>The Professional-Fan Dynamic

>Earlier this week, professional triathlete Joanna Zieger wrote a post on her blog called “What should age groupers expect from pros?”  In her post, she talks about the need for pros to essentially be good role models in our sport…that by doing so, interest in our sport will grow, sponsors will be happy, and people will be “entertained”.  Moreover, she wrote, professionals have a duty to perform well because, frankly, their livelihood depends upon their performance.

Joanna further writes about how open and engaging pro triathletes are, and should be, with us “normal” age-groupers.

I really enjoyed reading Joanna’s perspective.  The even cooler thing is that her view on this is not unlike many other professionals in our sport.

Let’s face it, how likely are you to be able to strike up a conversation with Peyton Manning before a Colts game?  The chances of doing so are slim to none.  Heck, you’d probably get accosted (and maybe arrested) if you even tried to talk to him on a Sunday.  What are your chances of having a Twitter conversation with Tiger Woods …perhaps bad example, unless you’re a young, voluptuous lady (snicker)…or with LeBron James?  Many, many professionals in mainstream sports are simply untouchable.  You can’t get close to them – and probably for good reason.  I suspect that the vast majority of pros in other sports are good people – friendly, willing to engage, etc.  I also believe that the more “famous” you are, the more you are at risk from dealing with the freaks in our society.

So back to triathlon – and specifically professional triathletes.  I’ve been totally stoked by how open and friendly most of the professionals I’ve interacted with are.  Most are genuinely friendly and want to share some of themselves with you.  I haven’t met one jerk yet.  People have asked me how I’ve been able to get some of the pros to take part in my interview series – it’s simple.  I just asked.  To date, I have had only one person respond that they didn’t want to participate.  That tells me a ton!

The flip side of the coin, in my opinion, is that as spectators and fans, we owe it to professionals to be respectful of them and their time.  Asking for an autograph five minutes before a race starts is not a good idea.  Being overly demanding by stalking them on Facebook or Twitter (and getting pissed if you send a note but don’t get an immediate response) is bad form as well.  Let’s face it, pro triathletes are people just like you and I.  They are busy – triathlon is their job, after all. 

No matter what, we have a unique dynamic in our sport.  I appreciate that we get a chance to interact with some of the biggest names in our sport.  Frankly, to me that is one of the cooler aspects about going to a race.  Here’s to hoping that the dynamic never changes…

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13 thoughts on “>The Professional-Fan Dynamic

  1. >You have hit every point that I would say on the matter! Thanks for sharing!Hey, I have a couple more ideas for your ten questions interviews. Email me and I will let you know what they are! christikeiser@yahoodotcom

  2. >I read that as well, I didnt know how I feel about it, but most everyone knows that I am not a huge pro fan (though I do like Bree Wee, Chrissie Wellington, and Lindsay Corbin), instead I am a huge age grouper fan. There is not other sport in the world that allows fans to line up next to pros and compete at the very same event they do. With out a doubt, Chrissie Wellington is the face of our sport, but I ask people to ponder this for a second, that age groupers are actually the face of the sport. After tomorrow, around 6pm, I know what stories will touch my heart more after watching Kona.

  3. >I had to laugh at the Tiger part — so true!! BDD is right! Personally in our sport I look to the pros for things like nutrition. But I look up to the average AGer who has a full time job, family, mortgage and still finds time to training and race. But I think that is what makes the pros so amazing in our sport is that they respect the avg AGer too.

  4. >It just pisses me off to no end to be asked for my autograph right before a race… But seriously, Charisa Wernick went pro this past year and has a "regular" job. Now that's serious stuff since she used to easily qualify for Kona as an AGer but now has to look for an extra 20 minutes against the like of Bree to get a Kona slot. It so much tougher when you work full time. (She's my new hero)

  5. >I always talk about this kind of thing with friends when I talk about tri pros. Seriously, they are an extremely approachable bunch. I said something similar (using a Brady analogy, not a Manning one..ahem ha ha) but I also saw at Timberman HIM people coming up to Potts and Wellington minutes before their start. Come on people!! SERIOUSLY?? I was thinking of my own race at the time and didn't want to talk to anyone. So anyway, I agree with you, it is one of the coolest parts of our sport.

  6. >Interesting timing with Triathlete Mag taking the opposite tact and suggesting the pros need to be separated more so that they can earn more and be recognized more. I disagreed with the editorial but it appears that triathlon is headed in that direction.

  7. >I have to respectfully disagree with BDD. For a pro to say what Joanna Zieger said put triathlon a million miles ahead of most professional sports. You'll never hear something remotely close to what she said come out of the mouth of LeBron James, that's for sure.Define "pro" anyway. I am good friends with a "pro" triathlete in that he has his elite license, sponsorships and (barely) scrapes together a living. I admire him and look up to him athletically. He's younger, and I dare say he looks up to me for guidance on how to grow as a human being (family, career, etc). It's an incredible 2 way relationship that has naturally evolved into mutual respect where both sides understand the other is not perfect, the grass is not greener, yet each has something valuable to say. This relationship would not exist unless there was a mutual interest triathlon.I also went to a trade show in SD last February and had an incredible night out at the party which was filled with everyone from pro's to AG's all having a great time – together.It's easy to generalize "pro athletes" in the negative, there is plenty of precedent. But I can pretty much promise you that our sport gives you access to these athletes like no other should you decide to take advantage of it.

  8. >Although only doing this since last year I have over and over expressed how friendly a community I have found within triathlon, including the pros.To piggyback on Onehourironman, Charisa Wernick is the first contact from a pro I have had and I realized she is a sweetheart! After a race someone linked to her blog and I left her a comment saying good job. She read my comment and then came back and read some of my posts and left me comments. I did not expect that and feel you would be hard pressed to find a pro baseball player who would do the same thing!!

  9. >Hi Joel-Thanks for your succinct recap. I understand some people's feelings that pros don't matter, and that is totally fair. I think your readers should also realize, though, that many pros juggle busy lives like they do — family, jobs and training. I think everyone who tries hard, gets out there, and does their thing should be respected whether a pro or age grouper. Everyone has an inspiring story if you listen.JZ

  10. >Very thought-provoking post today. I think if I were a pro that I would want everyone just to treat me like a normal person. I feel like pros must feel strange sometimes having people gawk from afar, instead of just coming up and saying hello (not before a race, of course.) I love the accessability of pro triathletes and I think it's one of the things that makes our sport special.

  11. >I agree….I use the NFL analogy with people unfamiliar with triathlon. If my husband wants to play football, he plays rec league. He doesn't get to line up on the same field as the pros. I think twitter and facebook have shed light on how much of the "real life" stuff pros also have to deal with. I love the pros who hang out to thank the volunteers and give medals to age groupers. Thanks Joel for another great post.

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