Friday, October 14, 2011

Who invited these guys?

A while back, I was inspired by a blogger's article Triathlon is a Stupid Sport, and decided to post a brief subcultural analysis of my own.  In its closing, I felt obliged to encourage any of the few who might read it to steer clear of the potential douche-baggery that might lend itself to a sport that requires its participants to devote an ample amount of spare time and money.
And again, by way of Charlie the triathlon critic, I came across a Details article How Triathlon Became the New Status Symbol.  Please, take a moment and check it out.
The author, Simon Dumenco, does a fantastic job of alerting us to the fact that my previous warning may have come too late.  Our sport may be overrun with douche bags.  Perhaps it was inevitable, but I imagine one would have a hard time convincing the sport's originators so many years ago that their small group of hard-bodied watermen would evolve into a egocentric bunch of executive-types with $6,000 bikes they ride just 20 miles a month.
But in so many ways, it has.  The sport has grown exponentially in recent years, and it would appear that a disproportionate amount of our newcomers are here for all of the wrong reasons.  They have little interest in encouraging those around them or giving back to the sport through volunteering.  They berate the well-meaning newby on his hand-me-down Schwinn for getting in the way while they draft off each other  on race day.  In short, their world is all about them, and triathlon is just one more way for them to prove to themselves that they are special.  They may be doing a 300yd swim, 10 mile bike and 5k run - but in their minds, they are conquering Kona in October, and that 12 year old on the fat tire better get out of the damn way.
But again, when the WTC charges 700 bucks for a race entry, you attract the type of guy whose Speed Concept is custom painted to match his Porsche - so in many ways, the sport is reaping what it sowed.
The sport itself presents a unique personal challenge, a testing of one's limits that is not available in many other mainstream athletic endeavors.  Because of that, it has added to its long list of good-hearted fitness enthusiasts a league of Type-A self-promoters who likely add the title of "triathlete" after their names on their business cards.  And in doing so, they run the risk of changing that title from a badge of accomplishment to a stigma.
So where do we go from here?
One's first inclination might be to attempt to shun anyone displaying the aforementioned negative traits from our numbers, but I believe that tactic would prove counterproductive.  You see, that would only reinforce the feeling of exclusivity that originally drew the Mercedes-driving weekend warrior to invade the sport.  No, I believe the best tactic is to simply remove the proverbial velvet rope from the world of triathlon.  These guys don't want anything to do with a club that doesn't charge an exorbitant cover, and when the title of "triathlete" loses its country club style swagger, they will quickly return to, well, the country club.
So when you see the guy posing by his sports car and polishing his barely-ridden Cervelo, compliment the car if you must - but please ignore the bike.  When the same guy is recounting his local county sprint triathlon exploits, kindly mention that your kid's kindergarden teacher won her age group at that same event.  When you see him at the coffee shop in his finishers t-shirt, hat and compression socks - don't ask him if he's a triathlete - you're only encouraging him.  In fact, the best thing you can do is just ignore these guys.  Just keep doing the sport that you love for all of the right reasons.  Push yourself and each other.  Find and exceed your own limits, and don't tell anyone that doesn't truly care when you do.  Encourage each other when you're training or racing and help someone who is new to the sport.
Ignore the douche bags who are only out there for themselves - and they'll be back to playing golf soon enough.    


  1. Well said! Man, I hear you on all that good stuff. I just need to make sure that I'm doing it for the right reasons. Great Blog! Thanks for following mine, and I'm your newest follower!

  2. Great Post and I agree with you 100% I have said for a couple of years that triathlons is the new mid life crisis, someone puts in 1 or 2 seasons, gets tired of the every day grind and then goes off to the discipline that they were best at.

    I am trying to form a new tri team for my local LBS, and I am having problems doing it, most people first words are "what do I get for free?"

    When I tell them, that to be part of the team, they need to attend store sponosred clinics and volunteer at races, most say "No thanks", its disheartening to me

  3. I love this post. Amen Brother, amen. Oh no... Christi said that.. o well. .I'm saying it too..


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