Who Sells Powerlifting To The Mainstream Media?

Create: 07/15/2007 - 14:05
An Iron Trybe thread looks at why the mainstream media generally doesn't attend or report on powerlifting events. A point raised in the thread questions whose responsibility it is to attempt to get media to events. Are federations, state chairs, and meet organizers regularly reaching out and cultivating relationships with media sources?

Last weekend I went to IPA Worlds at York Barbell in PA. I was showing the videos from the meet to a non-lifter. When I showed him Gene Rychlak's attempt at a world record bench press of 1025 pounds, he asked a simple question, "Why wasn't there any media there?" I really didn't have an answer. I know powerlifting isn't, and probably will never be, a mainstream sport. But still, when a world record is being attempted shouldn't we have some media present? Especially the bench press, a lift everyone can relate to. Why do we always have to watch world records on YouTube as recorded by a spectator on his digital camera, instead of on TV? Should promoters make an effort to bring media to PL meets? Or, does it not matter because the media and general public don't/wouldn't really care?

But aside from showing the entire meet, at the least a clip of the record attempt should be on the sports segment of the evening news...

Then, I consider it the responsibility of the meet director/lifter to get the exposure on local news.

the reason certain meets get midia coverage and certain meets dont depends on who is running the meet. iron asylum gym has bodytech usa at alot of there meets, and ive seen musclemag international photographers at her meets also and a private photographer/journalist who was trying to put a article together for time magizine.

Why would the media be there? Let's be real here. The PL community itself can't even agree on what stands as the best lift. There as so many feds each with their own interpretation of pause, rack, press, and depth judgments, that it's impossible to find consensus within our own community on some of these record lifts. If we can't even agree, the media isn't going to take the time to try and figure it out. The media wants things to be black and white. Winners and losers. Gray areas just complicate things. There is no gray area when Tiger Woods wins a tournament. He is the champ. Period. There is no groundswell of youtube knuckleheads on Monday morning dissecting every inch of his swing and trying to discredit his accomplishment because his foot moved slightly to the right on his last drive or his elbow twitched on his approach shot. I think when there is more unison in PL with regard to judging, gear, competition, etc. then we can make a case for more media coverage. And the runaway gear issue doesn't help our cause much either, but I'll stay away from that debate.

I think a general lament in the PL community is the lack of exposure that the sport gets on the whole, not just from TV but from the media in general and even the Sports media in particular - lately it's been popular to blame the splintering of federations, the equipment, the numerous different federations with different rules, etc etc ad nauseum for the lack of recognition, but I don't see that the blame can be laid solely at the feet of the powerlifting community itself. I agree that in some ways we are quick to turn on each other and on ourselves as a sport - just check any PL forum for criticism of lifts, lifters, judging, equipment, blah blah, but frankly that doesn't account for the general ignorance of the public when it comes to the sport of powerlifting - they don't know or care about any of these 'details'. It makes no sense that of the millions of people in the world who regularly practice the bench press only a tiny minority can tell you accurately what an international level poundage in the lift would be, let alone who the best athletes in the world are in that lift (gear/drugs/weight class notwithstanding) - this is not true of the millions of people who regularly golf, play tennis, shoot pool, play basketball, or whatever - it's unique to the strength sports, even though millions upon millions of people regularly train with weights. Some of this is simply a function of 'strength' itself - it's so ingrained in our genes as a competitive function and selective process that hateration is very hard to escape - we've all heard "my Dad is stronger than your Dad" growing up, but few of us ever heard "my Dad is a 6 handicap" or "my Dad returns serves better than your Dad" - strength commands respect, and therefore bitterness and jealousy in those who have less of it, sadly. "Oh sure, he lifts a lot of weight but he has a tiny winkie, or he's all brawn no brains, or he's using steroids, or the famous "I know a guy" - "How much you bench? Oh yeah, well I know a guy who benches 600 blah blah blah" ( for those of us who do know a guy who lifts 600, 700 and beyond, this is incredibly frustrating). Sadly this translates to society and the media - strong women are scorned as "mannish", strong men are scorned as "freakish", and true understanding of the sacrifices and brutally hard work that powerlifters endure are constantly skipped over - it's hardly surprising that the media shows little interest. Beyond blaming society in general though, I think that the PL community took a few cheap shots in recent years- when the Olympic weightlifting doping scandal broke in the late 80s it virtually ensured that Powerlifting would never get Olympic recognition, or if it did it was certainly set back several decades, and every new steroid 'scandal' that breaks into the media has the same effect - this is hardly the fault of powerlifting or powerlifters. You simply cannot have a civilized conversation about Powerlifting without the question of "steroids" coming up, and thanks to years of misinformation and deliberate miseducation by the media the public thinks that steroids are resposible for everything from hitting fastballs to murdering your family and everything in between - it's ludicrous.

I think a lot of people can relate to powerlifting, I just think that most people can't relate to the huge poundages being put up. I think when someone gets a glimpse of someone walking out to the bench or squat rack looking like a mummy they start to wonder why they look like that. When I explain to my friends how bench shirts or squat suits work they always ask "isn't that cheating?." I think if PL ever does become an olympic sport it will have to be raw or with some very retro equipment (blast shirts, marathon suits, no briefs or wraps, etc..). I am not trying to be anti-gear or knocking gear, its just not something that your average at home viewer will want to see.

