It’s not complicated. Bodybuilders and powerlifters do not make big money as competitors because the crowd is small.
To make money you need a crowd, preferably a big and dumb one. If that’s not covered, the bank manager will not be smiling. You know those people who do magic tricks and dance in the street? Well, their business plan is simple: the more people gather to watch, the more money there’s to collect. The same is true for virtually any field. Unfortunately or not, bodybuilding and powerlifting are not organized in a way that can produce a massive crowd. The reasons? Where do I start?
Most people don’t really want applaud shaved and tanned men wearing what looks to be platinum thongs. The flexing and fake dehydrated smiles don’t help either. It’s also worth noting that there are only 2-3 major competitions throughout the year. Infrequent gatherins essentially mean that the store is closed most of the time. In comparison others games like football have major ceremonies every week. More ceremonies = more people = more bank.
I have an exercise for you. Take a nice quality picture of your favorite bodybuilder. The one on the refrigerator may be just fine. Just make sure it’s HD (at least 720p) and revealing all the glory including the regrowing body wool. Then go and show it to 10 random people. Chances are they will all think you are weird as hell and will start talking behind your back. In case you are wondering what names they may be calling you, look up the term “schmoe”. It’s one of the many possibilities.
Still, the fact that the majority condemns something, does not mean that something is bad. Sometimes individuals could be right even when the crowd is thinking the opposite. It happens daily. However, in this case we are talking about milking the horde of walking pinheads, which means that the show must be appealing to the majority. The sports that produce the greatest amount of revenue are the ones with the biggest crowds. Coincidence? Not really. Just careful and smart programming.
The same goes for powerlifting. Approach 10 random people and show them a video of a powerlifting world record. Most likely 8 out 10 will bored out of their minds before the lift has even started. To the ordinary person heavy is heavy. They don’t care whether it’s 300 pounds or 800 pounds. Also, looking at big hairy men in singlets screaming like monkeys is not really entertaining either. Truth be told, the sport of powerlifting is only interesting if you are involved in it yourself and we all know the crowd does not even lift.
So, where is that big money supposed to come from? It can only come from outside of competition through selling products – supplements, books, thongs, G4P, autographs, drugs, coaching…etc.
Given the amount of drugs professionals have to take all the time, those two muscle games have bad reviews and make for a bad investment. Every month a lot of money is being put on muscle fibers, but very few competitions actually pay well. Unless you have a contract with a magazine or a sugar mommy you are screwed. I don’t think there is a single competition that pays well compared to other high level sport contests – not even Mr. Olympia. Given the large expenses spent on maintaining big muscles, even the prize money for first place is cheap change compared to what more popular sports such as cricket, chess, baseball, football, rugby and tennis have to offer.
Out of the two, powerlifting seems to award the worse paycheck. For his raw bench press world record Eric Spoto got something like 5, 500 dollars. Obviously this kind of money is not much, especially in America. Damn, even darts pays much better.
One of the reasons powerlifting is less attractive are the numerous federations with crazy rules and the lack of support from the state. Olympic weightlifters are not millionaires either, but at least the best get way better salaries and recognition. That’s because the sport is professional and there aren’t twenty different federations with thirty different rules.
If there is only one governing body with strict judging, powerlifting may be able to compete with Olympic weightlifting. Currently, however, many meets are literally judged by friends of the lifters. Often the so-called judges just feel obligated to give white lights, even when there’s an obvious violation of the rules such as not pausing the bench or locking out your deadlift.
Anyway, even with all that fixed the sport will still be a low paying one. People don’t want to see men after men performing the same thing. They want to see action.
Remember: we are trying to hit the public, not just a small niche of brain damaged people. I understand that when you are personally involved you can see details others can’t, but when you go to a movie and it sucks despite the great video editing, you still call it out, don’t you? Well, the crowd does the same.
Even some of the greatest muscle heroes such as the Terminator himself have made most of their bank from activities outside of the iron niche. Bodybuilding and powerlifting can help your career too, but they will rarely be a source of millions that can rival Hollywood.
Of course, the fact that something is popular does not make it worthy. The national sport in my country is football and I used to play as a kid for many years. I even collected albums containing portrait photos of players. I was addicted and wanted to have every single sticker. No exception. Guess, what? Now I hate football and can’t stand watching it unless I have people around and can make fun of the players. For this reason alone you shouldn’t give up on something just because it’s not trendy. Trendy is overrated.
Part of the reasons some sports are more popular than others are cultural. People associate with different games without actually liking the activity that much. The feeling of belonging to a group is addicting. It makes you feel like you have a life, even though you are used as a pawn sponsor while the owners and the bookies do whatever they want. Modern athletics work like stationary bikes – people use them to burn energy without having to go anywhere.
Sports watching and entertainment in general could be looked at as a yard walk in one universal prison. It’s a distraction from a live sentence. At the end of the day, however, you still sleep in your cell.
Will this ever change? I doubt it.