Don’t get me wrong here! The 2012 Reebok CrossFit Games produced some of the best moments in Games history, and as a spectator the 2012 Games ranks as the most enjoyable competition to watch by far! But all good things aren’t without their flaws (even if they were far and few between). Here are your top (bottom?) 4 worst moments from the 2012 CF Games.
Overall, I thought the media coverage was incredible for the Games this year – definitely an upgrade from years past. They managed to broadcast every heat from every event – team and individual – throughout the entire weekend. And everything went off almost entirely on schedule (gasp!). Even still, it was far from perfect.
I’m a fan of the sport of CrossFit. The best crossfitters in the world they’re my Tom Brady, my Lebron James. I follow them throughout the year, track their progress – have secret man-crushes on them. So when it comes to the Games, I want to see in all their glory. Unfortunately, this is where the CrossFit media crew got it wrong. Camera favoritism (cue ominous music). For each event, the camera crew only seemed to follow around the top 2 competitors in that particular heat. So for example, if the heat had the top 10 individual competitors in it, the camera would only show the 1st and 2nd place athletes. If the heat was filled with competitors ranging from 11-20th place, the camera only cared about the 11th and 12th place competitors (unless of course your name is Rich Froning – in which case it doesn’t matter what place you’re in, the camera crew might as well be a member of your entourage).
It didn’t matter if the two pre-determined camera whores finished dead last in their heat; the camera tracked their progress the entire way regardless of the outcome. The perfect example came via the rope-sled event. Matt Chan and Rich Froning were the top 2 competitors in their heat, and with the way the camera followed these two athletes around, I wouldn’t be surprised if you thought they were the only two men competing. During the event, the camera crew, as well as the announcers, built the entire heat up as if it was solely a race between the two – focusing on their recovery strategy, rope climb technique, who got to the sled first etc. But here’s the kicker! After Matt Chan pushed his sled across the finish line and won the event, a number of other competitors crossed the line before Froning even finished. That would’ve been nice to know! That maybe it wasn’t just a two horse race the entire time. Not only was I surprised when the cameras finally cut to Austin Maleollo collapsing after crossing the finish line, but the announcers sounded like it too!
Here’s the sad part. I’ve met Austin Maleollo a few times myself. Great guy. I was rooting for him no doubt. My girlfriend wants to make beautiful 5 foot nothing half Asian babies with him – or just grate cheese on his abs – not really sure at this point. But the bottom line is I follow the sport of CrossFit closely. I know all the top athletes, especially the ones in my region. The media crew should have done a better job spreading the love rather than just focusing in on the top dogs. (It was Chris Spealler’s last Games for God’s sake! The dude should’ve had a camera on him from the second he stepped on the floor!) Everyone loves Rich and love Annie, I get it, but the Games is so much more than just them. With the community being what it is – so strong and intertwined – everyone has that hometown hero or someone that inspires them that they love to root for. Unfortunately, the media crew denied most of them their opportunity to do so.
The Turning 7s into 10s Commercial
(UPDATE: The “Turning 7s into 10s” commercial that aired during ESPN2’s rebroadcasted coverage of the Games differs significantly from the original commercial shown during the live coverage in July – and for good reason. The original commercial is what I am discussing here)
The commercial that had everyone talking/shaking their heads leaving the Games (If you haven’t seen it yet or missed it during the Games, here it is.) Let me give you the brief rundown in case you missed it. The commercial opens up with a montage of some faceless (As if to say it’s not important who she is, this could be any one of YOU), incredibly tone and busty female athlete performing some standard CrossFit movements like deadlifts, burpees, and handstand pushups. The commercial equates to nothing more than CrossFit porn – everything shot in slow motion, with every shot either beginning or ending with a close-up of this girl’s rack exploding out of her sports bra. And here comes the money shot, the commercial ends with big block letters flashing across the screen “TURNING. SEVENS. INTO. TENS.” Shame on you CrossFit, talk about missing the boat completely…
My friend, Cassie Grassie over at TrapDoorAthletics, wrote an absolutely punishing article about the misguided direction/message of the commercial. It’s always nice to get a female’s perspective, especially on an issue like this, and she’s one of the most badass chicks I know so it’s definitely worth the read. I’ll let her tackle this commercial from the more than obvious chauvinistic point-of-view.
The problem with CrossFit advertising its uncanny ability at turning sevens into tens is that it portrays itself as some 2-bit quick fix weight loss program that’ll get your body ripped and ready to go for beach season in no time. Honestly, what’s the difference between this commercial and the late night infomercial promising you 8-minute abs?
Every affiliate around the world experiences the same phenomenon when they open their doors to new members, there are always those few people who walk into the gym with the sole purpose of dropping a few pounds, getting ready for vacation etc. We always kind of laugh it off. Weight loss or ‘toning up’ isn’t the goal of CrossFit – it may be a byproduct – but certainly isn’t the goal. Those people are eventually either assimilated into the culture – sorry if that comes off cult-y – and understand there are more important things than a number on a scale/looking good during sex or they’ll retreat back to their safe haven filled with ellipticals and whole grain breads within the month.
