March 9th, 2012

Beauty and Brawn Part 1: Sweetness

As a boy growing up in the 80’s Walter “Sweetness” Payton was one of my idols. Possibly the greatest running back to play in the NFL, he was a picture of power, speed, explosiveness and strength. He had that physical and athletic prowess that every boy dreams of . What made him even more appealing was his character as it was portrayed in the media. He seemed to have it all together. So much so that the NFL’s Man of the Year Award, given each year to a player that exemplifies outstanding off-the-field humanitarian effort, was renamed the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award. What more could you ask for? He had it all. He was truly living the American dream to its fullest.

It is so easy, especially for boys and men, to focus on physical achievement and receive our self-worth from it. We put our eyes on guys like Sweetness and say “If only I could be like him, then I would be fulfilled.” Most of  us realize that we will never play in the NFL or any other professional sport for that matter so we set our physical goals slightly lower, but they still carry with them that sense of allure. They tell us if we could just achieve this or that, then we would be happy.  As I grew up I really identified myself with sports and athletic/physical achievement. It was more than something I did and enjoyed doing. Athletics were a part of who I was. I could tell you that there was more to life than physical conquest, but I didn’t necessarily live that on a daily basis. This is the story of so many young boys. For others, physical prowess may not have been your vice, but you could plug another word in its place. Maybe power, women or money are what you “know” will fulfill you. Regardless of the “idol” the end is always the same.

A couple of months ago while sitting in a doctor’s office I picked up a copy of Sports Illustrated, enticed by the cover with none other than my boyhood idol Sweetness adorning the cover. I read the article while waiting and it was a real eye opener for me. The author took a deep look into Payton’s personal life showing us what was behind the highlight reel, high steppin’ touchdown runs that captivated us every Sunday. Unfortunately, it wasn’t pretty. Walter had put all his eggs in the “football basket.” His relationships were a mess. He was married to the same woman, the mother of his children, for the majority of his career, but lived elsewhere in another house with his girlfriend. He and his wife stayed married as more of a business decision to uphold his image to the public. He was addicted to pain killers and laughing gas. So much so that he had his own laughing gas tank installed in his RV so that he could take hits at Chicago Bears training camp between practices. Multiple times he threatened ending his life because he felt so empty. It was a sad story and one that I felt almost took something from me. I had no idea that this man who I wanted to be like was such a mess.

So what do we take from this story. Hopefully not a negative view of a man who was a great football player and also did a lot of other great things. Walter’s story is very common, especially amongst those who are rich famous and extremely talented. He did the best he could at the time. What I would like for us to see is what could be done differently in our lives to avoid the same emptiness. What do we focus on? Where do we put our value? As a gym owner I am in the business of helping people achieve physical conquest. How do we make that a goal without making it an idol? Where does that balance lie? I’m guessing you have your own views on this subject. Lets hear them.

Post thoughts to comments.


4 rounds for time of:
27 Box jumps, 24″ box
20 Burpees
11 Squat cleans, 145 pounds

Post time to comments.


10 Responses

  1. Logically, most of us know how to make a goal of achieving physical conquest without making it an idol. However, in practice, this can be tough. Ideally, we could look at CF purely as a way to make ourselves fitter, stronger and healthier. It will improve out lives in numerous physical, mental and emotional ways. One way to do this is by not comparing ourselves with others and being strong enough to only compete against ourselves.

    I have been thinking a lot about how nervous I get before an Open workout though. I get so nervous it actually makes me sick to my stomach. It doesn’t make any sense.

    For example, lets say I try really hard and don’t even get close to doing as well as I wanted to to. What’s the worst-case scenario? My family will still love me and my friends will still like me. I’ll still have a job. I might be disappointed, but my life will continue on exactly as it has.

    Now let’s say I completely kill the workout and do better than I had hoped. What’s the best case scenario? My family will still love me and my friends will still like me. I’ll still have a job. I’d feel really proud of myself and then my life will carry on exactly as it has.

    So really, the big difference between the two scenarios is how I view myself afterwards.

    I read yesterday that one way to combat nervousness is to force yourself to smile. Apparently its hard to be nervous while smiling and it improves your mood. So if you see me today and I’m grinning like a fool now you know why. 🙂

    • I like that Casey, I tend to beat myself up a bit on the things I don’t do as well but generally feel much better afterwords if I was stressed, it’s when I pick wrong and didn’t feel stressed afterwords that make it worse but overall, we’re there and we did it. I’ll try and smile more…

    • You did a great job today Casey!!! Smiling and all…!

  2. 21:23 did 115# otherwise Rx’d
    I was amazed that the time wasn’t out further since I didn’t think I was doing the BJs and Burpees that fast. “Squat” Cleans need work, I was not getting as low as I should & normal problems:elbows up, pull too early. I really like the warm-up practicing squat snatches, w/ just the bar it’s helping me get comfortable moving quickly into the squat. Last two days I realized my wrists haven’t botherd me at all with the cleans. ANOTHER good adaption thanks to Crossfit!

  3. 19:50 (18.2wks)
    85lbs Squat Cleans and Step Ups (was really tempted for jumping but with good encouragement/thoughts from Ryan realized there’s no need to rush into them if unsure)
    Enjoyable wod and the squat clean weight finally is feeling like a challenge. Unbroken SC’s, but definitely not easy anymore and I’m not saying “just getting the most out of the rep” this time. It’s good the feel the pressure along with feeling confident landing in the squat.

  4. Finding that balance is a hard point. I struggled with that and rugby a lot for the few years previous to surgery. I had the ‘taste’ of playing top level rugby (usa domestic), but then couldn’t maintain it. I struggled hard to try excel and then ran into some challenges. Got to the point it took the joy out of it. Then I would remind myself, as Casey put it so well, that my life was so much more blessed than I deserved. So much better than I thought I’d ever have 5 years previous (Canada) that it’d be stupid to feel unworthy. It’s just a game… a passion, hella fun, at times emotional, but just a game and my family and choices are the actual important things.

    The best way I deal with it is just to be there “at the moment.” When I play a match, for those 80mins that’s my battlefield and it’s ok to be emotional and full of agro… for those 80 mins. When the whistle blows it’s over, go get a beer. Same with CrossFit WOD’s. For that time, I (try to) give it my all, get as much out of it as I can. But when it’s over, move on. I can’t change yesterday, or even what I just did, only what happens tomorrow.

    Of course this is the idealistic Shawn. 🙂 I have most definitely driven home angry from rugby or crashed during a wod because I didn’t do what I thought I could.

  5. 19:00 min
    Subbed light FS for Squat clean. Can’t wait to go heavy again!

  6. 23:23. – scaled
    Did Rx but PC in lieu of SC – didn’t want burnt quads for Open workout tomorrow. Tiring WOD today.

    Also did CFG box J’s – very different from what I normally do. I think I am going to use this style from now on…harder and slower, but feel like I am doing the full movement.

  7. I have a bit of an addictive personality…and try to keep that in mind in all that I do. Crossfit is someone that I really enjoy ( the WODs, community, discipline, etc.), and it has changed my physical life (and how I feel about myself as an athlete & male caveman member of the species). But as my brothers above have already pointed out…it does not change or effect the wonderful wife, children, family, job, faith and already existing sense of self worth that I have. Crossfit is a part of me, but does not define me. It helps shape me, but does not mold me.

    This is a constant balance & rebalance…and posts like this help me remember this. Thank you!

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