While working on a blog post this morning, I came across a posting entitled "Triathlon is a Stupid Sport." It was posted on something called "c." or "charlie's blog," I'm not sure which of these was the title. My initial assumption was that this posting was somehow "tongue in cheek," but as I read further I discovered that this writer really had an axe to grind with triathlon, and more to the point with triathletes themselves. His basic premise is that "triathletes are d***heb@gs." What follows from that is a litany of reasons why the sport and its participants are "huge f______g a__h___s."
Now, the post is a couple of years old and from the sounds of it, there has been plenty of response from people, so it probably doesn't merit another response. However, after reading it again, I have to admit I was really bothered by it. Not just because he seems to have an unlimited amount of hatred for triathletes, but because his "understanding" of the sport and its participants is so limited. That wouldn't be so bad except that he claims "I can tell you all sorts of things about surfing, mountain biking, rock climbing, bowling, scuba diving, or what have you. I learn a lot about these activities, and I talk with people who do them." In other words, his whole basis for what he writes isn't based on any first hand knowledge or participation in the events. So try as I might, I just can't leave this one alone.
Before we begin, let’s make a few things clear. First, there definitely are d***heb@g triathletes, and perhaps they constitute a higher number of the total number of participants than in other sports. I don't know and I don't know how you would even begin to figure that out. It's easy to spot these folks at different races as they strut around full of self-importance and perceived awesomeness. But in reality they are few and far between. Most of us just chuckle and shake our heads when we see this kind of behavior. Second, the average triathlete has an annual income somewhere in the neighborhood of $130,000.00, and it is an expensive sport for those that choose to participate. And while I believe that there are plenty of ways to be a triathlete without breaking the bank, I'm not going to argue the point. Instead, this rebuttal will be based on the inaccuracies and flawed logic of the author’s own statements.
Charlie states the following towards the beginning of his post: "Triathletes are d****heb@gs. If you doubt this, go to any messageboard for any single sport like running, swimming, and cycling and declare that you are a proud triathlete. You will be showered with invective. People will hate on you, and you will think it might be envy. But it isn't. Triathletes are huge f_______g a__h____s. The sport and the d***heb@g personality go together."
Why this is wrong: People who are "triathletes" are almost always involved in other single sport activities as well. When you peruse the message boards of a site like beginnertriathlete.com, you will find forums for all sorts of disciplines including cycling, swimming, and even ultras. The truth is that very few triathletes began that way. Most of us were involved in single sports as swimmers, cyclists, or runners. Even though I do triathlons, I also enjoy trail running, century rides, and cross-country skiing. Am I a triathlete? Sure. But I'm also a runner, a cyclist, and even a beer drinker, for that matter.
Charlie goes on to write about the fact that racing an Ironman Brand event means that triathlon is all about profit. He doesn't recognize that there are plenty of triathletes that are critical of the Ironman Brand, but doesn't make the distinction that not all triathlons are WTC products (most of them aren't). It's unclear whether he understands that there are many different kinds of triathlons ranging from Sprint races all the way up to the 140.6 distance. He writes: "With other events like marathons and 5K's, the money made goes to charitable endeavors and maintaining the race. This is one reason why municipalities are willing to let organizers use their streets. It is for a good cause and promotes health. An Ironman is different. It is about profit. This is why marathoning is so egalitarian while triathlon is elitist."
Why this is wrong: Are Ironman events for profit? Most definitely. But so are an overwhelming number of marathons and other events. Ever heard of the "Rock n Roll Marathon?" Tens of thousands of people run these Competitor branded events all around the world. They are most definitely for profit events so does that make those folks elitist? Are the participants also "huge f_____g a__h___s” and "elitist pr___s" as Charlie argues about triathletes? Just because someone has an event that makes them money, doesn't mean that it's wrong for people to participate. What Charlie also fails to acknowledge is that many triathletes raise money for charity as part of their training and racing. There are also organizations like Your Cause Sports. Through their races, all athletes who participate raise money for a charity as part of their race registration. At any rate, municipalities don't "allow" these events simply out of the goodness of their hearts. They do it because they attract large numbers of racers and spectators, who stay in hotels, eat in restaurants and spend money. If you think this isn't true, consider how much money NYC lost when they were unable to proceed with the race in 2012.
Unfortunately, the posting gets worse. He rambles on, complaining about the average income of triathletes, and then talks about training time as a barrier to participation (his claims that AG triathletes have to spend 25+ hours per week just to be decent is untrue, and he brushes past the fact that cyclists and ultrarunners whom he seems to greatly admire, must also spend a significant amount of time training). He summarizes his thoughts with this little gem: "Triathlon isn't really a sport but the narcissistic indulgence of rich a__h___s. The competition can't be that fierce since your annual salary is as much a factor as your genetics and your training. It is a status symbol. That's it. These rich a__h___s do this sport instead of opting for one of the single sports because it seems so awesome that they can suck at three disciplines instead of one."
Why this is wrong: I've been passed by plenty of triathletes riding expensive equipment to be sure. But I've also passed plenty of them as well. Having expensive equipment isn't going to make you better in and of itself. For some it may help them to save a few minutes here or there, but the only way to improve in any sport is by training hard. And the last sentence here doesn't even make sense.
But wait there's more. After his original posting, Charlie has created two updates to his original posting. He seems a bit defensive and tries to justify his assumptions in the following ways. Here are some examples:
"I have had coworkers who were triathletes and met some outside of work. Every damn one of them was a pr___k. I used to think this was just a few bad apples until other people told me they thought the same things I did."
This is absurd. In college I worked at a summer camp where high school students from
visit. A lot of them smoked. Still, I didn't make the assumption
that all French people smoke. My guess is that Charlie decided these
folks were p___ks only after he discovered they were triathletes. France
“The reason I point this out is that a real job requires real commitment. In order to do triathlon, it helps to have a job that pays well but is rather shallow in the social contribution department. This provides both the time and the funds to be a triathlete with the attendant moral vacuum and narcissism."
Seriously? I make my living as an educator so I suppose I'm rather shallow in the social contribution department? There are also a number of folks in the military that participate in triathlons. They must be complete pr___s too, eh? Clearly the men and women of our armed services have no sense of commitment to their work do they, Charlie? The truth is that it really doesn't matter how someone makes their living. Being in marketing doesn't automatically make you a bad person, any more than being a doctor or a nurse makes you a good person. The truth is that most of the people that are triathletes are good people. But here are a few examples in case you don’t believe:
- Sister Madonna Buder a.k.a. The Iron Nun. At 82 years old, she is the oldest woman to ever complete an Ironman Triathlon. Is she an "a__h__e" Charlie?
- How about Christopher McDonnell whose daughter was killed at Sandyhook Elementary. He was featured on the Ironman World Championship Special on NBC as he raced to honor the memory of his daughter. Oh and Charlie, his tri-suit was Pink and Purple. Is he a "pr__k?"
- And then of course there are those folks at Athletes in Tandem. Yeah, they are so self-absorbed and narcissistic that they race with a disabled individual in order to give them the experience of participating in triathlon. I'm sure that you think they're "d***cheb@gs," huh?