So I guess a new Mr. Olympia was crowned over the weekend. LA Mary sent me a picture, impishly noting that her governor is a former title-holder. I don’t know this guy’s name; it might be Jay Cutler, the 2007 winner, but the official website hasn’t been updated yet, and I’m too lazy to do a full Google. Anyway, here’s a 2007 contestant:


His head looks Photoshopped, doesn’t it? And yet, if you were going to digitally manipulate any part of that picture, wouldn’t it be the guy’s basket? Have you ever seen anything more pathetic? Oh, well — life is a series of choices, and I’d say he gave up one thing in return for another. Nice lats.

As things do so often these days, it send me into a [swimmy screen effects and harp glissandos] reverie of my salad days. I covered a Mr. Olympia contest once; for many years it was held in Columbus, Ohio. From Wikipedia’s table of results, I guess that would have been 1979. Sounds about right. Although nowadays the contest is held in, where else, Vegas, at the time bodybuilding was still pretty obscure, and having it in Columbus was solely the doing of one man, who worked at Nationwide Insurance, and his good friend, Arnold Schwarzenegger. I was as green as a greenhorn could be, working in what was then still called the Columbus Dispatch women’s department. How did the department that handled weddings, engagements, ladies’ club news and “society” end up with Mr. Olympia? Through a time-honored practice at American newspapers — dumping an undesirable assignment on another department.

It was Sports, of course, that did the dumping. Sports departments are famous for jettisoning coverage of any non-traditional sport, of which sports editors are deeply suspicious. They’re the most conservative journalists in any newsroom, believing anything not played with a ball or puck isn’t really a sport at all. They only cover the Olympics because it involves international travel and pictures of women’s beach volleyball victory celebrations. I exaggerate, but not much.

Anyway, they shopped the Mr. Olympia assignment around until they found a sap (my editor), who found her own sap (me). Because this was the women’s department, and because my editor had no imagination at all, the original assignment was to write about defending champion Frank Zane’s wife, who was advocating the then-shocking idea that women should work out with weights, too. I went to their suite at the Sheraton for the interview. Frank popped a bicep for me to squeeze; it was, quite literally, like a rock. But they weren’t the story, not the whole story. The story was that my hometown was hosting an event that brought in dozens of competitors and thousands of spectators from all over the world, truly an international event, and it was doing so with virtually no local media attention, except my little inside-page women’s-department lameness.

After the story ran, I went to the competition. I was young and fairly naive at the time, but at the first posedown, it became clear why Sports didn’t want it and Metro was just embarrassed by it and only a sap like me would even think of wandering into Vet’s Memorial to watch: The body builders stood and flexed, and thousands of muscle queens howled with approval. I mean: Howled. I don’t know what I was expecting — maybe enthusiastic applause with a few woo-hoos thrown in. But this was like being stuck in the bonobo exhibit. If strip clubs tend to be dour, downbeat places, all those men sitting quietly at their tables for one, nursing Cokes and distributing their salaries in $1 and $5 denominations, this was its polar opposite — raw man-lust, foot-stomping, seat-pounding gimme-gimme-some-o’-that carrying on. It turned out that the Village People didn’t have all the gay erotic archetypes covered.

It occurred to me that now would be a good time to interview Frank Zane’s wife, but she was somewhere else.

The next day, the photo editor approached me in a panic; the AP was desperate for a picture, any picture; clients around the world were clamoring and the paper had nothin’. I turned over a roll of film I’d shot with my own camera, and suddenly we had somethin’, my first and only photo contribution to the Associated Press.

This was the very dawning of the fitness boom; “Pumping Iron” was still a cult documentary. Within a few years, “Conan the Barbarian” and “Terminator” would make the future governor of California a star, and the roots of Mr. Olympia in Columbus would become the Arnold Sports Festival — my goodness, but that man has had some work done, and not on his biceps, no? — and it gets a great deal of respectful media coverage.

I bet not by the Sports department, though.

Before we leave bodybuilding entirely, however, here is a terrifying picture. What’s in his wallet?

Okily-dokily, bloggage:

Ever since Lynn Johnston started letting daily life — the funny and unfunny — affect her comic strip, “For Better or For Worse,” everyone is getting in the game. If Johnston was an original, Tom Batiuk and “Funky Winkerbean” is an imitator. He tries pretty hard, though, and I was willing to forgive him as long as he didn’t get too…unfunny.

