"Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great."
-- Mark TwainSeriously, the trash talk needs to stop. It seems like every day I read or hear something bashing CrossFit, triathlons, ultra marathons, or cycling. I'm not talking about the "scientific studies" out there taking issue with each of these - that's a topic for another day regarding how you can find a "study" to criticize anything you want. I'm talking about the personal attacks and criticisms being made by people in one sport against another sport. Now I have no problem with friendly jokes between athletes in different sports in the spirit of a little competitive ribbing, like the YouTube video below between Ironman and Ultraman. What I take issue with are the gross generalizations and personal attacks that people are making against their fellow athletes from another sport.
Here are very few examples of some of the ridiculous trash talk to which I'm referring:
- "My bottom line with Crossfit is that in an effort to be extreme, these workouts are poorly executed, and the elitist attitude of the CrossFit community rubs me the wrong way."
- "I don't get the ultra-endurance snobs, especially slow ones. People who think they're awesome because they did some really long race, but think that short events aren't real."
Comments like these from online blogs, forums, and articles are only part of the problem. Personally, my bigger problem is with the statements and Facebook comments I hear and read from friends and fellow athletes. Comments along the lines of how "trail running is just too slow," "CrossFit is just a bunch of beefed up dumbasses," "triathletes are a bunch of Type-A snobs," or "cyclists are self-righteous assholes who think they own the road." To the people out there making these comments - you know who you are; but, in case you don't know this, the only reason you feel compelled to make critical generalizations about athletes from other sports is this: to compensate for your own insecurities.
It's not rocket science; in fact, it's psychologically simple. The only reason we gossip about, criticize, or put down other people is to make ourselves feel more important, more powerful, or "better than." So it's not puzzling why some triathletes, ultra athletes, cyclists, runners, and CrossFitters feel the need to criticize and trash talk each other: the athletes who engage in this type of negative behavior are insecure about something. Maybe she felt snubbed by people in the other sport. Maybe he wasn't good enough at the other sport. Maybe she feels like her sport is the only "answer" and everything else is inferior. Maybe the only way he can feel validated through his sport is to put down other sports.
Whatever the reason for your insecurity, knock it off.
Now before you get your tri-shorts or cycling shorts in a wad, let me be clear on two things. First, all sports -- hell all areas of life -- have assholes in them. There are asshole triathletes, CrossFitters, cyclists, and runners, just like there are asshole lawyers, doctors, police officers, and teachers. Believe me, there are triathletes who make me ashamed sometimes to be a triathlete. These "sportholes" are the ones who seem to be the fodder for the negative generalizations out there. They are the bad apples that spoil the whole bunch.
Second, not every athlete engages in this negative, cross-sport trash talk. Although I don't have any numbers to back this up, I bet it's safe to say that the vast majority of athletes in all these sports do not engage in that behavior. So I'm not talking to them. I'm talking to the few insecure athletes in each group who engage in this behavior on a regular basis....and you know who you are (although right now you're probably taking issue with the fact that you have any insecurities...but trust me, there's no other reason to justify that kind of behavior).
In addition to the trash talking, these insecure athletes often have the tendency to push their sport on other people by claiming that his/her sport is the "only answer" and all other sports have various flaws. I'm not talking about the enthusiastic people who have pure joy from their sport and try to spread that joy through positive, non-confrontational messages. Rather, I'm talking about the athlete who posts about their sport and how awesome it is in 95% of his/her Facebook posts. The athlete who (in response to anyone who wants to lose weight, become healthy, or address an injury) claims that the athlete's chosen sport is the only answer. The athlete who dominates 90% of the conversation with talk about his/her chosen sport, how wonderful it is, how people in other sports suck, and how other people must do this sport.
You know who you are...and you need to knock it off.
Why do you need to knock it off?
First, and most obvious, is the fact that it's negative. It's soul-sucking negative behavior for both you and the person at whom it's directed.
Second, it's ignorant - as all gross generalizations are. Maybe you think that calling triathletes "elitist snobs" or CrossFitters "stupid meatheads" isn't that big of deal. But tell me this: how is that mentality any different from saying that pit bulls are dangerous? Or children are brats? Or, worse yet, any particular ethnic group is lazy or a bunch of criminals? Mentalities that lump any group of people together under one umbrella are ignorant.
Third, if your sport really is that awesome and all the others suck so bad, why are there thousands (if not tens of thousands) of athletes engaged in the other sports? Why isn't everyone gravitating to your sport? The reason is that no one sport fits all and, thus, no particular sport is that awesome for everyone.
Fourth, your insistence on criticizing other sports stems solely from your insecurity, and unless and until you find the underlying source of that insecurity, you will continue to be a small person who can feel big only by belittling others...no matter how awesome you think you and your sport are.
Finally, and most importantly, you need to realize that you're not that special. What gives you the right to criticize another athlete's chose course for physical health? Presumably it's because you think you are that special....that you have been enlightened and everyone else is in the dark. But you don't live in someone else's body. You don't have someone else's schedule. You don't have all the answers. If you did - if you really were that special as to have "earned the right" to bash other sports - you wouldn't be an amateur athlete. If you were that special at your chosen sport, you'd be able to quit your day job and become a professional...and even some professionals aren't that special.
If you really want to show how awesome your sport is, do it by being a humble ambassador...not by bashing other sports. If you really want to "help" someone by convincing them to join your sport, don't push it in their face like the athlete equivalent of a Jehovah's witness espousing, ad nauseum, about the virtues of your sport (sorry to any Jehovah's witnesses out there). In other words, don't be like the nauseating "enthusiastic guy" played by Alec Baldwin in Friends who couldn't shut up about everything wonderful little thing in life:
If you sound like Alec Baldwin as you blabber on about how awesome your sport is, you need to knock it off. Why? Because, again, if you and your sport really are that awesome, you shouldn't feel the need to be so "in your face." Your sport should speak for itself, with just a little positive reinforcement from you.
Bottom line: The negative trash talk is helping no one, including yourself and your sport. In fact, you're doing a tremendous disservice to both. And your overly enthusiastic, "in-your-face," self-promotion isn't helping either. Both mentalities serve only one purpose: to show how insecure you actually are. So spend your time working on that, rather than working to rip apart other people who are out there working just as hard as you are to have a healthy lifestyle.
After all, isn't that what's really important? Isn't it more important for the triathlete to support her overweight friend who has decided to try to lose a few pounds with CrossFit? Isn't it more important for the CrossFitter to recognize how hard the triathlete has worked and the hours of training the triathlete bas devoted to becoming an Ironman? Isn't it more important for the triathlete to realize that ultra runners want to appreciate nature and slow down the chaos of life? And isn't it more important for the ultra runner to realize that short distances can require hard effort and training in a different way than long distances?
At the end of the day, the one generalization that can be made about all athletes is that we're all trying to find a healthier lifestyle, to find an outlet for our stress, and to become the best version of ourselves that we can be. That noble goal shouldn't be tainted by small people who feel the need to belittle another person's ambitions...
So knock it off....