Life Not On The A-List

Comedian Kathy Griffin had a show called “My Life on the D-List“. It was a show that awakened me to the striations within the world of actors, actresses of celebrities. I mean if you stop and think about it, its something we would all appreciate, but if you don’t stop and think about it… well, its one of those things that aren’t necessarily self evident unless you have lived your life on any list other than the A-List. In short, living life on the D-List ain’t anything like living life on the A-list… which was probably the entire point of the show: to show that life for those not on the D-List may appear as glamorous, as fabulous as the life of A-Listers on the red carpet, but the rest of the time… its work to be a D-Lister. There is a lot of hustle, a lot of struggle and challenge to remain in the industry when producers, directors, script writers aren’t chasing you.

Where is this coming from?

Recently a C3 Newsletter congratulated Lionel Sanders on his ‘win’ at Ironman 70.3 Indian Wells. The post from the newsletter seems to have made its way to Triathlon Magazine Canada as you can read on the website. These posts made me think…

Back to his winning ways?  Really?

When Sanders came 30th in Kona at Ironman World Championships, there was not a single mention that Sanders even existed in the world of triathlon. All of a sudden, all the build up that accompanied Sanders going into Kona vanished. No one could remember his name… there was no mention from the C3 Newsletter that came out after Kona, and there was no mention from Triathlon Magazine Canada.

Then Sanders heads to Indian Wells, wins, and everyone remembers his name again and are quick to tout that Sanders is ‘back’!

Back from what?

At Ironman 70.3 Indian Wells, Sanders’ competition was a list of Pro Men that few would recognize by name. Joe Gambles? OK, so Gambles has placed in the top 10 of a variety of events, but he has not qualified to race in Kona so calling Sanders’ win a win… its a bit of a stretch. I don’t think Sanders was celebrating his win as if it was equivalent to a win in Kona.

Lets say Sanders is a B-List level athlete, what kind of win is it when you compare the success of a B-Lister to the performance of a bunch of C & D listers? I don’t think it says anything about anyone, yet this is exactly the point that is trying to be made about Sanders… he’s back.

Put Sanders up against Lange, Aernouts, McNamee, et al and if he podiums then I think it would be fair to say he is back… for how long… well, thats a different point altogether.

So why did Sanders go to Indian Wells?

For those unfamiliar with the less glamorous side of professional sport, there is the reality that pro athletes are not exempt from bills, need a roof over their heads, food on the table, etc..

My guess would be – and I think its a fairly accurate one – that Sanders went to Indian Wells in pursuit of an easy paycheque. Having gone to Kona figuring that he would podium which would pay off the expense of traveling and competing in Kona, and leave a bit over for life back at home and that not happening… Sanders was in need of some positive cash flow. Thats it. No back to winning ways… he needed a paycheque, plain and simple.  With Kona in the rear view mirror it probably wasn’t hard to find a race where there wasn’t going to be competition from A-List level athletes, and Sanders could bank on an easy (relatively) win.

On top of a paycheque, we have all read that Sanders has a new sponsor in Canyon. So.. why not check off two items from the to-do list at once… race Indian Wells, get a paycheque AND get a podium which would impress his new sponsor and put his new bike setup on the map.

If Sanders is back as is being claimed… then we will see it next season at Championship events, and we will see it consistently for years to come (as Crowie said… its easy to win once, winning year after year, now thats the hardest thing to do in sport)… not at some B or C List event.

In the meantime, Sanders has to make a living.  That’s what life is really like for a pro athlete. It ain’t all sponsor events, media interviews, and photo shoots… there is the necessary aspect of figuring out sometimes just how to get another paycheque.

It would serve well if we stop blowing the bullshit and put perspective on what athletes are doing so that up and coming aspiring athletes can start to appreciate what life really is like as a pro. Indeed, there are A List athletes who are paid to race, paid appearance fees, are paid through endorsement deals on top of podium wins… and then there are all the pros not on the A List… all the pros that have to “work” as in race in order to eat & sleep in comfort.

If we used these opportunities to educate aspiring athletes, then the culture shock of life as a pro being a rise from couch surfing to potentially red carpet would be far less of a shock. Lets stop pretending that all pros live on the A List and it ain’t anything other than fame & fortune… or more importantly that the A List is within reach with just a handful of wins.

Those actors and actresses on the A list didn’t just get there… for the majority it was years and years and years of D, and C, and B level movies… years and years of acting classes, and perhaps waiting tables in LA as they awaited their big opportunity. Aspiring athletes need to know that there are no short cuts to the top of anything and reflecting on the lives of current pro athletes can serve as a greater learning opportunity.