I remember as a young boy, I always wanted to ride a horse.
Growing up, each year I would beg and plead with my father, and each year he would tell me the same thing. I wasn't old enough, wise enough, strong enough. I simply wasn't grown enough. He would warn me of the dangers and the hazards.
He would shelter me, he would protect me. I always appreciated those qualities in my father, but at times it would drive me up the wall.
I would see a horse and I would just picture myself on the back of the stallion, racing down the field with the wind at my back. I wanted to go fast. I wanted that moment of exhilaration. I wanted to be left breathless and awe struck.
My father would say no, I would kick and I would holler and I would scream but in the end I resigned to the fact that my father knew best.
Each day I would eat my meat and my eggs and my vegetables and I would drink plenty of milk so I could grow and grow. I would hit a growth spurt and I would go to daddy..."a horse, daddy."
Pops would say no.
I would sit and draw pictures, little Quentin on the back of a black stallion, just racing away in the wind with a big hearty grin on my face.
After a while, to my shock and surprise, he said yes. We went down to the Amish market and we found a young brown colt. He was a little rough around the edges, but he was mine.
I looked at him once and I named him Thunder. Let me tell you this, it wasn't as easy as I thought it was going to be. Thunder was meaner than hell and he wasn't itchin' to be tamed. I took my falls, my bumps and my bruises. Every day my Pops would look at me with astonishment.
Every day with the same grin he would ask me "you ready to give up yet boy? I told ya it would happen."
But the setbacks would not stall me, the failures would not define me. I would be defined by grit, motivation and drive. Every day I would climb back up on that horse and give it another go.
From there, I learned how to ride saddleback. I learned how to raise and care for my own horses.
Riding on the back of Thunder was everything I thought it was going to be and more. The exhilaration, the excitement...
I also learned just how fleeting those moments of exhilaration can be.
The feeling of shelter, the feeling of comfort...those are priceless. Those are worth living for. Some people would give everything to experience that feeling once again.
I reember speaking with Cindy Wilder just weeks after the tragic shooting at Penn State. Being the mother of the all-star quarterback, Cindy was for all practical matter, the TEAM's mom and always an inspiration to me. Her son Greg was one of my best friends. Greg Wilder was a great man, destined to do great things, before blind hatred cut his life short at an early age. Greg came from a great family, his father a dentist and is mother a brilliant interior designer. Cindy and Vince Wilder are a true example of the American dream and Greg was just another branch off the same tree.
In fact, it was Cindy Wilder who changed my life and awoken me to a new path, a new calling.
She took me by the arm, still weeping over the loss of her son and she told me, "you could change somebody's life. You could save somebody's life."
I couldn't save Greg. I couldn't save my fiancee Ella Kingsbury...but Cindy was right. What I couldn't do is change the past.
What has happened is done and placed into the annals of history ...but what I could do is reach out and try to inspire change in the future.
That is why I decided to write to you all today, as I scribble these words on to paper. That is why I go to these town halls and recreational centers to advocate for active shooter training and detest senseless violence. If I could change one mind, if I could prevent one tragedy, if I could protect one school, or save one life...then to me, that is a moment of exhilaration worth chasing.
I hope to inspire, to push for those questions to be asked and those questions to be answered. I made an oath to Cindy Wilder that day. The death of her son would not be in vain. I could not be his hero or his champion or his savior on that day ...but I could be moving forward.
I could be a better person. I could be a better example for the youth of the world. I could be the one to show them there is light in a world full of darkness, there is good people with virtue and conviction.
Each day, I strive to be someone Greg and Ella and all those people can be proud of. I imagine them looking down on me, not with disdain and dissatisfaction...but with grace and glory.
I do not pretend to be a perfect man, and I can only do my part. Some in the world may not understand or agree with the decisions I make, the paths I take, and the oaths I give...but this is my reality and I am the master of this realm.
I refuse to let the actions of another derail my destination. To help others through hardship, through strife, agony and pain that they are suffering just like I am suffering... there is simply no other way to make me whole again.
((An excerpt from "A Moment of Introspection", a book written by Quentin Scarboro nine years ago.))
The lights are dim, the stadium is empty. The go home episode of Evolution has just concluded and the local highways are full of CWF faithful trying to get home and get some sleep before hurrying off to work early the next morning.
Row upon row of empty chairs line the bleachers, trashed with a variety of empty cans, concessions and candy wrappers. Jim Gunt is long gone, probably already sitting in front of his computer in his underwear as World of Warcraft boots up. Rolash is probably passed out on the couch in the other room, buried in a couple empty bottles of booze.