To keep it short, more than anything I’m shocked CrossFit even allowed this commercial to be released or allowed their name to be affiliated with it – especially from a company so contentious of its brand. From beginning to end, it sends the wrong message about what CrossFit is all about. It means something different to every person. But the one thread that ties it all together is that we want to better ourselves. It’s a community of dedicated fitness practitioners who are interested in creating and maintaining a better quality of life for themselves – and even that doesn’t paint the whole picture! Unfortunately, CrossFit did paint themselves into a corner with this commercial.
What more can be said about the Speal deal? Honestly, I don’t think any athlete has done more for the sport of CrossFit than Chris Spealler. He is the embodiment of the spirit of CrossFit – displaying time and time again that physical limitations can be trumped by sheer will and heart in the heat of competition. He serves as an inspiration to all the athletes that had to abandon their dreams because they didn’t fit the mold of A-typical athlete, and defies logic with his ability to consistently move loads well above his own bodyweight. I know personally he is one of my CrossFit heroes, someone who inspires me, and one of the major reasons why I initially fell in love with the sport. So, when he announced this would be his last time in the Games, after competing in every Games since their conception in 2007, you can imagine the disappointment felt by crossfitters worldwide… possibly as tragic as a worldwide bacon shortage.
Yet, what tends to be more disappointing is the way the CF media team went about handling the situation – it bordered on disrespectful. I touch on this idea briefly earlier in my segment about ‘camera favoritism’ – if anyone should’ve been a victim of the media team’s constant pursuit, it should’ve been Spealler. Yet, because of Spealler’s missteps early in the competition, he was rarely the top competitor in his heat. And because the media team stuck to their guns and would only show the top 2 competitors in each heat, Spealler was rarely targeted by the camera crew. I understand the idea behind focusing on the top 2 competitors in each heat, because presumably they would be the most competitive in any given WOD. But at the same time, Spealler has more fan appeal/recognition that 99.9% of the field in competition – he is the quintessential fan favorite. So from a fan’s perspective, knowing that this may be the last time you ever get to see the man himself in action on the biggest stage, it’s not surprising that the fans wanted to soak up every last moment they could – yet were rarely given the opportunity to do so.
Chris Spealler is probably the closest thing to a celebrity (royalty?) that we have in the CrossFit world. During qualification for the Games, in Regionals, Spealler became a trending topic WORLDWIDE on Twitter as he completed his miraculous comeback to claim a podium spot and trip to his 6th consecutive Games. To say Spealler is kind of a big deal within the CrossFit community is like saying “Fran. Yeah that’s a pretty tough workout” – no shit.
But the crowning moment in the mishandling of the last hoorah for Chris Spealler came in the post-WOD interview on Saturday morning. Everyone knew going into the first event on Saturday morning that this was it for Spealler – the last time he would take the floor at the Home Depot Center. The points gap was too huge for him to overcome, and it would be almost mathematically impossible for him to qualify for the final event. So when the event was over, and the media team was pried off Froning’s nuts, they finally decided to show Spealler some love. But for whatever reason, the interviewer, a bro I’m pretty sure they just pulled off the Santa Monica pier, seemed oblivious to the moment. The mic should have just been handed over to Spealler at the end of the event and let him say whatever it was he wanted to say. Instead, the interviewer chose the classier route and tried making petty jokes with an obviously emotional (see: lip trembling) Spealler. He was given a momentary opportunity to thank that crowd for all their support over the years before being quickly hurried off before the next heat arrived.
In the end I don’t know what’s more disheartening, the fact that Spealler leaving the Games is truly an end of an era for CrossFit or the mismanaged handling of the situation by CrossFit itself. Either way, whether 2012 really is his last Games or not, Chris Spealler is without a doubt a legend in his own right and pretty much defines the term – firebreather.
What a turn of events – this is like your M. Night Shyamalan twist ending! Don’t get me wrong here, I understand entirely why Dave Castro and the CrossFit overloads chose to end the Games with three of the most famous CF WODS out there – it gave crossfitters all over the world something to relate to and talk about at their own box – but that doesn’t excuse it from being wholly unoriginal.
I LOVED last year’s final individual event – “The End” – even with a name as ridiculously cliché as that (btw how often does CF try to be so overly dramatic/epic with itself it becomes downright comical – GIVE ME DEADLIFTS OR GIVE ME DEATH!). Up to that point, I had never seen a workout that even remotely resembled a similar structure – three events sandwiched into one chipper – programming creativity at its finest.
Yet, this year’s final event inexplicably fell flat. Maybe its because it seemed recycled from last year’s team final competition – each team member completed one girl workout in the specified order, first team done with all six benchmarks won – hell even the name of last years team final and this years individual final were identical (side note: the team competition ended with the same event this year as well – two years in a row, same WOD – once again demonstrating a tour de force of creativity)
Of course there was momentary excitement as the final event was being announced – but it was fleeting. The bottom line is this: every athlete in the field has done each of these benchmarks over and over again. And as a fan of the sport of CrossFit, I’ve seen most of them crushing them on youtube or have heard stories of their other worldly scores. The CrossFit Games is supposed to be about the ‘unknown and unknowable.’ And even though the athletes may not have known these WODS were coming out the hopper, they knew exactly how to approach each WOD – how their bodies would feel halfway through, how to manage their rest, how hard to push themselves etc.
It took the unknowable out of the equation.