by Matt Weik
Social media is changing the playing field for fans of different sports by far. Never before have fans even come close to reaching and touching the athletes and communicating with them directly. Now you can tweet your favorite athletes or post them in comments or DMs on Instagram and if you’re lucky, they’ll hit you back. However, it appears that other televised sports have a different set of fans and acceptance compared to bodybuilding. Why this?
If you don’t look good … well what do you know?
Growing up as a child, I never played football – I preferred other sports. But that never stopped me from being a huge Philadelphia Eagles fan and watching every game. I explained the game and highlights with friends (who played soccer) and they accepted the fact that I loved the game of soccer without actually playing on an organized team like our school team (which happened to be one of the best in the state at the time) .
When you look at bodybuilding (especially online), things are very different. If you don’t look like that today, or if you aren’t a real competitor, it’s almost like being shunned even from being a fan. I mean what do you know right? How can you pause and discuss bodybuilding if you are not living the lifestyle, have never competed, and weigh under 200 pounds? It’s almost weird to see the banter online of internet trolls thinking if you’re nice you are not a bodybuilder, nor are you serious about the sport of bodybuilding.
Go to a soccer game and have a look around. Go to a baseball game and have a look around. Go to a soccer, baseball, or hockey game and have a look around. What do you see? Diversity. Men, women, tall, short, thin, heavy, muscular, frail, young and old. All of these great professional sports are included and anyone who shows their love for the sport will be welcomed with open arms. Why isn’t bodybuilding really like that?
Of course, there are the people who applaud those who also share a love of the sport, but then there are those who are on their high horse thinking that everyone has to fit into a certain shape and tick certain boxes in order to be considered bodybuilding to become a fan.
If you’ve ever walked around the Arnold Classic Expo in Columbus, Ohio, it can be pretty overwhelming – not to mention a smelly experience (thanks, protein fart). While people in a gym are never frowned upon as everyone goes to the gym to improve their health and physique, bodybuilding seems to be completely different. The Arnold Classic showroom floor is full of mass monsters who may never have competed before, but just looking at their bodies makes it clear that they are deeply rooted in the sport and live a bodybuilding lifestyle.
Then there are the fans who are just plain in awe of bodybuilders, their physique, and the dedication it takes to even add the quality muscles it takes to step on stage. I take myself as an example. I can’t tell you how many times people have commented on me for talking about bodybuilding but never competing or being big and torn. My heaviest was around 210 and now sits around 200 year round.
Have I ever got the cover of a fitness magazine? Yes, I checked the box. Have I ever been featured in publications for my physique? Yes, I checked the box too. But even with that said (and the fact that most people don’t know me, my story, and my background), I still get shadows for not weighing 250 pounds when trying to talk about bodybuilding and certain bodybuilders in the content or at events.
Myself and thousands of fans love the sport of bodybuilding and follow everything that happens in the industry. But make the wrong comment and you get “Do you even lift? What do you know about bodybuilding? Have you ever stepped on a bodybuilding stage? ”This brings me back to my point about soccer. I can know everything about soccer, all the players, the specifics of the game, but I can never take a snapshot on a soccer field. So why is there such a difference between these sports and bodybuilding? Hell, you even have coaches and team owners who have never played the game in their lives but are immersed in the sport.
In order to grow the sport of bodybuilding, we need to build the community
Bodybuilding has been taboo for as long as I can remember. Those involved in sports seem to be walking around outside of our space with a target on the back of the general population. What I would like to see is that we are all better. Be better people. Be better fans. Be better ambassadors for the sport. And that also applies to all IFBB professionals.
I understand bodybuilding is a very individual and isolated sport. You don’t have teams or teammates, it’s literally just you doing the work every day. I encourage everyone to do more to help others. Bodybuilders are seen as freaks, people who only care about themselves, conceited, narcissistic, rude, and ready to explode at any moment from “roid anger”. While some of these are correct, they are not the majority, and we all know that competitive bodybuilders are kind people and most of the time they are misunderstood because people only see the outer shell.
Let’s be more inclusive in bodybuilding. Get more people into it. Keep building the community. Even if it will never be a sport that is televised or competed in the Olympics, that doesn’t mean it is less of a sport. Let’s stop being so hypercritical of people who don’t “fit into the shape” of bodybuilding and let’s be more inclusive. A fan is a fan, and the last thing we need is to shut down and turn away the people who would actually pay to pay at the Arnold Classic, Olympia, NY Pro, or any other event. Together we can change the stereotypical “meathead” mentality that people have when looking at bodybuilders. It’s going to take a collective effort, but I think we can do it.