That lasted until this morning, when Lisa, dying of breast cancer, apparently went blind. Jeez, what’s next? Coughing up blood? Her death is timed to coincide with Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but this is too much.

The MGM Grand invested $800 million in their new Motown casino, opening today. For some reason, no one likes my slogan: “What happens in Detroit, stays in Detroit.” I think it brings a note of menace the wussy Vegas original doesn’t have, but what do I know?

Have a great day. I’ll be workin’.

Posted at 12:18 am in Media, Popculch, Same ol' same ol' |

52 responses to “Muscles.”

  1. alex said on October 2, 2007 at 6:14 am

    That’s like so… grotestical.

    Arnold’s got a really tiny putz. Spy Magazine published it back in the ’80s, full-on hard, and it wasn’t just being dwarfed by his thunder thighs.

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  2. Connie said on October 2, 2007 at 6:46 am

    Ick. Grotestical is the perfect word. What a creepy sight with which to start my day.

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  3. Pam said on October 2, 2007 at 7:56 am

    My Eyes! My Eyes! Dear God, My Eyes!!! Arrrggghhh!!! I hate it when the women are disfigured like this as well.

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  4. brian stouder said on October 2, 2007 at 9:30 am

    My Eyes! My Eyes!

    well, I’m still recovering from the picture of the Women’s Beach Volleyball celebration!

    Surf’s up!!!

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  5. nancy said on October 2, 2007 at 9:40 am

    I still remember the day the early sports editor showed that picture to me, Brian. (It’s from 2004.) I’m sure, if the AP wire had a “most viewed” function, that one would be right up there.

    One more, because you’re such a nice guy.

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  6. LA mary said on October 2, 2007 at 9:46 am

    The guy’s name is Gustavo Badell, and I apologize, he is not Mr. Olympia. He is a finalist. I don’t know if the new Mr. O has been named yet.

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  7. nancy said on October 2, 2007 at 9:50 am

    Wiki says the winner was Jay Cutler, but he’s blonde. I don’t know how you tell these guys apart, anyway.

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  8. Sue said on October 2, 2007 at 9:51 am

    Yesterday I Am Bossy had a picture of something she pulled out of her drain. It wasn’t as disgusting as those photos.

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  9. LA mary said on October 2, 2007 at 9:54 am

    He looks like the plastinated bodies in the creepy exhibit that went around last year.

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  10. harry near indy said on October 2, 2007 at 9:55 am

    nice post, nancy.

    iirc — small sausage and eggs on a guy means that he uses steroids.

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  11. brian stouder said on October 2, 2007 at 9:55 am

    One more

    See – this is why women really have all the power (whether they know it or not) ; sorta like Dorothy’s ruby red slippers

    (although for the record, in my opinion the nicest rear end can only be so good, whereas great racks come in all sorts of pleasing shapes and sizes!)

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  12. nancy said on October 2, 2007 at 10:00 am

    Once I got over my revulsion at Grotesticle Man (thanks Alex; this is the picture hiding behind the link), I examined him a little closer. Why do you suppose his right pectoral mass is larger than the left? I bet it’s because he’s right-handed; I hear it can have that effect, particularly if your pen weighs 85 pounds.

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  13. derwood said on October 2, 2007 at 10:03 am

    My neighbor is an ex Mr Indiana and has boobs bigger than my wifes. His ex calls him “Tiny Nuts”. We just wish he would mow the yard with a shirt on.


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  14. LA mary said on October 2, 2007 at 10:06 am

    Arnold’s had some work done, and he has colored his hair a lovely Ronald Reagan orangey brown. Seeing him in person, orange tan skin, orange brown hair, permanent surprise eyebrows, is an experience not to be missed.

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  15. Julie Robinson said on October 2, 2007 at 10:18 am

    That photo deserves a Clarence Thomas-esque response: whoop-de-damn-do!

    And Tom Batiuk is breaking my heart. Why oh why does he have to kill off Lisa? Hasn’t she had enough heartbreak already? Not that I get emotionally involved in the comics…

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  16. ie said on October 2, 2007 at 10:59 am

    Erk! I threw up a little in my mouth. (Note to self: finish breakfast before launching self into blogland) (this means yesterday’s I Am Bossy and today’s blow-up men yick yick yick).
    I was a judge at a bodybuilding competition back in the 80’s (yeah, Vegas baby) and I was amazed at the sheer number of pinheads were attached to those grotesticle (!) bodies. And they say blondes are dumb…

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  17. alex said on October 2, 2007 at 11:44 am

    If I weren’t at work I’d surf for Arnold’s eleventh finger and put up a link to it. Surely it’s floating around somewhere in cyberspace with Britney’s vertical smile.

