“The event was in an agriculture showcase pavilion. The walls were covered by blue and gold panels, centering a slightly off center banner with a faded Tennessee Tech golden eagle. A carpet of artificial turf covered the uneven ground, leaving mounds and valleys like a fourth grade geography project. There was a cold draft running through the building in a way that’s probably perfect for showcasing livestock. A sign over the normal concessions area reminded me of a the concessions at my Little League games. Suckers for a quarter. Hot dogs and Cokes for a dollar. “Popcrn” was fifty cents.
Everything about the facility was very functional, outdated, and ordinary. This was hardly the place where one could expect to see the greatest athlete in the brief history of competitive CrossFit, but everyone in the audience at the Hyder Burks Pavilion for the Iron Eagle Challenge was there to see someone extraordinary. Whether he was there to legitimately compete or he wanted to do his hometown a solid, Rich Froning was there as a competitor.
Now I didn’t expect him to ride in on a winged lion holding a scepter. But to my surprise, he was surprisingly ordinary.
Not his competing, of course. He was a marvel to watch. But he, himself, Rich Froning, was someone I could easily pass on the street and not notice. He hung around waiting for his turn on the bumpy surface, chatting with other competitors. A couple of my friends snapped pictures with him. He occasionally hung around in the back to look at his phone.
This didn’t seem right. I’d seen this man dominate the fittest on Earth. He did it almost effortlessly. Why didn’t he seem… different?
The major sports in America are all inaccessible to 99 percent of us. I can play basketball, but I’ll never play with Kevin Durant. I can go to a football game, but I’ll never have access to talk to Peyton Manning. The stars and their abilities are separated from us because they are elite and we’re not. There are a lot of factors that contribute to this divide (namely money), but it doesn’t change the fact that my inability to run a 4.2 second 40 yard time or dribble past LeBron James prevents me from having access to that world.” Continued…