The Bar is Loaded #9: It is what it is

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I don’t want to get all deep and philosophical on y’all. It is the start of lifting season (for me) and I will be seeing some of you on the proverbial lifting circuit. I don’t want everyone whispering and saying “there’s that crazy dude” and “does he really believe that?”. Those comments are usually reserved for Rich himself. I don’t want to steal his thunder. But for purposes of this month’s column It’s necessary for me to reveal a little of my value system.

I am somewhat of an objectivist. As of such I believe in: Objective Reality; Reason; Ethics; and, Capitalism. In other words, I believe:

1. Wishing won’t make it so
2. You can’t eat your cake and have it too
3. Man is an end in himself, and,
4. Give me liberty or give me death

Now before anyone starts praying for my soul please note I haven’t embraced all of Ayn Rand’s teachings. I do believe in a living God and I think protecting the weak is a job for the strong. I just believe things are what they are. Free will is a gift and if you want something you have to work for it. If you value something you must protect it. Mythical creatures and elves don’t make things happen – we do. Reality exists and…… things are what they are.

Right about now you’re probably looking at your browser and wondering if you’re reading a column on N.A.S.A. or a poorly written guest editorial on Glen Beck’s Take Back America. Don’t worry, you are in and this is all about powerlifting.

Powerlifting is a sport on to itself. Although fragmented by several organizations, powerlifting does exist by its own volition. Athletes are free to train hard and become the best they can be (in NASA without drugs of course). Organizations are free to conduct meets throughout our free country.  And lifters can compete when and where they choose – if specific conditions are met and if, and only if, a meet is conducted where you want to lift. For me that means traveling 5 ½ hours to Arizona. The only meets in Southern California are USPF meets and, with apologies to Christopher Walken, I’ll be damned if I ever lift in a USPF meet!

However, I am confident that the meets in Mesa, Arizona will continue for quite some time. These meets (Tom Manno Memorial, Master’s Nationals, and the Arizona States) are well attended by lifters and spectators alike. But, that in and of itself does not assure Rich and Tad will gleefully return with the ‘big’ trailer. What does keep N.A.S.A. coming to Arizona? Why am I so confident there will be meets in Mesa? Because of Walt Sword and his young men. If you don’t know this crew you are missing out. Walt is the strength coach at Westwood High in Mesa and provides a great venue with a tremendous warm-up facility. Walt also provides an excellent crew of current and alumni lifters who: help unload the trailer, load flawlessly during the meet, spot with great concentration, and re-load the trailer for the trip back to tornado alley. And they do this all for the sport (and the mid-day pizza break).

It would be great if every venue had a group like Walt’s. But, alas, every venue does not have a group like Walt’s. However, every N.A.S.A. powerlifting and powersports meet does have one thing in common: N.A.S.A. lifters. Our sport and our organization and our meets are attended, supported and conducted by N.A.S.A. lifters. We judge, we load, we spot, we announce and we lift. This is our reality. Most meets have more lifters than spectators. Our pro meets require sponsorship (you’re welcome) and the other fifty-some-odd meets a year are unsponsored. There are no professional judges. There are no professional spotters unless you count copious amounts of consumed pizza as compensation. There are no professional powerlifting scorekeepers and there are no professional announcers. There are simply powerlifters. We cannot just sit back and compete.

Who would judge the lifts? Who would spot our overcommitted-rears? We cannot eat our cake and have it too.
Since 1986 I have attended over 60 powerlifting meets. I have watched world class competitors like Henry Thomason help unload the trailer and judge a flight the next day. I have witnessed N.A.S.A. Athlete of the Year Rich Kahle load and spot between flights. And I have watched the great bench presser Nico Feliciano judge the squat, compete in the bench, then judge the deadlifts. These great lifters never missed a chance to compete. If the flights were tight, there would be a few extra minutes to warm up. If the round went quicker than expected – adjustments would be made. On a personal note, I never miss an opportunity to help at a meet.  Why? I do this first and foremost out of love and friendship for Rich Peters.

I also do this for two selfish reasons:

1. I want N.A.S.A. to keep coming back and keep existing as an organization, and 2. It is enriching to participate in something bigger than yourself. Powerlifting organizations do not exist on membership dues, door fees and/or t-shirt sells — powerlifting organizations exist on the ability of the members to step up and own the meet.

If we truly value what we are doing in N.A.S.A. and if we really want quality, family-centered, drug free meets within driving distance, then we need to deal with the reality that it is our meet. In the immortal words of Winston Churchill: “It’s not enough to do our best, sometimes we must do what is required”.

It is what it is.