“I am doing this for the thrill of it, killing it. Chasing the things I want.” -Lorde
I have watched an listened to the debate about pros, and the industry of our sport, and think there has been a great deal of value in the discussion and I don’t want to rehash that debate. However I think there is something missing in the basic understanding of one party that is involved; that of the pro athletes.
People on all sides keep assuming that “pro tri-athletes” are pros first. That they act like rational business people. That they make rational economic decisions about races, purses, careers, and themselves as any professional business person would. People discuss what pros are worth, and even drop capitalistic jargon like ROI (return on investment, which is you shorten into ROI makes you sound super awesomely-corporate).
The problem is that pro athletes are athletes first. We simply don’t value money, business, or our place in the industry like other professionals such as lawyers, or investment bankers do. I can’t imagine most big law firm lawyers waking up and saying “I don’t care how much money I make today, I just can’t wait to defend a tobacco company! LETS DO THIS!” But that is what athletes do daily. We focus on the sport, not the business. Think of us like you do artists and musicians, not business people. We do because we driven by a passion, something deep inside us, that all athletes can relate too. We just happen to have the talent to go fast enough to be pros.
This wasn’t a big problem when the sport was run by people who also loved the sport first and saw it as a business second. When Gram Frazier built ironman he did it with the love of the sport in mind, and profits second, (which it turns out is a great business mode). Pros and Ironman the company had a common cause, common respect and things were lovely.
Then the WTC got sold and sold again and now the WTC is run by capitalist that see the sport like any other business and pros are at a lose to battle them or stand up for themselves because that is just not how they are wired. Athletes like Olympians in countless sports, will toil in poverty for years, work harder than nearly all humans on earth, just to compete once in the Games. That is how athletes are wired.
But here is the thing: YOU want that. you GET that. That reflects your experience as an athlete too, pro or not. Would you want your musicians to write songs that “sell” or do you want them to make art? Do you want people in your sport drive, focused and passionate about the sport you are driven, focused and passionate about? there is a reason commercial jingles suck, and good art is made by freaks.
When pro triathlete make seemingly irrational decisions like racing races they love (like IMLP) or chase Kona points, it makes sense only if you think of them as athletes first and pros second. They want to do IMLP for the same reasons you do, its a great race and they want the experience. They want to race in Kona the same way you do, because they set goals and go after them and want to race the best. Its why they put up with insane exploitation by the WTC, because they love triathlon, its not just a cash grab.
And yes, we sometimes see the light and pick awesome events like Savageman. Sometimes we get so sick of being exploited we leave what we love and know and race elsewhere and often find that its worth it, because its great to be untied with people that feel the same as we do like how I felt with Rev3 and now Challenge.
So I say this to you: pros and age groupers are the same in this. We do it for love. Support us, we are on the same side.