Athlete Journal: Pat McCarty, Entry 19 - Dear Ryan McGrotty: Call Me Old One More Time...I Dare You
EDITOR'S NOTE: Welcome to the athlete journal of CrossFit trainer and masters athlete Patrick McCarty. Patrick competed in the 2011 Reebok CrossFit Games in the 45-49 age bracket and has his sights set on the Games again this year. Follow Patrick's journals here every Wednesday.
Athlete Journal Entry 19 - Dear Ryan McGrotty: Call Me Old One More Time...I Dare You
This week, the prize purse for the 2013 CrossFit Games was announced. The elite division got a hefty raise - up to $275,000 for the winner of the games. Nice! The top team gets $40,000. The winner of each masters bracket gets…$3,000.
Cue classic vinyl “record scratch” sound effect.
That’s right. The winner of the Games gets almost a third-of-a-million dollars, the winner of the 40-44 bracket gets $3000. Now, it’s a bit more complicated than that, yes, because there are 10 masters brackets. So the total purse for the masters division is upwards of $60,000.
However, shortly after the announcement, the roar of the disenfranchised crowd resembled that of the current situation in Egypt. Massive protests. Unrest. Threats of boycott. Dogs and cats living together. MASS HYSTERIA.
The comments on Facebook and the Games site ranged from “What an insult!” to “Hey man, we don’t do this for the money” to “Quit crying, you stupid complainers.” But the one comment that got me fired up was posted by one Ryan McGrotty on the Games site. Ryan stated as follows:
…I have no idea what everyone is going on about with the Masters group...literally no sport in the world pays more to the old folks simply because their achievements are not as entertaining/impressive. Look at golf. You see the senior tour gets less money. It's because it's simply not as impressive to watch a guy hit the ball 275 yds as it is to watch the young guys hit it 325. Same with CrossFit. Doesn't take anything away from the old guys' accomplishments, or the fact that they're probably fitter than 99.9% of guys younger than them, it's just simply not as impressive or entertaining…
Sigh. Ryan, Ryan, Ryan. Never poke a bear, Ryan, and moreover, never ever poke a cranky “older” bear whose bucket list includes bitchslapping some mouthy punk younger bears.
Let me, as a masters-level Games athlete, address your comments one by one.
1. “…literally no sport in the world pays more to the old folks…”
Okay, first of all, not a single master athlete I know of does this for the money. Because we’re older, we’re also wiser, and we know damn well none of us will get rich from CrossFit. Plus, we have great jobs already. We’re doctors, dentists, attorneys, and box owners. We’re not looking to collect a prize purse to line our pockets.
Second, not a single masters athlete I have spoken with expects anything near what the elites are being paid. No one is suggesting the masters get “more than the elites.”
We are simply looking for a prize purse commensurate with the growth of the sport, and one that reflects our value as a part of this community. The masters level athletes, some of whom were literally a few inches away from competing in the elite division this year (Becky Conzelman, for one) are strong, fast, skilled, and extremely fit. Many of them competed at Regionals as part of a team, some as individuals, all while standing toe -to-toe with the very athletes who will be competing for the big money.
To devalue that level of fitness by suggesting that suddenly they are in the old-timer’s league with its “nostalgia uniforms” and its gift-card-level prize money simply sends a message that we are not valued in this sport. What we want, more than money, is to be valued. $3,000 does not provide that warm and fuzzy feeling.
Plus - how many times have you heard people say one of the foundational benefits of CrossFit is to “keep you out of a nursing home.” Seriously, one of CrossFit HQ’s most devoted ambassadors, Pat Sherwood, said this very thing at my L1 Cert and I have heard it from the powers that be many times since.
Hey, CFHQ - we’re proving your thesis, guys. Pony up!
Oh, and Ryan, call us “old folks” just one more time.
2. “…because their achievements are not as entertaining/impressive…”
Not as entertaining? Well, I can’t really speak to that one. If Dave Castro programs the “double banger” for the masters I can assure you it will be as “entertaining.” But not impressive? You’re dead wrong. Gord Mackinnon from the Canada West region came in eleventh in his region in the Open workout 13.4. He came in thirtieth in 13.1 and ended up 44th overall, qualifying as an individual for regionals. And Gord is 54 years old.
I can list a number of masters level athletes who could easily compete in the elite division and likely do very well. Impressive.
3. “…Look at golf. You see the senior tour gets less money. It's because it's simply not as impressive to watch a guy hit the ball 275 yds as it is to watch the young guys hit it 325….”
Okay, well, the PGA Senior’s Boeing Classic will be taking place the same days as the CrossFIt Games masters event, and the total purse for that event is $2 million, with $300,000 going to the winner.
Granted, senior golf has fewer TV viewers, the undercard at a pro boxing match has a smaller purse, and if you go to a rock concert, the opening act gets very little lighting and stage set up compared to the headliner. But there is a big difference between the PGA Champions’ tour (the masters) and the “Old Timer’s Game” at your local MLB Ball Park. The CrossFit Masters are not the old timer’s game.
In fact, there are many masters, especially in the younger divisions, whose performance in any given workout would be very hard to distinguish from their “elite” counterparts. If CrossFit makes a conscious decision to up the ante for the Masters in terms of the show, i.e. provide us with the same pre-Games media coverage, the same scoring, the same venue, and the same marketing, they could certainly generate a great deal more interest than perhaps is being generated now. Spotlight Amy Mandelbuam. Spotlight Lee Sanford or Brent Maier. Have you seen these guys? They are literally world-class athletes. Amanda Allen has been spotlighted on the Games site a couple of times - I’ll bet you didn’t even realize she was in the masters division.
People will give due to the Masters commensurate with the due given by CFHQ. Period.
4. “…Doesn't take anything away from the old guys' accomplishments, or the fact that they're probably fitter than 99.9% of guys younger than them, it's just simply not as impressive or entertaining…”
Now you’ve gone and done it. You called us old again.
Oh, and one final comment for my fellow masters. If you are in the “nobody wants to see us old-timers” camp, stop it. Fight for some respect. Quit acquiescing to being a side show. The competition gets harder and harder every single year. It was a “side show” when my sorry ass stumbled into the Games in 2011. In 2013 I had to train like a serious athlete just to break into the top twenty and it’s getting harder every year. Side show? Tell that to every masters athlete who busted their asses for a year and didn’t qualify. They would give their left arm to be in this so-called side show. Enough. Demand the respect we deserve.
I am fifty. I could whoop my 25-year-old self in any CrossFit test out there. And, very likely, Ryan McGrotty.