARX!!!! He's so like, royal or regal or something and he's got such a sexy voice and like, he's SO HOT!"
Tact raises a hand, stopping her as she's pausing for air.
TACT: "Okay, then. I don't think I caught your name."
DD: "Oh, I'm Vicky. I mean you're OK too but Jonathan he's so like--"
TACT: "It's okay, really it's... just fine. I'll try to contain my envy."
The class laughs and Vicky looks scornfully.
TACT: "Really, though, we can take a cue from Vicky. Granted, she could use some work on eliminating her 'verbal crutches,' as that makes her speech seem worse off than it is, but that's something I can help with. Really, exuberance and passion for something is a great thing, even in public speaking. Take me, for instance. This week, as Vicky noted, I'm facing Jonathan Marx in a wrestling match. And honestly, I was a little stumped about what to say to the master of Marxism."
"See, Marx and I, we've got a lot of history. We've been in matches prior to this one, had battles that determined significant events in other places. Together, we determined who would be the first to be called NEW World Heavyweight Champion. Since then, I faced him several times, and the most recent time we were to clash was in a match to determine the very same World Championship he holds today. We always had high-caliber wrestling matches, though. It was such exceptional wrestling, in fact, that our next match was scheduled to be BANNED in the US... so to speak....."
He strolls over to the desk and leans against it, taking a drink of the water.
"Really, we always delivered on high quality wrestling. When the time came, our matches were not to be missed, because they were between two people who VALUED the importance of what happened in the ring, just as much as what was said OUT of the ring. I'd even be so daring as to say... the two of us may have even prioritized our IN-RING performance higher. Blasphemous, I know, since in this day and age, it's all about the trash talk. We do sort of go against the grain, in that respect."
"But Marx and I aren't similar beyond that. If there's one thing I've noticed in the past, it's that he's like the kid who isn't a nerd... isn't a bully... isn't even really your typical 'jock.' He just WANTS to be all those things. He wants to be ANY of those things. He just wants to fit in somewhere."
"I, on the other hand, am a little more secure. Don't get me wrong, I'm entertained by all Marx's attempts to stand with the Mansons, the Hornets, or even the Maelstroms of the world. But I don't feel like I need to strive to meet some invisible, unreachable standard. That's not a very satisfying goal. Now, I won't be saying I'm better or worse than any of the 'greats,' because really, I don't need to be in that clusterf**k of a dick-measuring contest, generally referred to as 'rankings.' They're fun to check out, and sure it's nice to be acknowledged... but really, you can't get too absorbed by that sort of thing. You lose perspective. Hell, Marx was trying to turn NEW into the Red Republic of our wrestling circuit. I guess maybe he took it too far, as that place has been on indefinite hiatus. Just a reminder of how communism is set up to fail in the end, right?"
The class laughs, and Tact walks around to the projector, pulls out a laptop from under it and turns on the screen. We see the word "PAST" on the screen.
"That's really all part of the past, though, which is the first part of my message to Marx. We both have plenty of past... and his attempts to fit in through his antics all seem part of this desire to live up to those of the past. I credit him for having something he can always keep reaching for, but he'll never grab hold of that status. Especially not when he keeps running into me."
"Which brings us to point number two."
The word "PRESENT" fades onto the projector screen.
"Though we walk different paths, they do tend to converge from time to time, and now we find ourselves on one of those collision courses in the ring. And really, that's where it all becomes memorable. Because for whatever Jonathan Marx may lack outside of the ring, there's no doubt he makes up for it inside what we affectionately refer to as, the squared circle. He's got the goods in the ring, and nobody will deny that. Problem for Marx is, I'm not slouch either. Let me ask, though, did anyone see Marx talking about our upcoming match this week?"
A few people, likely Marx fans, exuberantly shout out 'Yeah!' among the class, while others look on at Tact, nodding.
"Cool. So Marx mentioned how he's beaten me before now, as opposed to other times we've faced each other in the past. I guess that's part of his wanting to think of himself as special, since... well, I don't lose all that often. In that particular instance, Marx happened to steal away a briefcase-- one of multiple, as I remember it-- that ended up in something of a wild Dueling Ladders match. A match of my own design, in fact, which I recommend you check out if you haven't seen it.
He winks and clicks his tongue, getting a couple bemused reactions from the class.
"Anyway... that was his shining moment versus myself. He managed to get extra briefcases in the match, and we both ended up claiming one before the match ended. In my book, that doesn't exactly spell out victory or defeat."