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  18. Jolene said on October 2, 2007 at 12:12 pm

    Lately, I’ve been thinking that one value of the Internet is the opportunity it’s given me to learn about worlds I’d never encounter directly from the people who live in them—for instance, to hear the words of people who spend 90% of their lives worrying about the Islamofascist threat and think of HRC as a wild-eyed radical—rather than from journalists or other storytellers. Not that I like these worlds, but it helps me understand politics and lots of other things to know they are out there.

    The Internet, of course, wasn’t required to learn about bodybuilding, but this picture gives me the same sense that I have when I look, which I do less and less, at some of those sites.

    I have to work very hard to understand why anyone would want to enter this world and even harder to understand why anyone would find a body of this sort appealing.

    It’s so nice and normal here on Or perhaps it’s just my kind or weird.

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  19. Sue said on October 2, 2007 at 12:18 pm

    My kind of weird. I’ll have to remember that.

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  20. Jolene said on October 2, 2007 at 12:32 pm

    Here’s another weird photo or rather a pair of photos that, together, demonstrate another form of our weirdness about the body. This has been floating around for a while, but I just saw it last night.

    Couldn’t find my way back to the particular blog w/ the great comments re how the photoshopping on the Glamour cover makes the gorgeous America Ferrara look like a bobblehead, albeit a still gorgeous bobblehead. Also, check out her right hand.

    Many have commented on various blogs. Google “america ferrera, glamour” for a sample.

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  21. LA mary said on October 2, 2007 at 12:35 pm

    It’s the governator, all nekkid.

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  22. nancy said on October 2, 2007 at 12:38 pm

    The more I look at Grotesticle Man, the more I think that picture was heavily ‘shopped. It just doesn’t seem physically possible. As for bodybuilders in general…

    When Googling around for Frank Zane links, I found his wife’s website. (Her name’s Christine; she’s a jewelry designer.) In her bio section, she wrote, “When Christine met Frank, this was her first encounter with anyone had developed his body so completely.” I was taken with that phrase — “developed his body so completely.” When you look at it that way, bodybuilding as a way of exploring the outer limits of physical possibility, it doesn’t seem so different from any other sport that seeks to do the same thing — ultramarathons, to name but one example.

    The problem, of course, is the drugs. I know there’s drug-free competitive bodybuilding, which doesn’t sound completely vile, although they do take “supplements,” which seems to blur the definitions a bit. The aesthetic appreciation of bodies like this entirely eludes me, however; I just don’t think women were meant to look like this.

    Here’s Mrs. Zane in her prime. I think most men would find her pleasing to look at, if a little lean. Even Frank, at his peak, doesn’t have the freakish look of the guy at the top of this entry. If I were writing about Mr. Olympia today, I’d want to talk to both of them about drugs vs. no-drugs, the human body in its “ideal” form, tanning and oiling for stage lighting, how photos taken in competition differ from one you might take first thing in the morning — in other words, all the things I didn’t think about when I was 21.

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  23. nancy said on October 2, 2007 at 12:43 pm


    And then there’s what Redbook did to Faith Hill.

    Alex, having closely examined the governor’s thingamajig, it doesn’t look all that small. Pretty average, in my experience. Which is, admittedly, narrower than yours.

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  24. LA mary said on October 2, 2007 at 1:01 pm

    At the wikipedia site, you can see photos of all the winners, and it looks like from about 1982 on they got very creepy looking.

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  25. Jolene said on October 2, 2007 at 1:03 pm

    Yes, I came across the Faith Hill thing while poking around for the blog where I’d seen the comments re America Ferrera last night. It’s stunning to see what (someone thinks) has to be done so that already beautiful people who appear in public all the time can appear in print. I never aspired to magazine-coverdom, but this sort of makes me feel that perhaps I should stay inside.

    I mean, look at this picture of America Ferrera. Unless you are, say, devoted to blondes, it seems like it’d be hard to improve on the real thing.

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  26. nancy said on October 2, 2007 at 1:05 pm

    Wow. Around 1982, as I recall, was when guys at my gym started whispering about scoring steroids from a crooked vet at the harness-racing track in Columbus. Maybe that’s when the culture really changed. I note that the first guy, Larry Scott, looks nearly normal, at least compared to the two guys at the bottom of the page.

