One thing we know about the new CrossFit Games restructuring is that we know very little.
There has been a single article posted in The Morning Chalk Up that quotes Greg Glassman and presents his new vision for how the Games will be structured henceforth.
It’s not clear when the conversation took place, to whom it was provided, and other than “Glassman said in a call earlier today,” we don’t know if this is official policy, 2019 rulebook law, or Glassman’s off-the-cuff remarks in an interview that was supposed to be about other things.
We’ve not heard from Dave Castro, and as of this writing, his Instagram account appears to be offline. There’s been no official statement from the CrossFit Games, no mention of it on the CrossFit website, nothing.
So really, the massive buzz that is floating about on the various social media channels is – at this moment in time – much ado about nothing. Relax everybody!
For the sake of discussion, however, let’s assume that the details of the article are essentially correct. Let’s consider the Open and the Games will be ostensibly the same.
CrossFit Invitational – This is being shut down. No one cares about this. This is ok news.
Regionals – Gone. More about this later.
Open – Here’s where it gets dicey.
Apparently, every country who has an affiliate will crown “Fittest In Country.” Whoever is the fittest in any given country after the 5-week Open will go to the Crossfit Games.
Let that sink in folks. After a 5-week online qualifier, every country will have a fittest male and female, and those people will get an invitation to the Games. At the moment, CrossFit has affiliates in roughly 162 countries. What this means is that after the Open, 324 people, one male and one female from each country, will get an invite to the CrossFit Games?
This model is rife with holes. First off, the CrossFit Games purports to want to find the fittest person on earth. As such, it seems necessary to have a continuously narrowing funnel – brackets if you will – through which each successive chapter of events narrows the field.
The Open/Regionals/Games process has done that fairly well – as is evidenced by the fairly similar top 10 males and females who’ve finished at games level in the past three years. Narrow it to one per country, however – now you have one Dottir, either Toomey or Saunders but not both, but more than that – there is one affiliate in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
So the USA is going to send one male and one female to the Games, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo is, as well. There is a single affiliate there. So will the affiliate’s coaches be the CrossFit Games representatives?
I get that this has more of an Olympics kind of flavor to it, but the Olympics is not seeking to crown the fittest on earth. If this system is initiated, there will be lots, and I mean lots, of CrossFit games athletes who couldn’t even win a local competition in Cincinnati, Ohio, let alone a regional competition.
What About Tonga?
The main issue here is simply the data points being tested. You can’t have a conclusive result without repeated tests of the data. The Open in the Congo with one affiliate is a single data point that is now going to be given the same weight as the data coming out of the US where there are thousands of affiliates, and the results will rumors the same. Bad idea.
As a result, the data will be skewed going in. The pool will be polluted if the sample sizes are too small to produce meaningful data.
But much worse will be the cheating. We know that bro-reps and long-shot video angles can be pervasive in the Open, but heretofore, those bad reps only got you over a bubble and any embarrassing weaknesses where exposed at regionals. If it means a games berth, forget-about-it.
And, since CFHQ in their infinite wisdom handed Brooke Wells a mulligan on her handstand push-up video, how on earth are they going to start holding winners to standard now that they have set the bar at “capacity to do work” instead of “actual work performed?” And if you think it’s not possible to game HSPU lines, camera angles, editing, filtering and much more, you are mistaken.
In addition to that, the question then needs to be asked:
How many athletes are now going to relocate to get their shot at the games?
Is the 4th-fittest Dottir in Iceland now going to move to Samoa? (Or is that part of the US? Do we know yet?)
Which one of the Smith brothers get to stay in the US?
Why can’t Pat Vellner catch a break?
And where will the dancers go next??
The Open will occur in February, according to the news, for the 2019 Games, then repeat in October. Which leads to:
From the sound of it, Regionals are gone. In their place, CrossFit will effectively co-opt 16 of the world’s leading functional fitness competitions like Wodapalooza, The Granite Games, and some of the other big competitions that have remained in place.
Ironic, in a way, because CFHQ has adamantly disavowed these competitions quite heartily for years – “Don’t call them CrossFit competitions. CrossFit has nothing to do with the OC Throwdown.” – now it is set to provide oversight, staffing and more so that the winners of these competitions can also get an invite.
In other words – did you miss the women’s top Open spot by two points in Albania? No problem! Register for Wodapalooza, win that, and you get to go to the games. There’s your regional competition.
However, it is doubtful that all of these competitions will have the same format – some two days, some three, some barbell heavy, some gymnastics heavy. Some cardio focused, others skill focused.
Oy. Talk about your data points being skewed. Now you have a CrossFit Game made up of athletes who’ve all taken different tests. That’s all well and good, but again, it pollutes your pool and essentially renders the title “Fittest on Earth” rather flat.
It appears as though the opportunities will still be plentiful, but the value of the Games-level competitors may be diluted.
I Get It.
I understand where CFHQ is coming from on this. I know they want to focus on health, not the .01% that makes up the CrossFit Games athlete pool. But I hate to break it to them – the reason they have the outrageous growth is due to the games.
I was there when it was a garage, underground, cultish program, and I watched as the games transitioned from the Aromas to The Stub Hub center – as ESPN picked it up, as the media grew more savvy, as the prize money raised, as the production grew, ad infinitum. I can assure you that the explosion in growth of affiliates is directly correlated to the popularity and associated marketing benefit of the Games.
Everybody wanted to be like them. So CFHQ should at least gauge the pulse of what has fed its explosive growth and give credit where credit is due. While I understand that Greg Glassman wants to cure sickness and ill health, he has his enormous platform in part because Dave Castro delivers a hell of a show.
The Games may lose money – true – but we call that a loss-leader in business.
Does This Take the Gloss Off?
In a way, up to this point, if you earned your way to the CrossFit Games through a grueling year of training, putting yourself through hell in the Open, traveling to Regionals, getting on the podium, and making it to the Games, you were part of an elite class of athletes. You earned it. You were the 1%. That had value.
Now, if you show up at the Games and you’re amongst some guy from Bavaria where an affiliate just opened who are sending their two best athletes who just learned kipping pull-ups. Can this be real? I can’t imagine this is how it’s going to be, but it appears so. In that case, is it really that exciting anymore?
Do you want to qualify for the games by winning the Wodapalooza? I don’t know. It seems … cheaper.