- Let me start by saying I thoroughly enjoyed watching this year's Games. This is the first year since 2011 that I haven't made the trip to Carson, and while it would have been fun to be there in person again, I thought the live coverage was great overall. Yes, there were some hiccups for us swapping between ESPN3 and the TV feed, causing us to miss out on some early heats that weren't shown on TV, but overall I had no trouble watching as much as I wanted. The announcing has improved leaps and bounds since 2011, and thankfully they treat it as a real sport rather than an excuse to try to sell people on CrossFit (for the most part). That said, I could have done without the constant hyping of the "Assault" bike that's just a fancy version of the AirDyne that's been around since I was born.
- The final event, particularly for the men, was without a doubt the most thrilling in Games history. I'll hold my comments on the pegboard climb for later, but the sheer fact that both champions were NOT in first place heading into the final event made for some top notch drama. After Pedal to the Metal 1, I had a buddy text me asking to do a post comparing Froning in his prime to present-day Mat Fraser (assuming Fraser would proceed with another event win and hang on), but within minutes, Fraser had fallen into second place. And the women's final was just as exciting (excluding the pegboard, I know), with Davidsdottir going unbroken on the deadlifts and farmer's walks LIKE A BOSS. It was really tremendous.
- On the whole, I thought the programming made for some fun events to watch. I'll get into the safety concerns momentarily, but personally, as someone not doing the events, these were really solid for the viewers. The Soccer Chipper was one of my favorites, and I also thought the Midline Madness (not a great name, in my opinion) was particularly intriguing. And then Pedal to the Metal 2 was also pretty great, although those deadlifts looked awfully sketchy (maybe that's just the way I think after a couple back injuries).
- Ben Smith would have won easily using the classic one-point-per-place scoring system (86.5-to-109.5 assuming the points were cut in half for the two sprint events). Not saying I like that system better (I don't), but it does lend more credibility to Smith's victory. He deserved it. The women's top 3 also would not have changed.
- OK, now for the pegboard. Everyone has a different opinion here, but my opinion is that at least one element of this should have been changed. You just cannot have one of the two final events, on national TV, where the majority of the athletes in the final heat (including the eventual champion) cannot complete a single rep. That just can't happen. Either: a) have this event earlier in the competition when people were fresher and it wasn't in prime time; b) allow athletes to drop from the top to make it easier to complete a rep; c) put the pegboard at the END of the workout; or d) announce it ahead of time so athletes could practice. I mean, any of those would have been preferable to what took place on the women's side, right?
- There have been many people who have criticized the programming of this year's Games for being too dangerous for the athletes (here's a great one). I've been around this sport long enough to know that no matter what, there will be criticism of the programming. It does not matter what comes out, there will be pissed-off people. So I'm cautious to overreact here. But we should at least take notice when you have former champions like Annie Thorisdottir dropping out due to exhaustion.
- I wasn't in Carson, and I certainly wasn't competing, so I can't really speak to how the events felt. But, I can say that looking at the programming as an outsider, I think there wasn't anything exceptional about this year. By my estimates, the total time competing was around 163 minutes, which is less than 2012 and 2012 (both above 200) but more than last year (about 130). Things were pretty heavy but not outrageous by Games standards (0.80 LBEL, lower than last year but above the Open-era average of 0.67). This is fourth year of the past five that there has been a long event early on Friday. And the weather, at least compared to where I've always lived, was not terrible (high was 85 Friday according to AccuWeather). I think the big key was simply the Murph event:
- This event was a much higher-rep workout than the long events of the past, meaning more likelihood for things like Rhabdo.
- They held the event in the heat of the day, rather than the morning like in the past. Things are so much more reasonable earlier on, when the Triple-3 was held last year.
- The weight vest added an extra layer of heat, and obviously, athletes aren't allowed to strip that layer off.
- Despite the fact that I'm generally not being too critical of the programming, I wish that at least once in my lifetime, CrossFit HQ will show just a touch of humility and compassion, and perhaps consider admitting when they might be wrong (GASP!). When you see stuff like this Facebook post from Russell Berger, it just makes any level-headed person want to puke. Insulting your own athletes? Really? Do we need to just hand the CrossFit enemies more ammunition?
- The final thing I'll say, and I've said it for years, is that if we want the Games to be a slug-fest with ultra-long events, then we need to send the athletes who are most capable of doing well. I'm not surprised that many Games athletes struggled with Murph, considering they don't need to perform well on that type of event to make it to the Games. Sure, there is a relatively long chipper at the Regionals every year, but nothing like a 45-minute swim/paddle or a 600-rep workout in the heat of the day. Yes, some of these athletes can handle those events quite well, but many cannot. So either don't test those elements at the Games, or test them earlier on in the qualifying process.
Well I've already gotten pretty long here, so that will be it for now. Don't worry, more to come in the coming weeks. Stay tuned.
P.S. I did read the whole interview with Emily Abbott that has been so often quoted (a cached version is here), and honestly it's not nearly as bad as some of the quotes that have been cherry-picked out of it. Take a read and let me know what you think. I am disappointed it was taken down from the site, though.