BEYOND THE TRIBE
The Bizarre World of Fred!
In today’s blog, we’ll consider the following:
Have you ever observed spectators at a sporting event? I frequently find the responses of the spectators more entertaining than the event itself. Sports fans are sometimes a strange breed.
Growing up in very small town in southern Vermont, I remember my first experience as a spectator at a ‘professional sporting event’. The neighboring larger town hosted a ‘Pro Wrestling Event’, and it promised to be a spectacle everyone needed to see.
At the ripe old age of 10, never having seen anything like this, I was beyond excited. My mom always told me I had more curiosity than any little boy should ever have, so you can imagine that I was “All In.” (For my regular blog readers, you’ll remember this mantra continues with me on the tennis court today!) I could not wait to see a professional sporting event. And, even better, the main attraction was the heralded wrestler, Haystacks Calhoun, weighing in at 601 pounds. Haystacks was a colossal giant. (Wonder how many of you have ever heard of Haystacks?)
Finally, the big day arrived, and off I went. I was going to see a real live Hercules of a man. I imagined rippling muscles, a Titan’s physique. When I arrived, I had to walk down the stairs inside the arena to my seat. Looking down toward the bottom of the stairs, I noticed a man coming up the stairs. Even from way down at the bottom he appeared much larger than everyone else. As he got closer, I trembled with excitement. That must be him – the one and only Haystacks – coming right toward me.
He kept climbing the stairs and pushed right by me. I remembered I had to press flat and squish up against the stair rail so he could fit by me. Wow, he was a giant alright. As I stared at him with wide eyes, I noticed he was as broad as he was tall. Haystacks was wearing bib overalls and a goofy horseshoe around his neck. What? Where was Hercules? This massive person could barely get up the stairs. Oh Haystacks, say it ain’t so!
My young boy inquisitiveness was spinning. How could Haystacks even climb into the ring when he could hardly make it up the stairs? I wondered if he could wrestle at all. I conjectured that he might win if he just sat down on his opponent. But he’d have to catch them first, and I doubted he could. I was not prepared for this reality. I tried to pivot and get excited about the wrestling match. I wanted to see his opponent and how this would play out. Even at my tender age, I was astute enough to know that Haystacks was not the epitome of a fit athlete.
I found my seat (with my head full of questions), and the announcer’s booming voice introduced Haystacks. The crowd went wild when he was presented as the World’s Greatest Wrestler. “Yeah, right!” I thought. Instantly, a wave of embarrassment came over me. I had misinterpreted the entire event. Now I get it, this is a comedy. It’s just fun entertainment. It wasn’t going to be like Olympic wrestling at all. I was thankful no one knew how silly I felt. I was just a kid, and no one bothered to explain to me that this was ‘pretend’ wrestling. So, my little boy mind made the appropriate mental adjustments for the fun entertainment versus the professional sporting event.
With the match in full swing, I jumped around with excitement. The crowds were screaming and yelling. I joined in. I cackled and heckled. What fabulous fun! Until… mental shock wave number two hit. As I squirmed and jeered at the ‘performers’, a big stern man beside me suddenly turned and gave me a look I will never forget. He raged at me, “Shut your mouth kid, or I will shut it for you.”
Holy Mackerel, Batman! I witnessed something that is still burned into my memory today. This grown-up adult believed this was a real athletic competition. I shut my mouth and started looking around. The entire arena was filled with people who believed this was a real wrestling event. Panic set in, and the whole experience became surreal.
I felt like I was in a sci-fi movie and had just been beamed down to a planet of lunatics! How could all these adults be taking this seriously? This was frightening to me. One minute I was screeching and enjoying the ridiculousness (like I thought everyone else was), and the next I was silenced, hoping I would get out of there alive. These people were part of a Tribe, yet I didn’t belong. And because I didn’t belong, I was shunned and threatened. For me, this Tribe was antiquated and impractical.
I managed to live through the traumatic Haystacks Calhoun event. However, the real trauma was the understanding that I lived among and within this strange Tribe. As time went on, try as I might, I realized I would never be able to change my Tribe’s perceptions. I grew up feeling like I didn’t belong. As I matured, I was actually glad I didn’t belong. I knew I was destined for a different life. I moved away from that small town at a very young age. It was time to find another Tribe.
I joined the military and experienced a distinctive kind of Tribe. I served in the Army’s 101st Airborne and trained with elite athletes. I learned many life lessons from my military Tribe. Some were great. Some were not. After several successful years, I recognized the military was not the Tribe I wanted to be in forever.
