On the backend of the blog, you can see what searches have led people to look at a particular page. One search I found interesting was “Greg Glassman hypocrite.” So I thought I’d take the bull by the horns and discuss the sometimes controversial founder of CrossFit.
First, as a general observation, the combination of competitive athlete and entrepreneur rarely affords a likable individual. Lots of people who knew Arnold Schwarzenegger (now in trouble again) on his way up to the top of the ladder seriously disliked him; if you have any doubts on the matter, watch the 1977 documentary “Pumping Iron,” which helped propel Schwarzenegger into the international spotlight. Interestingly, he had control over the project and showed “warts and all.” But even his enemies will usually admit that Shwarzenegger has made positive contributions to the state of California.
Lance Armstrong is also back in the news, once again facing accusations of blood-doping et al. I live pretty close to his stomping grounds, Austin, Texas, and I have yet to have met anyone who has had any dealings with Armstrong who likes him. Almost everyone uses the same word to describe him: Asshole. But Armstrong has done a lot of good as well, raising both awareness of and money for treatment of testicular cancer. He has a great resource website, LiveStrong.com, with articles on fitness, health and diet, as well as my favorite tool, the DailyPlate, a food logging application.
So just because someone isn’t likable doesn’t mean they’re not right or that what they have to say can’t be useful. Around my house, we call that the “Rodney McKay” principle.
Now we come to Greg Glassman. Chris Shugart writes, in an article called “The Truth About CrossFit,”
The Truth About Greg Glassman
Greg Glassman is the founder of CrossFit. A former gymnast, the 49-year-old Glassman is credited with “creating” CrossFit in the 1980s, though the mix-and-match training system wasn’t officially named until much later. The first CrossFit gym was opened by Glassman in 1995 and the website was launched in 2001.
Glassman is a controversial figure, quick to make enemies. While he’s revered by some in the CrossFit community (many of whom clamor to get their photos taken with him), he’s also been called a “lunatic” by at least one former CF coach. “The major problem with CrossFit is Glassman himself. His personality, his ego … he’s now doing CrossFit more harm than good,” said the former coach, who asked not to be identified by name because of ongoing friction.
That squares with the grapevine reports about Glassman. I’ve never met the man, probably never will, any more than I’m likely to meet Schwarzenegger, Armstrong or McKay. What you hear is that he cuts people off who cross him and that he’s got a huge ego. You can get that impression from some of the articles he writes for the CrossFit Journal: He’s more interested in showing off than in communicating the material clearly. On the other hand, it may be that he assumes a higher level of knowledge with physiology than most of his readers will actually have.
That’s a problem experts often have. When I was a litigator, finding an expert who could clearly explain things to a lay jury without sounding like they were talking down to the jurors and who also had impeccable credentials was a monumental task. It’s not so much that they mean to be haughty, but that they are so used to talking to people who speak in the same jargon that they forget that not everyone understands it.
Try talking to a military member, for a rather common example. They speak acronym. I have to stop my son every few sentences when he talks about work to get an explanation for ABC or DEF. Compound that with the fact that he’s a reservist and is also studying physics, I can’t talk to him about work or school without needing an encyclopedia, dictionary and several textbooks. But it’s interesting stuff and worth the effort.
So it is with Glassman, in my opinion. He’s not really a part of my CrossFit experience except to the extent I have to try to decipher articles he’s written. He may have started it, he may be earning the big bucks from branding it and spreading it, but it’s bigger than just him. The men and women who have taken the CrossFit concept and spread it to their communities have made it their own. It’s like saying the writer of a textbook is the same as your teacher; they are not. It’s the people teaching you, the people coaching you, the ones you personally interact with that are important.
It’s also like judging a product by the company’s owner. I’ve met a lot of jerks who own companies that make great products. So what if they’re obnoxious? (Except for Mark Cuban. I’m sorry, but I have trouble with the Mavericks because of their owner, even when they were coached by Avery Johnson, whom I deeply respect. So I’m inconsistent. Who isn’t?)
Don’t let the textbook writer/corporate owner get in the way of a good experience. If you’ve found a coach and CrossFit works for you, then don’t sweat Glassman. It’s just not worth it.