The popularity of powerlifitng will be controlled by those with the power to choose its level of exposure to the masses. It is difficult to gain prominence without the support of those who steer popular culture. It is not impossible, just difficult. The general population will never have the chance to become educated about powerlifitng unless they see it, become interested, and in turn join the community or learn more about the sport as fans. Powerlifting needs a grassroots seed bed, not unlike this forum, youtube etc. Any expose is good. Secondly it would help to market the sport in a marriage to some other popular sport or entertainment arena. But here again those in control of these outlets must be convinced that this is the best thing for them. What powerlifting needs is a friend, a friend in a position to give powerlifting a break into the mainstream. The potential is there. When you travel to other countries and see the popularity strength athletes command, you realize that there is no reason that same level of popularity could not be in your country too. It is not about fame or money to powerlifters (although some compensation would not hurt) if it were we not be in this sport. It is about challenging yourself everyday to be better than you were the day before. It would be nice if more people understood what in the hell we are doing and why. That old blank stare you get when you tell someone about your goals gets old. You can tell they have no idea what you are talking about. That is why it so damn cool to talk to other lifters and fans because they understand the battle.


Submitted by eric downey (not verified) on
ill have media coverage at my meet . i had it confirmed last night. i didnt read the whole post just to long. you have to bother these people. they get some many phone calls a day you have to call them once a month up to the event. once a week month of the event. everyday week of. then 3 times a day 2 days before. you have to make them remember

Submitted by VinceS on
You mean he didn't ask you how many ply shirt he was using? Just proves a point. People have no clue about gear or raw. They are impressed with the weight! Now back to topic. For P/L to get any coverage, I think it starts at the grass roots level, with the lifter him/herself. Most local newspapers will gladly publish stories about local lifters. All you have to do is send in a press release. I do it all the time. Every now and again, they'll even do a feature story on you. Send releases to local TV as well. Get involved with youth groups and organizations. Send them to meets and send write ups to the local media. I'm sure that meet directors notify local media as well. But if they're not, they need to start. They need to send info before and after the meet. Sending press releases to the media before doesn't guarantee coverage, but every now and then they may send crews and do stories beforehand. When I competed in a meet in the 70s, the meet director notified the major Atlanta TV stations. One came up and fimed my training and did a story on me that aired in the entire Atlanta market. I think that what may be happening is today, we think that the media is just going to "know" that there is a meet that needs to be covered. It doesn't work that way. Start making local contacts. Then meet directors and finally, the federations themselves, should be in constant contact with the media.

Submitted by Carl on
Powerlifting will never become "mainstream" as long as there are too many federations and too many different versions of each fed's rules. The media wants something that it can sell to the advertisers to make money on. How are you going to advertise your sport or your meet if you constantly have meet promoters who don't want to pay up or if you have lifters that if they get shafted by some fed's judging, they just go out and start their own fed ? And No, this isn't a gear vs raw debate. It's a comon sense debate. Have the lifters come together over maybe 2-3 feds at the most and some comon rules. Powerlifting isn't even as popular as boxing and look at boxing, with it's multiple feds and multiple versions of heavyweight titles. It's a joke. Olympic lifting will become more mainstream and become more valuable a comodity to the media than powerlifting can be. How may feds are there in olympic lifting ? Peace out and lift safe all, I'm getting off my soap box.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
well PL has a real up hill battle....MMA which is 10,000 times more popular atleast then PL is just starting to get some media...ESPN just started doing minimal reports on the championship fights...and this is the fastest growing sport in the world which has already surpassed boxing and has several TV shows dedicated to it...so what chance does PL have.

Submitted by admin on
It seems the best place to concentrate most of our efforts at this point is on local media. All of the "stuff" which comes with powerlifting becomes less important in these outlets.

Submitted by Ame Rychlak (not verified) on
Unfortunately Local TV coverage does little. It doesn't seem to get anyone more interested in coming to a meet. Gene's done numerous interviews, but the 15 seconds of air time whittles it down to, he lifts 1,000lbs, some clips of some heavy squats and that is it and it runs after the fact. We've tried to get talk shows and late night interested, but they don't bite. Unless someone buys a cable network, we are going to struggle to get mainstream. Local papers seem to be the best great articles and something tangible, but really all that gets is a hey are you that guy, or do you do that heavy lifting, did I see you in the paper? Even getting coverage in Fitness/Body Building Mags doesn't seem to be enough. We need something like National Geographic, Time, Life, People, maybe even SI could help it get more notice. But in this day in age, it's all in who you know....

Submitted by admin on
That sounds like a great start though Ame. If every meet director does what you're doing then that ripple just grows and grows. You may not see an immediate or tangible effect but it's surely helping the sport in the long run. Build a large solid base consisting of local television, newspaper, and radio. Create a climate where the sport is seen and heard. Use that as a platform to move up a level to more regional coverage. Then maybe we can think about appealing to larger media outlets. To expect an ESPN to cover the sport at this point is far too much.