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The Dress, The CrossFit Open, and Jerry Tarkanian (Adopted from Sunday musings 3/8/15)

The Dress. You know what I’m talking about. Admit it. That picture showed up all over your internet stuff and you actually looked at it and thought about it. Admit it. So did I.

In my day job I spend my time thinking about vision. The Dress is all about wavelengths of light and direction of gaze and just-prior view. Not only do I understand the intersection of physics and physiology behind the color shifting, but as a semi-professional teacher I can actually explain what’s going on. Just not here. Sunday musings is a place for metaphor, more meta-physics than Mendellian. I see The Dress and I think Point of View, Frame of Reference, and of course since this started off as “Sunday musings” on CrossFit.com I go directly to The CrossFit Games.

Shocking, I know.

Last week brought us our annual kerfluffle about something CrossFit HQ did or didn’t do that will certainly be the ultimate destruction of the CrossFit Games. Happens every year. Usually not quite so quickly but, hey, The Dave Castro is getting better at everything CrossFit Games related so why not better and faster at Games controversy, too? For those who missed it (both of you), a few gyms and a few athletes figured out a “security flaw” in the rules for Open 15.1 and gamed the WOD. Once discovered Messieurs Castro and Berg “patched” the software as it were, and The Games 2015 were saved. Probably a penguin or two was also saved along the way.

If you read even .001% of the comments on internet posts that followed this “controversy” you had to be impressed by how broad and varied the viewpoints were. Who was to blame? Why did it happen? What should/shouldn’t be done? All of this with a heaping helping of ad hominem aimed at both HQ and the athletes/Affiliates. Like The Dress, what one thought or wrote about L’affaire 15.1 was driven by where you were looking from and what you had looked at before. Your POV, your Frame of Reference, the pre-conceived notions you apply color the issue and give it meaning that isn’t really there.

There really is no deeper meaning. What color dress you see when you look at your screen is a simple fact and has no extended significance whatsoever. The Dress does not provide any examination of your psyche or your soul, and the potential to game 15.1 provides no deeper insight into anyone involved.

HQ simply didn’t think 15.1 out the way a few competitors did. The Dress is just a dress.

Which brings me to Jerry Tarkanian the famous college basketball coach who died on February 11. You might find it odd that I choose to remember that today, right after talking about rules and rules enforcement in the CrossFit Open. For those of you who don’t know who Jerry Tarkanian was (no doubt the same two of you who didn’t hear about the Open rules Kerfluffle), the Tark spent much of his career battling the NCAA over what he felt was unequal application of the rules.

Did Tarkanian break any rules along the way? Was he singled out for more vigilant policing and enforcement of those rules? Kinda depends on where you are and where you’ve been when you are looking. I think there really is a difference between The Tark and the athletes/Affiliates who found a loophole in the rules. I’ll let the Sports Illustrated writer Tim Layden explain:

“Tarkanian was a basketball junkie with a disdain for rules that impeded him.”

Like golfers who not only seek to know and follow the letter of the Rules of Golf (always capitalized, BTW), CrossFit in general is populated by folks who also follow the spirit or intention of the rules. That does leave room for the Bill Belichek approach of knowing the rules so well that you can sometimes use them to your advantage (see Woods, Tiger: The Masters). Again, Layden:

“[Tarkanian] was about the scoreboard, the money, the wins.”

We all cheer for winners. We can’t take our eyes off them. The ones who seem consumed with the winning appear almost larger than life. Their quest for victory fascinates us. Love him or loathe him, Belichek commands your attention, much like Jerry Tarkanian when he was battling the NCAA while winning basketball games by the bucketful. The difference, I think, is in that disdain for the rules that Layden ascribes to Tarkanian. Does Belichek feel the same way? Woods? You may agree or disagree about whether walking through the loophole in 15.1 is in keeping with the spirit of the rules, but you cannot find that there is disdain for the rules, or the Games, or CrossFit in general on the part of any CrossFit Games Open athlete.

Layden: “[Tarkanian] wasn’t larger than life at all. He was just lifeā€¦”

Life, and the Open, go on.