The Clueless Competitor – an ethical dilemma

November 26, 2008 | By | 8 Replies More

As you may or may not know, I am a documentary filmmaker working mostly within the very inbred and insular world of bodybuilding. From the local level to the pros, I have covered it all.



A few weeks ago I was in New York shooting footage for a new documentary when I stumbled upon a fascinating fellow and was compelled to create a short profile of him. I will refrain from describing him and let you watch the clip. This seven minute video has created a firestorm in the bodybuilding community.

Competitors and fans of bodybuilding who have seen this video fall solidly into two camps. On the one side there are those who say, “Get that @(%&*# off the stage! He’s an embarrassment to the sport!” The other half express a more gentle sentiment, something along the lines of, “Good for him! It’s inspiring to see someone overcoming obstacles to live his dream.”

I am interested in see what my friends here at DI think of the ethical dilemma that many bodybuilding contest promoters face. Because this is an entry level competition no one can be turned away. (The winners of each category move on to national level competitions.) Yet, shouldn’t there be some sort of minimum requirements for competing in any sport? What if the person competing is not in full possession of his/her faculties?


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Category: Meaning of Life, Psychology Cognition, Uncategorized

About the Author ()

Mike Pulcinella is a documentary filmmaker.

Comments (8)

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  1. Niklaus Pfirsig says:

    There are other sports that have this. Marathons, Bicycle touring, skiing and snowboarding various matial arts contests. Those who only see the competitions as a way to sort the good from the bad are missing something important. There is a sense of belonging to something greater than the individual. There are the lesson to be learned as an individual. There is also something about one who attempts something against overwhelming odds, because if you try you might win, but if you don't try at all, you most certainly will not win.

  2. I'm not sure what to say about this that might make a difference to someone like Steve. If your self-image is so out of whack that you think you can compete on equal footing with people who really are at that level of condition, then what can other people say? But you certainly get this in other endeavors. I've been in the position of having to explain to people (in photograph, for instance) why their work is crap and have them utterly not get it. I've reviewed work by amateur writers who were a long way from producing publishable material and found myself in a mine field of paranoia and self-deception. There is nothing really that can be said. Either one day it will dawn on them that "Hey, I'm being a fool about this" or they will go blithely on not knowing how bad they really are. The light is not lit because they can't find the switch. The question is, how important is it that we burst their bubble? Would it serve anything to tear them out of their self-delusion? What would that say about us?

    It's sad to watch someone seemingly waste their time at something they will likely never be good at. But while we consider what they're doing to be a waste of time, they might be enjoying the hell out of it.

  3. Erich Vieth says:

    "Minimum requirements for competing?" We are in an age where people confuse mere assertions for reality. Bodybuilders without a clue and without a body walk up to the stage and say "I'm a body-builder." I assume that the audience is applauding in appreciation for the comic relief. As your interview with the dude shows, though, he really does seem clueless. Should he "compete?" I suppose it depends on what the audience wants. Are they really reacting to his antics as a form of harmless entertainment? Or is the audience expressing schadenfreude?

    There are many people who are un-anchored to the real world. They don't see any difference between A) believing X and B) determining that there is real evidence that X is true. The problem is manifested in many areas other than body-building, of course, and the problem can be seen in the rhetoric and actions of prominent politicians such as George W. Bush and Sarah Palin. Empty talk is their forte, and I suspect that they really believe half the unsubstantiated things they say. Lots and lots of sloppy, undisciplined cognition that lacks a basis in reality.

  4. Vicki Baker says:

    I think it is a performance art piece satirizing the "sport' of bodybuilding.

    A while back there was a big discussion about the exhibit with the plasticized dead people where some folks were congratulating themselves on not being grossed out and having moved beyond outmoded taboos regarding respect for the dead. Very well. I think an even more controversial exhibit would be one of living bodies in various stages of falling apart.

  5. I need a transcript, I only understand half of what he is saying.

  6. Dan Klarmann says:

    Someone has to pose for the "before" pictures. After all, it's body building, not bodies built, right?

  7. Derek says:

    I've known about him for quite a while, being a part of the general bodybuilding community. I think it's great, no one said you gotta be the best, I know a lot of people who do it for fun, and that's what he's doing.

  8. Erika Price says:

    It is a dilemma! I have a huge convoluted mix of feelings for this guy. Pity, for being made a mockery, annoyance for ruining a serious competition, fear that he is severely mentally disturbed and may hurt himself, ashamed that I am passing so much judgment. I have had these feelings before, for other competitions (speech and debate, in my case).

    In any social gathering with an open-door-policy, the risk of a few nuts slipping in must be assumed. There is much to be lost by making the competitions more exclusive, as real talent and potential perhaps could be shut out. Yet everyone who attends could breathe more comfortably. What if this man is encouraged by the jeers? What if he actually attempts to lift a weight his body can't handle, and he sustains a horrible injury?

    I think it is up for individual competitions to decide how to handle this problem. I think any attempt at a solution is warranted, if not ideal.

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