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  27. LA mary said on October 2, 2007 at 1:09 pm

    Ronnie Coleman’s photo is just flat out disturbing.

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  28. nancy said on October 2, 2007 at 1:16 pm

    Check out Jay Cutler’s off-season training table, or as he calls it…

    2007 Off Season Nutrition Strategy

    Meal 1 15 egg whites, 2 whole eggs, 4 slices of Ezekial toast, 1 cup (dry) of Ezekial with one cup of coffee.

    Meal 2 10 oz. steak with 2 cups of rice.

    Pre-Workout 1 scoop of Cell-Tech.

    Workout Train for an hour {workout guidelines below}

    Post-Workout 1 scoop of Cell-Tech with 3 scoops of Anator P70.

    Meal 3 10 oz. of chicken with 4 cups of rice (cooked).

    Meal 4 10 oz. of buffalo meat with 2 cups of rice.

    Meal 5 10 oz. of turkey, one cup of Ezekial cereal and 2 slices of Ezekial bread.

    Meal 6 3 scoops of Nitro-Tech and 4 slices of Ezekial bread.

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  29. Jolene said on October 2, 2007 at 1:17 pm

    Ronnie Coleman looks like a person who has been put inside an odd, puffy protective garment, perhaps for work in a hazardous environment of some sort.

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  30. LA mary said on October 2, 2007 at 1:24 pm

    I wonder what wine you serve with Cell-Tech and Anator 370.

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  31. brian stouder said on October 2, 2007 at 1:28 pm

    The Redbook link was fascinating.

    If I was going to assign an essay subject to Madame Telling Tales today, it would be to expand upon jezebel’s theme – that is, what calculus leads people in checkout lanes to reach for a heavily air-brushed image of ‘the way things are’? Presumeably this extends to things like which news channel to click to, and what news to believe.

    Because surely – Redbook knows what makes their magazine sell…and reminding their readership of their mortality probably ain’t it!

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  32. Jolene said on October 2, 2007 at 1:31 pm

    What’s most impressive about the nekkid Arnold picture is how young he was. From Wikipedia: He was only 20 when he first won the Mr. Universe title and 21 when he emigrated from Austria, in other words, a baby. This past summer, he turned 60.

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  33. Jolene said on October 2, 2007 at 1:43 pm

    Brian, please expand on the assignment. Not that I’m volunteering. I just didn’t quite understand it.

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  34. brian stouder said on October 2, 2007 at 2:20 pm

    It just struck me that Redbook (et al) must necessarily be responding to what appeals to people – providing some sort of reassurance.

    The jezebel link had a riff about how the magazine would appeal if your life was crappy enough – and that seems to have the idea by the tail…and maybe there is something a bit larger at work. Are airbrushed covers on mass-appeal mags akin to the basic human inclination to remember the good things and forget the bad? Or is it a more calculated effort to create icons – to set them (celebs) apart from the normal people in checkout lanes?

    Put another way, when Hugh Hefner built an empire on air-brushed images of ‘unobtainable’ women, was the airbrushing necessary to make them so beautiful, or just so unnatural that they they were unobtainable? For example, I loved meeting Minnie Mouse (and later, the Evil Queen) at WDW, precisely because she is just the same as she ever was (and she won’t end up in rehab or TMZ, or dead in her apartment in Anaheim); and despite knowing that she is entirely unreal, she (both Minnie and the EQ) is quite beautiful

    Julie’s complaint is related to this; overtly unreal characters that get zapped by mortality disappoint our expectations – if not simply breaking the bargain we have with them

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  35. ashley said on October 2, 2007 at 2:34 pm

    When I saw the Brasilian Volleyballista, I immediately began singing “ole, ole ole…”

    Mrs. Zane looks like Adrienne Barbeau without the things that are the only reason one would look at Adrienne Barbeau.

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  36. Julie Robinson said on October 2, 2007 at 2:49 pm

    I no longer understand the appeal of “women’s” magazines. I often bought them as a young married, when I was still learning about myself and thinking I had to live up to others’ expectations. And they were inexpensive and made me feel I was treating myself.

    But one day I had a revelation: they are all the same. Interchangeable covers of beautiful women, homes, or food with interchangeable stories of how to attain that perfection. Delectable desserts followed by the latest diet. Can this marriage be saved. Decorate your house on a budget (certainly never MY budget). How to have the big O. How to organize your: house, life, children. On and on. All about how we can never be perfect unless we do this or buy that.

