Thursday, October 28, 2010
Ironman - My Take
As I've stated before, the blogging community is the most vibrant community I have ever come across. I consider you all my friends. You are my friends because you've been so damn supportive of me and have never been judgemental. I hope I have fulfilled that role back to each of you as best I can.
In the last couple of weeks, the World Triathlon Corporation has made a few policy and expansion announcements. Though I wouldn't say our reaction to these announcements has hurt the community, it's definitely been a hot button issue and has polarized opinion more than other issues I've seen come and go over the last year.
Differences of opinion are good. Opinions make the world go around. Opinions are what's supposed to keep a free society in check. And being able to state an opinion is a basic human right as far as I'm concerned
Still, I'm a little shocked by reactions I have been reading relating to what the WTC is doing. With respect, I think we all might be taking the changes that a company (who has never denied that it is a for profit business) is implementing in it's own best business judgement too personally. We are reacting to these changes as if the WTC owes us something or they are reneging on some sort of sacred promise.
I'm sorry to say it, but the WTC doesn't owe us anything. We all know how the corporate world works - unless you are a shareholder, a company is not beholden to you. So technically the WTC is not doing anything wrong.
But who cares? We still hold the best hand. Because without athletes, there is no WTC. A handful of professionals competing to get paid does not sustain a business. We as age groupers sustain the business. We have all the power. And if the WTC makes a move in terms of policy or price increase or whatever else, we still get the last vote.
But you have to be willing to cast that vote. Who told us that the "Ironman" is the most prestigious triathlon event in the world? The WTC did, with the help of a public relations firm that has probably also tried to convince you that unless you brush your teeth with a certain toothpaste you'll get cavities. Do you believe the toothpaste argument? Probably not. Then why do you believe the WTC?
There is no doubt that the "Ironman" brand has a legacy. But that legacy was created by the athletes, not Madison Avenue. All the marketing wonks did was take history and spin it for mass consumption. Let's be careful not to be sucked in by the spin. Rather, let's stay accountable to triathlon and to each other. Which means that any well run race anywhere in the world can become the stage for our moments of personal glory. Because if the WTC oversteps it's bounds, someone will see the opportunity and step in to fill the void. As a result the WTC will become less relevant. Because we will have cast our vote for the racing experience we want.
Then a new legacy will start to build. And this, by the way, is a legacy that will include us.
Do not fear change, embrace it. Better yet, do everything in your power to be part of it.
Postscript: Two minutes after I published this Lesley @ Racingitoff posted a link to the official statement by the WTC rescinding it's "Ironman Access" program which has been hotly contested over the last day. Here's the link.
The reasons they did this could be numerous, but I can't help but think that they too realize we as athletes have "all the power", and had to immediately self-correct their blunder. This is a good thing. They are not obligated to listen to us but they chose to in this case. Perhaps they've learned a few things about their brand from us today.