"Whereas I, on the other hand, get the dubious credit of having actually pinned the master of Marxism to the mat. On my own. And eliminating him, in addition, to win that inaugural World Heavyweight Championship match I mentioned."
"But that's past, right? We're on the present, and that stuff leads up to now, where we find all that stuff coming to a head, and the winner advancing in this TEAM Invitational. When I considered what to say about this match, though... well, I really didn't think so much about all we've done. It was a nice setup to what's to come this week, but really?"
He double-taps the laptop.
"This time isn't about just us. Even Marx understands, in his dreaming of comparing to the standard of the 'greats,' this is only a step we've both had to take before... past one another. In reality, it all leads to...."
The word "FUTURE" fades into view on the projector screen.
"The future. Because this tournament doesn't end with our match. Far from it, we are only attempting to advance to the next round, to face one of two opponents whom, I don't believe, either of us will have faced before. As good as Marx and I are, we're familiar with each other. So facing someone new, afterward, may mean the challenge rating only gets steeper from here."
"But what the future means to both of us... it isn't the same, either. Like most things, we differ on what we view the next round as. For Marx, it's about facing a man in Dan Ryan, who he has fashioned his own personal pedestal for. Dan Ryan is like a Manson, Hornet, or Maelstrom for Marx. He's one of those elite players that would be a dream matchup. Everyone likes those, right?"
"But for me, I don't see it that way. I certainly won't deny that Dan Ryan is an elite wrestler. We all know about him. But he's not someone I want to face because I have respect for him, or have some fascination with the idea of getting into the ring with him. I don't idolize Dan Ryan. I don't have a dream of facing him. It would be a challenge, and that is certainly something that interests me. But unlike a lot of guys-- it's not just Marx-- I don't see Dan Ryan on a pedestal, with some golden sheen covering him. I see him possibly standing in my way, if I get through this round."
A low murmur commences in the class, and Tact takes a drink of water before quieting them.
"Yeah, so, not a big Dan Ryan fan, like most of you seem to be. But all I said, that's even if Ryan makes it past Big Wreck. He factors into this, too, don't forget. From what I hear of the guy, he's a Champion on his own home turf. And if the talk is true out of that area, then it isn't any easy feat to do that. I don't know what Marx thinks on Wreck, if he does at all... but I don't think it's any lock that he won't be the one waiting for either of us in the next round."
"Now, there's one other thing to complete my message to Jonathan Marx, and that is this..."
A double-tap later, the screen shows the following:
PAST + PRESENT < FUTURE
"For all the battles we've had, and for all the great wrestlers there have been in the past... and even the greatness the audience will witness in the ring when Larry Tact and Jonathan Marx tangle in the ring, one more time.... it's not as important as what's to come. The point of this tournament isn't for us to settle any score, and our match won't even determine who comes out of our region. That's all still to come, and that's all the best part of this tournament.'
"Marx somehow has it in his head that I've lost my 'fire.' Really, I've just been searching for the right words to do justice to this match... to give it a tactful sendoff. To make it... memorable, in its own right. Because while the future is most important, there's no reason why it can't look back and admire the past that brought it forth."
"And when I get in the ring, Jonathan Marx is going to remember something he should never have forgotten, what with his respct for the past... that I have more than what it takes to dispatch him, and shown it on several occasions."
"Plus, the best is in store for those who advance. There are greater challenges ahead, and it would be most untactful to miss out."
"So that's why I have taken the time to prepare for this match, and some thoughts on it. Like I said at the start... when you have a topic that you're unsure of what to say, it doesn't hurt to draw a comparison. For me, it was difficult thinking of what exactly I could say to Marx. We've been through plenty, exchanged a lot of words. For the most part, he's had a lot of the same to say as I've heard before."
"It sounds like he's on some last run for glory, for reaching a dream or two he fell short of.... but most dreams go unrealized. That's why they're dreams; something beautiful but unreal."
"Jonathan Marx versus Dan Ryan.... it's going to be a dream that dies. But at least, in this case, it'll die a tactful surrender...."
Ken shouts out approval, Vicky gives a dismissive "psssh!", with the rest of the class breaking out into chatter.
TACT: "Yeah, so... take this as a demonstration for how to ease your anxieties when giving a speech... by drawing your topic into a comfort zone, which will ease you into speaking on your actual topic. I think we've done enough for today, so you guys can go early...."
Tact begins gathering his things, but turns to see nobody has left.
"Ah... unless you have any questions?"
The class immediately starts peppering him on his favorite matches, opponents, speaking cues and what techniques he uses, as well as other miscellaneous questions. Tact looks a bit surprised, at first, but soaks it in with a smile and starts answering questions.