    What a guilt trip.

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  37. nancy said on October 2, 2007 at 2:56 pm

    It’s pretty simple, Brian: Both men’s and women’s magazines sell a fantasy, and both do it with beautiful women. To men, they say, “you can have her,” and to women, “you can be her.”

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  38. brian stouder said on October 2, 2007 at 3:07 pm

    To men, they say, “you can have her,” and to women, “you can be her.”

    Extremely good encapsulation! And indeed, the fantasy is much less fantastic when we see real people try and actually live it out.

    The real magic is in the subtext (which adults recognize and accept, and others struggle to deny): “but not really

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  39. Jolene said on October 2, 2007 at 3:10 pm

    That was a brilliant summary, Nancy. Well done.

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  40. del said on October 2, 2007 at 4:22 pm

    It’s no wonder I keep returning to NNC for jems such jems as “Grotestical — Arnold’s eleventh finger — Britney’s vertical smile.”

    I have known a couple of folks marginally into bodybuilding. They start to get into into because of some difficult circumstance (job loss, divorce, health issue, incomplete dissertation) and it just grows from there. I think it’s comforting because it’s something they can actually control. As far as addictions go I can think of worse . . . it gets the endorphins/serotonins working and challenges. Of course, all is vanity.

    Jolene, those magazines remind me of the NYT homes section. Fantasy with the potential to depress.

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  41. nancy said on October 2, 2007 at 5:02 pm

    A friend of a friend is a “name” author who writes for women’s magazines under a pseudonym. By day, respectable-selling memoirist/essayist/NPR commentator, but her dark side bills $60K a year to rags with heavily Photoshopped covers. And from what I hear, everything you imagined is true: Editors come up with cover lines first, then craft a story to back them up. Hence: Lose 10 pounds in three days! or Ten dirty thing to whisper in his ear in bed! And so on.

    (Another editor, at a respectable business title, says the amount of time and planning that goes into cover lines is mind-boggling, including angels-dancing-on-the-head-of-a-pin parsing of single words. He reports most readers are, deep inside, two years old: The two words that move the most copies are YOU and NOW. Five stocks you should buy now. And so on.)

    I have a fondness for In Style, though — I read it when I’m getting my roots touched up.

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  42. alex said on October 2, 2007 at 5:06 pm

    Amazing what a coupla decades’ll do to one’s memory of a celebrity dong in a magazine. I stand corrected, Nance. He is average, and only mildly tumid if at all.

    Or maybe Spy airbrushed half of him away like Glamour did to America Ferrera.

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  43. nancy said on October 2, 2007 at 5:10 pm

    I’m more surprised he was circumcised, given his European heritage.

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  44. LA mary said on October 2, 2007 at 5:28 pm

    I have a friend who writes pretty often for Redbook for the extra bucks. I also have a friend who says the women’s mags are soft core porn for women.

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  45. alex said on October 2, 2007 at 7:17 pm

    I think Ahnold just scooched it back for show, Nance. They all do it lest it gross out some American and prevent them from getting laid.

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  46. ashley said on October 3, 2007 at 12:58 am

    And if that was before the steroids, his huevos wouldda shrunk by now.

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  47. del said on October 3, 2007 at 5:19 am

    Oops. It’s gems, not jems. Mighta been distracted by talk of bodybuilders’ jewels.

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  48. Kirk said on October 3, 2007 at 9:25 am

    Nance, you’re mostly right about sports departments, but bobybuilding is not a sport.

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  49. nancy said on October 3, 2007 at 9:28 am

    It’s not a sport the way baseball is a sport, but I’d make the same argument about golf.

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  50. brian stouder said on October 3, 2007 at 10:09 am

    Golf is unique in some ways – but I’d say the case against calling golf a sport has to be weak.

    True enough, players cannot actively affect other players’ scores (everyone is essentially playing their own game); but the physical and mental challenge of the game, and the painstaking preparations beforehand (if one expects to succeed) certainly make it (in my opinion) a sport.

    Plus, if a competitor has a bad day, she gets a paycut; and if she has a good one, she gets a big raise

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  51. harry near indy said on October 3, 2007 at 10:31 am

    i agree with brian sounder about golf being a sport. same with running events in track and field.

    or would running races be REAL sports if the runners had to knock each other out of the competition, like roller derby?

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