A phrase we’ve all likely heard before, right? I didn’t know it was coined by Joe Walcott (the Barbados Demon), a welterweight boxing champion referring to the opponents he beat, many of whom were much bigger than he in stature. Following my last post, I was chatting with my new coach about the idolization of athletes in our sport. I got to thinking about my personal experience with pro-athletes and realized that, “The bigger they are, the harder they fall” carries a whole new meaning in our sport in this day and age of social media.
When I see people losing it over professional Strongmen and Strongwoman—or any professional athlete for that matter—I have to fix my face right, quick, and in a hurry because they’re regular people, y’all. Superhumanly strong people? Yes, but regular people nonetheless. In this sport, a lot of the fame is fueled by Instagram since we aren’t really mainstream unless you’re one of the legends, which allows us to create these ideas of who the pros are as people based on the content they share.
Let’s think about social media sharing for a minute: We all know someone (probably multiple someones) who posts as if their life is picture perfect on social media, but we know is a high speed train wreck in real life. We all do it to some degree. Shoot, last month I posted an old Strongman training video poking fun at my lack of hamstrings, but I didn’t post that I sat on my porch and ugly-cried for 20 minutes that same day because I was in my 4th straight week of having no AC in a Texas summer. So I ask you: What makes you think the athletes in this sport are any different?
This isn’t a post about being holier-than-thou or pretending like I don’t do it too. When I met Brian Shaw at the Europa I was like a kid at Christmas, cheesing super freaking hard as you can see. He was really nice, asked me about competing, and told me to heal up and get back to it, but guess what, y’all? He’s getting paid to stand there and be that nice. In my heart of hearts, I want to believe he’s like that all the time, but who knows. Word on the street is that Eddie Hall is a great guy, even sending handwritten Christmas cards to others in the Strongman community, but would you guess that if you just watched the Beast on TV?
Thais isn’t about throwing shade; it’s a statement of fact. We’re in an individual sport here. At the end of the day, you can have the best coach, top-of-the-line gear, all the supporters in the world, but it’s still on you and only you to get out there and move that weight. We preach about supporting each other, only competing against yourself, and #StrongmanIsForEverybody, but we all want to win. We might go into competitions knowing we’re not likely going to win (i.e. yours truly going into the Europa in June), but somewhere deep inside us is a desire to come out on top. I can and do cheer for my competition every time, but at the end of the day, I’m furious with myself if I didn’t win.
The bottom line here is this: The more we revere people, the further they’re going to fall in our eyes when the rubber meets the road. I would love to believe that what someone puts on the internet is who they are in person, but that’s often not the case, and there’s nothing more disappointing than meeting someone you thought was one type of way based on their online persona and realizing it’s a boldface, underlined, and italicized crock. Take social media with a grain of salt, and when you meet people and they show you who they are, believe them the first time.