It is late, but the night is young...because tonight has never happened before. Tonight, even hours after the televised portion of CWF programming, there is someone walking through that velvet curtain and towards the ring.
Though the lights are still dim, a calm and collected Quentin Scarboro approaches the squared circle with a microphone in hand. Nonchalantly sliding under the rope, Q takes a seat in the middle of the ring with his legs crossed.
He raises the microphone to his lip with a smile.
Q: "I have something to say."
The microphone is unpowered, but the conviction in Quentin's voice floods over the empty arena, as his eyes scan the empty sections of seating. He snickers.
Q: "Like the old saying goes, if a tree falls in the woods and no one is around, does it make a sound? I could walk out to this ring beating my chest, kicking and screaming. I could holler at the top of my lungs, and if no one is paying attention, what difference does it make? The fact of the matter is this, no one wants to be the rookie."
"Rookie implies weakness, inexperience and ignorance. It is like starting over at a brand new job, that sense of discomfort, of helplessness."
"Stepping into this ring for the first time, there was nothing I could do to prepare myself for that except set goals. I told myself that I was going to go in that ring, Pancakeplex somebody outta their boots, and I was going to walk away with a victory."
"It was a tag team match then, but I turned those goals into reality as we fractured the veteran team and fractured the bones of one Silas Artoria. It seems he is back for more of the same. It seems like he's getting hungry, well me too, boy, me too. It all boils down to respect, and when it comes down to it, respect has to be earned."
"I get that. I may be new to the wrestling world, but it's not much different than the world I come from. It's dog eat dog out there, no matter what you're doing, and one look at me you will know I've always been well fed. Respect takes time, that is the one thing I don't have much under my belt yet."
"I get that too, I'm just a green horn, an upstart, I don't belong. I am walking into my fifth match. People like Scourge, Artoria and Jimmy Allen...they have been around the block a few times now. They know the business like the back of their hands and they are likely no strangers to wrestling five matches in a week let alone a career. They know the business, and they know their opponents...but they do not know me."
Q: "Yeah, I guess you could say that Scourge and I have gotten to know each other pretty well. Him and I are like junkyard dogs, we are like backyard bulls, but let me tell you this: Scourge is standing in one place. We saw it over the course of just a few weeks, Scourge has cratered out and is standing on a plateau of sorts while Quentin Scarboro rockets to the moon."
"I set my goals, and I achieved them. I walked into my first match and left with a victory. Beyond that, I told the world and anyone that would listen that I would be in position to claim the Paramount championship. Despite a setback, I shouldered on and I put a whooping on Ryan Storm and then tied the score with Scourge. The big wigs and the hot shots in the back, they expressed their doubt. They just simply refuse to pay attention."
"I set my goal and I told them that I was going to be claiming this vacant Paramount championship as my own. Are they paying attention now? Are they still doubting me? Or maybe even better yet... Are we seeing the classic 'move the goal post' routine? You all know what I am referring to, right?"
Quentin extends the microphone towards the crowd in silence before carrying on.
Q: "I wasn't the first green blooded rookie to walk through the doors of CWF, and you can bet your best cowboy hat that I won't be the last, so what gives with this pesky little inspector guy? He seems to want to get involved in my business and my business only. Well, Mister Summers, you certainly have my attention."
"What I don't get is your motive, your interest. You obviously don't want to wrestle me and you are certainly too chicken shit to fight me, so in this business what is left to do? Play patty cake and dress up? Whoever is wearing those zebra stripes won't make a damn difference in the world. I am the mountain lion, I am the king cobra and I am about to bring the rumble to that jungle. I am the American Throughbred and I want to make one thing perfectly clear."
Scarboro stops for a moment to clear his throat.
Q: "Summers? When it comes time for Confliction and you are in that ring with Big Q and those three other competitors...W.I.R.E. is going to stand for one thing and one thing only. 'We Interfere? Rushed to ER'. Stay in your fucking lane, little man, or I may just have to knock you out and put on that pretty shirt myself to count the one, two, three."
"Scourge, Artoria, Allen, it doesn't matter who it is that steps in the ring with me. They will experience that moment of exhilaration as I pick them up and send them flying through the air like the black stallion that I am. They will experience that moment of exhaustion when they realize that they can knock Big Q down, but that big ole fuckin' hoss just won't stay down for good."