After my military career, my next adventure was college. Again, this was a very new and different experience. I became part of yet another Tribe. I felt this Tribe was more educated, but I found them immature. Their juvenile minds, even in a higher education environment, was off-putting to me. The military had provided poignant lessons and priorities, and these folks seemed to take life flippantly. Our incompatible viewpoints made it feel like we were like living in different universes. I needed to move beyond the tribe.
Coach’s side bar: The military can be an enormous wake-up call for many of us. I believe if more young people experienced this life event, our society would be stronger and more cohesive today. I learned the real price of freedom, a lesson better experienced than taught.
My next quest for a Tribe was the opportunity I happened upon in the wonderful sport of tennis. This Tribe brought more shared goals. It allowed me to be with a close-knit group of people with similar interests. This Tribe has resulted in lifelong friends, a career, and entrepreneurial opportunities. This larger Tribe has taken me all over the world playing and competing. I would highly recommend this Tribe to anyone for a lifetime adventure. My accomplishments while thriving in this Tribe include owning a Tennis Club, running a medical company, founding a recruiting firm, and creating Body Helix.
You might be wondering at this point, “What does all this Tribe discussion have to do with Coach’s blog topics and bodyhelix?” My answer: It has everything to do with it. My Tribe is the reason bodyhelix was created. My Tribe helped define our mission. And the Tribe is who we serve. This Tribe has extended from tennis to all sports, from athletes to patients, from chronic pain to injury prevention and it continues to expand.
Yet, as in most situations in life, Tribes can still have some lunacy lurking in its ranks. Just like I realized the irrationality of pro wrestling fans as a young boy, I find my Tribe contains some lunacy – and I want to thwart it.
In the early years of my tennis Tribe, I embraced the fact that most serious players will get hurt from time to time. Injuries are part of the game. I also recognized among my Tribe, professional and amateur alike, there continues a perpetuation of a bizarre behavior. It reminds me of the contrived pro-wrestling phenomenon that fed on the weak minded. In fact, this curiosity endures today. I saw it at the recently concluded US Open. What it is?
It is the abomination that our highest-paid, most visible athletes are forced to use 100-year-old bandages to wrap their hamstrings, calves, and elbows. This tribal lunacy rivals the bogus athleticism of Haystacks Calhoun. How can sports science in 2021 coupled with the huge paychecks of elite athletes fall flat when it comes to optimal injury support and prevention? How can the very thing that allows athletes to continue to compete be so woefully antiquated? This is sports lunacy at its finest. We need to move beyond the tribe.
The mystery continues. Why aren’t the powerhouse sports companies, with their obvious vested interests in athletes, demanding the most advanced recovery gear? Nike, Under Amour, Adidas, Head, Wilson – the list goes on and on. These lucrative enterprises are missing the boat. How is this possible? Unfortunately, I don’t know the answer to this question. I do know that your team at bodyhelix continues to craft products for our Tribe from the most advanced fabric science in the world.
Many of my personal friends and hitting partners have been using bodyhelix for a long time. Often, I engage them in discussions about why they like our products. Comments like ‘ease of use’, ‘great range of motion’, and ‘stays in place’ always top the list. These seem to be obvious needs and requirements in a compression product. Yet inevitably, our discussions include the incredulous use of inferior products on those elite athletes who require and can afford the best that sports companies have to offer.
Bodyhelix (founded for my Tribe) allows access to the finest compression in the world. I know this sounds like a commercial. I guess it is, but it’s also an authentic statement – from the hearts of those in our company who provide this service for our Tribe. Bodyhelix exists to serve people by providing the most advanced products possible. It’s what you, my Tribe, deserve.
Coach’s challenge: Answer this question: Why do you believe 100-year-old wrap technology is still used in sports? If you can explain this recklessness, I will post it in an upcoming blog. Simply write to email@example.com and let us know what you think. If we post your answer, you will receive a very nice surprise from the bodyhelix team!
I thoroughly enjoyed Lakshmi Kumar’s blog last week on Yoga and mindfulness. She gave several useful tips on how we can evolve our minds to a higher place. Tribes can sometimes be closed minded. Just like my experience with the fanatical wrestling fans or the mystery behind outdated recovery gear, there are silos all around us. Tribes, while comfortable, can easily become silos. Tribes can incubate and propagate a culture based on inaccurate information. By opening our minds – neural cultivating – we may decide to shift into more inclusive Tribes. In so doing, we advance mindfulness and with it our collective good.
Next week, I am going to take you behind the scenes and let you in on some things our team has learned and why we bring you this blog. I will introduce Schadenfreude, the ultimate oxymoron. Don’t miss it! Until then, my friends, be thoughtful about your long-term potential and move through it!
Have a thoughtful and entertaining day,