by Christian Duque
A week before Christmas, I saw a very interesting video by 212 bodybuilding superstar Derek Lunsford in which he claimed that he "reached 2nd place". The video has drawn a bold line in the sand that 2019 would be the last time this hard-working bodybuilder finished second.
Lunsford is the media darling who went pro, won a pro show, and won a 212 Olympic showdown, top 5 – all in one year. Many of his more experienced and accomplished colleagues were largely ignored at this year's big dance. People like David Henry and Eduardo Correa, who dominated the division not so long ago, got no love from the press. It was almost as if they were not factors. David Henry literally had to win a competition (after Olympia) to be back on the radar. Promoters and presidents always stumbled upon themselves when they said Henry was running a competition, but things have changed so dramatically. In addition, the new 2019 champion wasn't even referred to the status of a predecessor to the show – he was far from the radar. Nobody spoke of Kamal. I would even dare to say that most people in Orleans had no idea who the Lion of Libya was. I mean, everyone heard about the lion in Lebanon, but about the lion in Libya? He might as well have been the lion of Zamunda or Parador – nobody would have known better.
Derek, on the other hand, was everywhere. The media fanfare was so intense that it looked as if the masses of the mainstream were deeply disappointed when the rounds that Kamal won finally prevailed. The news was not that Kamal had won, but that Derek had lost. He didn't lose. This was not a boxing match. The 2nd place is not a loss, but this was also the perception in cyberspace.
From a purely marketing perspective, a Lunsford win could have really changed things. I almost think Derek would have won in Vegas, who knows, maybe the Arnold would have picked up the 212 in 2020. What do you think? Can only an athlete have such an influence?
In fact, yesterday I wrote a number of IG stories on the subject on my site. In part, I asked my followers so that I could write this article with my finger on the pulse of the fitness industry. When the Welsh dragon James "Flex" Lewis retired from the 212, I felt that he scored a remarkable goal. It was reminiscent of the time when Iris Kyle retired – or when the DLB left WPD. All of these divisions suffered and had to find their way after these great champions left, and I have to tell you, my feelings were confirmed by the vast majority.
Derek Lunsford could have been the bridge, but even if he won in 2019, could he still fill Lewis shoes? He certainly had enough buzz and hype to take some time learning the ropes. When you removed Derek from the list and the prospect that Hadi Choopan could get a competition visa, there wasn't much to see in the 212 scene in 2019. What can today's bodybuilding media look forward to talking about 212 bodybuilding in 2020? Where are the sound bits, where are the rivalries, who is the clear challenger and do we have a champion who has consolidated his position?
For seven years an entire division of warriors was targeting a man. There were many viable competitors, people who pushed the champion to the limit, but could never seal the deal. The champion was not surprised when he won – he broke his butt every year at the gym. Lewis traveled the world, he was often compared to Heath and he had the ambassador qualities, but what now? Kamal still has a lot to learn and he has to train how his life depends if he really wants to successfully defend his title at the age of almost fifty. I think he'll be fine. I interviewed him and was impressed by him as an athlete, but I don't see a larger-than-life mood in him. Some people have it and others have to work on it. Some people also refuse to change.
The big question with the 212 has never been about the physique. They often even overtook the open boys. Competitors like Charles Dixon push the density map like no other. The division also had some geeks like Jose Raymond. The 212 has every physique you can imagine. These guys take their posing very seriously and can be a lot of fun on stage. The question is how marketable the split is for an audience that wants more than muscle.
Bodybuilding is a subjective, form-fitting sport. We know what the discipline is and what the 212 is, but the question remains, is 212 bodybuilding entertaining? If so, it will have a future, but if not, what then?
2020 is the second year in a row that the 212 is not offered in the Arnold. When bodybuilding for women stopped, it was only a matter of time before the Olympics followed. It is absurd to believe that the second largest show does not take into account what the second largest show does.
The key is also to continue expanding your ranks. Unlike other divisions, the 212 isn't really a division in itself. Classic Physique is a department. If you take part in the Olympics and win, you're a classic athlete, Mr. Olympia. If you win the 212 Olympia Showdown, you are not a 212 Mr. Olympia. In contrast to Classic or MPD, the 212 does not have a direct feeder department among amateurs. Most professional NPC bodybuilders open up and that's a fact. Apart from that, the 212 is attractive for smaller competitors, smaller, wet athletes and classic types who are looking for a size. There will always be a demand for what a feather is in its cap. The latest addition is the up-and-coming Classic Physique superstar Keone Pearson, who is sure to cause a stir in 2020.
Perhaps the biggest question mark is the entertainment factor. Is the 212 exciting to look at? The audience is wired up these days. Everyone lives on their cell phones, from tapatalk for forums to youtube for videos to IG for everything else. Great body shapes alone are not enough. If Pumping Iron was just a film about men lifting weights, eating and posing, we wouldn't be talking about it today. These guys had no drama, so they made it. Although the rivalries were largely scripted, it was right to arouse the interest of the mainstream public. It has sparked this interest from generation to generation, from the days of the bell floors to the days of driverless cars. The only thing is that people today want more than just a spark. They want uninterrupted news and if there is none, a lot of people will be content with fake news – that's why clickbait is everywhere and that's a fact. Fortunately, I'm very creative and I have principles. I will always publish great, original, factual content, but this is not what most people do.
I'm not saying that the 212 needs drama and feuds to be exciting, but it does need something. Great bodies are not enough. Maybe the brave kind of video from Lunsford and / or all the media hype that was behind him in 2019 was some kind of excitement. If all the other athletes had protested, if they had struck, if they had been doing noisy press, that might have resulted in a great TV! However, the 212 is a division of gentlemen, and they would never behave that way. There is no drama, no trash talk. If the media ignore them, they go out on the streets and let their bodies do the talking. This is very commendable, but for many people it is also very boring.
I study social media. I work on social media. I see trends, I see fads and although I don't think negativity and pettiness will ever grow, people just can't get enough of them. I want to say that great repetitive maneuvers and beautiful poses on stage are all about great shape, but that won't fill these places.
For the recording, I am NOT saying that Derek's video was negative, but did it fall into the Talk Is Cheap? Probably yes, but it triggered a reaction from me and about ten days later it inspired my article.
I would love to see the 212 stop, get bigger and put more pressure on it, but if the second largest bodybuilding show scratches it for the second time in a row, it's definitely a reason to pause.
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