"Then, they will experience that moment of paralyzation as I hoist that golden belt in the air for the crowd and everyone at ringside to see...I am the very definition of Paramount and all that it entails. It doesn't matter if you are an inspector, a crimson specter, or a crazy cross dresser, you will have no damn choice but to respect me. I ain't no damn rookie, that's 'champion boss ass rookie' to all ya'll moving forward."
Scarboro drops the microphone and makes it back to his feet.
Q: "And I suppose that is all I gotta say about that."
Moments later, Scarboro is in the backstage locker room, finally deciding to leave the workplace. He paces around gathering his things as his cell phone begins to ring. He snatches it up from the wooden bench in front of him, bringing it to his ear.
The frantic voice on the other line belongs to Lucas Scarboro, the elderly and oblivious father of Q.
Lucas: Quentin! People are getting stabbed...people are getting stabbed out here and you are in Australia!
Q: Dad? Dad! Calm down! What are you talking about?
Lucas: It is all over the local news. This young man, Ricardo Munoz, stabbed four people...he stabbed a kid! Right here in Lancaster!
Quentin seems to choke on his disbelief as a sensation of dread floods over him. This isn't right, it can't be right. He should be home, he should be pushing back against this sort of thing. Instead, he is hauled up in Australia, working the bottom rung of the ladder of Championship Wrestling Federation. All sorts of thoughts swirl through Scarboro's mind. He has more work to do out there.
Lucas: Yes, Quentin, right here at home. The punk got into fight with people outside a home on the 500 block of North Queen Street, pulled a knife and went on a rampage. Police tased his ass in threw him in the slammer! Four counts of aggravated assault, they said!
Q: Dad, that is...concerning to say the least.
It seems like these kinds of reports come out every day, a shooting or a stabbing out of some place in some state. For the most part, it seems like the population has become desensitized to it all, it has become all too commonplace. But for Q, it leaves him seething with anger, resentment and disappointment to find out it happened right in his home town.
It happened again.
Q: Did they have a motive?
Lucas: Your guess is as good as mine! Got in an argument and he had to get in the last word, I suppose. I need you to come home, Q! As a retired senior citizen, I just don't feel safe out here.
Quentin grimaces, obviously uncomfortable.
Q: I cant, Dad. I have this championship match. I have something to prove. I win this title and I'm coming back to the States. I understand there is more work to do in life, and in the squared circle.
Lucas: You have something to prove, Quentin? Why do you feel that way? Who do you have something to prove to, me? Scourge? Artoria and Allen? Stewart and St. James? Inspector Summers? Yourself?
Q: Everyone. Just ...everyone.
Lucas: Fair enough. If you ain't coming to me, I'm coming to your sorry ass!
Q: Excuse me?
Lucas: Australia, that's what, maybe a two or three hour drive from here? I can break out the old Cadillac and be there in no time.
Quentin lets out a light hearted chuckle.
Q: It's across the ocean, Pops. You'll have to get a plane ticket. Do you even have a valid passport?
Lucas: I got one back in the day when I took your mother to Paris for our honeymoon! What a wonderful time, Quentin, do realize that if your mother was still alive it would be our 35th anniversary next month. I miss her dearly.
Q: Yeah, I miss Mom, too. Wait...you haven't updated your passport in 35 years?
Lucas: The one I have worked perfectly good the last time!
Q: You may have to get it updated if you want to pass through airport security.
Lucas: Fine, fine. I'll stop in at Wal-Mart first thing tomorrow morning and get one of those new fangled thing-a-ma-jigs.
Q: Dad, I don't think they sell passports at Wal-Mart.
Lucas: Whatever! I'll get one, no matter what it takes. My boy has a championship match and by golly I am not gonna miss that. I'll take a trip out across the ocean in the old fishin' boat if I have to! I'm gonna be there Q, and I might need a spare elbow pad to clobber that idiot Summers if it comes down to it!
Quentin smiles. Maybe it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world to have a familiar face out in that crowd.
Q: You know what, I got faith in ya, old man. Get your sorry ass out here and I'll show ya where the party spots are at. Just you and your boy, down under.
Lucas: I like the sound of that.
Q: And once that bell rings, old man, I'll show you and I'll show 'em all what a true champion looks like.
Lucas: Atta boy, go get 'em, Big Q. I love ya kid and I wouldn't miss it for the world.
Q: I love you too, Dad. See you soon.
Quentin ends the call, shoving the phone back in his pocket as he hoists his duffel bag up into the familiar position, hanging by a strap from his shoulder.
Back to the grind we go.