Team CrossFit Springfield & Co. Photo by Molly White

“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”
-Theodore Roosevelt
“Citizenship in a Republic,”
Speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910

This week, several athletes from our local gym, CrossFit Springfield, will head west to Los Angeles to compete in what is loosely referred to as “The Games”. The Games are, basically, the World Series of CrossFit (take a look here); this is where gyms (or Boxes) will be sending their best athletes to convene, compete and collectively throw up as they put their bodies through incredibly awful workouts designed, most likely, by disgruntled Navy SEAL’s strung out on boxed Chardonnay wine or the blood of their enemies.

To outsiders, this is gonna look like Jonestown, version 2011; people in the world of CrossFit speak their own dialect, spend ungodly amounts of money on supplements, “Paleo” foods (apparently we need to eat like cavemen, despite the lack of wooly mammoth meat), and workout clothing, which we immediately discard to the floor the moment the clock starts ticking down to the actual workout. Shirtless makes you faster AND stronger (why pay $64 for a shirt if you can’t throw it to the floor as soon as the clock starts ticking?). Unfortunately, like most cults and mega-churches, some people just won’t shut up about it, ever, thereby alienating co-workers, family and friends with stories that seemed seasoned with Amway-flavored enthusiastic sales tactics.

And that’s a shame, because CrossFit IS such a good thing.

It IS a community. It IS a family of encouragement and achievement. Most of the competitors representing Springfield are our coaches. To watch them put themselves through the grueling paces of what it takes to compete at this level is inspiration itself. There is a factor of discipline that eludes most of us when you play at that level. There is no room for a casual attitude. No room for excuses. I admire intensely the mental intensity these people have. They move through exercise movements with a fervor and pace that makes you think they’re relying on instinct and natural prowess, but to say that sells them short. Our friends are competing in this arena because they’ve worked countless hours on countless days, trudging through snowbanks in the dark of morning, sweating like the damned on the hot asphalt of a July in the Midwest. They deserve this shot because they’ve earned it.

There’s a part of me that would love to be out there, screaming like a maniac at the ThunderChicken, in exact inverse as to how he’s coached me over the past year. His style is to chew gum slowly, shake his head back and forth and mutter things like “put your hands on the bar, Gooley”. The other part would be driven nuts by the fact that I’ve never been much of a spectator of sports; I’d rather be in there trying to compete. Unfortunately, you need to be really, really athletic to compete, so there’s no threat of that happening any time soon. The last person CrossFit Springfield needs to be represented by is someone who’s only claim to competitiveness at the gym is in the arena of sweat production.

So I’ll wait back here, patiently. Twitter and Facebook and texts will feed and flood my mind as the Games take place. Life in Missouri will continue at the same pace, clogged by gravy and humidity. Several friends from our Box are headed out there to support our team in person, and, to experience that little bit of California heaven known as Compton after hours. I’ve recommended that they keep both red AND blue handkerchiefs on their persons, so that both The Bloods and The Crips will be confused and perhaps focus their hail of drive-by gunfire elsewhere.

So, coaches and friends…I want to wish you luck, but that’s not what you need. You already have what you need – a fierce will, strong bodies, stronger minds and the soul of a winner. I want to thank you for all you’ve done for us, and for all you’re doing for us; there is no better leadership than example. Where you place is up to you; no matter the numbers on the board, you’ve shown us all back here in Springfield what it takes to be winners. For a guy who will probably never take his shirt off in the gym, this means a lot. You’ve had our backs as we’ve struggled through each miserable workout; we’ve got yours.

Now, go kick some ass, already.