Tuesday, October 8, 2013

200 Yards

I belong to a CrossFit gym, and I love it.

I'm not likely to enter any competitions, and it's not really a vehicle to being a "badass" for me. I just like that it makes me stronger, faster and healthier than most people my age.

But I also like something else about CrossFit: the sense of community. And I don't just mean the fact that I get to hang out with a lot of great people from our gym at pool parties, BBQs and holiday parties. "Community" is all over CrossFit: gyms banding together not just in the spirit of healthy athletic competition, but to do volunteer/charity work as well.

It's inspiring as hell.

I also like the fact that, from what I can tell, CrossFit HQ doesn't micromanage local gyms. Those affiliates are free to plot their own courses of programming, so every gym is, in large measure, a unique membership experience. They are all a little different, and HQ is not watching their every move.

And that freedom extends to a more libertarian ideal too: HQ doesn't step in and tell individual potential gym owners that the CF market is saturated in a particular area. They let the market, and the individual gyms' business models and ethics, sort themselves out.

But yesterday I was reminded of something an old, wise high-school teacher told me a long time ago: "Just because you have the freedom to do something doesn't make it the right thing to do."

I'm not sure what all the potential motivations would be for a new CrossFit owner to open up a CF gym 200 yards from one that has been in business for over three years, but none of the ones that keep coming to my mind have anything to do with the CrossFit vision of community that keeps me coming back to CF.

Instead, all the potential motivations that I can think of have names like greed, avarice, selfishness and whatever the opposite of "community" is.

Because "community" in CrossFit isn't just what goes on inside your gym's walls. It's getting together with the gym across town, or two towns over or maybe two states away, and raising money for Boston Marathon bombing victims, or the families of dead firefighters, or Steve's Club.

It's putting your self-interest in proper, ethical perspective and giving something back.

And honestly, I don't know how the Upstart gym could do that "charity" and "community" stuff with a straight face when, as I understand it, the Upstart never walked that 200 yards to go talk to the Established Gym before the Upstart decided to pull the trigger on the new enterprise. See, maybe there's somehow a justification beyond a verse or two of "Money, That's What I Want" for opening a CrossFit affiliate *that* close to one that's already there. But when the Upstart never even broaches the subject with the Established Gym, any possible such justification (and let's be serious: there aren't many anyway) evaporates, and the entire exercise becomes one of the Upstart taking a figurative dump on the Established Gym's lawn and then trying to crush their business into powder.

Community's a big fucking deal in CrossFit. Or at least I thought it was until I heard about this crap yesterday. Maybe it's all gone to hell, like someone said to me: "Dude, the CF market is saturated. I saw four different people wearing CrossFit shirts yesterday. And I was wearing one too. Didn't start one conversation. Two years ago I would have been best friends with all of them."

But it was never like that around here, until yesterday, and, in some fit of libertarian ideals, I still think the market will ultimately reward the skilled, conscientious, ethical CF gym owner/trainer with business and, get this, a *community* that the Upstart -- who can't walk 200 yards because all he sees are piles of money -- will never be able to touch, and likely never be a part of.

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