Exposure, Exposure, Exposure...
For 6 years I have competed and I always was intrigued by the exposure offered to the athletes by the MuscleMania advertisements I would see displayed in all the mainstream bodybuilding magazines. While many organizations would claim to be the leader in natural bodybuilding, MuscleMania would prove to actually keep their word and provide the athletes with magazine and television coverage, via ESPN nonetheless.
Some of the bodybuilding shows I have done in the past have been met with mixed results. From promising television and magazine coverage, to promoting the show as a drug tested event, only to show up and be told that the gentleman permitting the lie detector test was unable to make it.
I felt like as a natural bodybuilder I was being treated as a second class athlete, not good enough to receive the respect that our chemically assisted brothers and sisters receive. Why just because we are not the freak shows that are paraded around by some of the big time organizations within the sport, are we to be held responsible for making the decision to train and compete naturally?
Frustration Level Rising
My frustration continued to grow; at my last show in September of 2001, I competed in a show heralded as a national natural competition with magazine coverage, and a level of competition and professionalism a hard-working natural bodybuilder could be proud of. The competition was held in Las Vegas so I thought being in such a highly visible venue this contest would draw many competitors, while also offering the athletes some exposure, well I was wrong, and boy was I wrong.
I entered the conference room, and I use the term loosely because if you are going to have a national competition a bunch of folding chairs and no seating arrangement is not the way to present to a paying audience an event that's to be taken seriously. In addition to this poor setup the competitors were not allowed to videotape the event because they had someone who taped the event, then each competitor would have to pay 40 dollars for the pre-judging and another 40 dollars for the finals.
Well I ordered both videos totaling 80 dollars only to find the poorest video quality I have ever seen on a videotaped event. To top it all off, I wasn't even filmed on the night show tape, so I missed my routine and also was out 40 dollars and could not reach the people whom were responsible for this poor excuse for videography.
Enter the MuscleMania competition; the date was June 22, 2002 the first day of the rest of my competitive bodybuilding career. Just when I thought there was no light at the end of the tunnel, this day would prove to be my savior. Just the aura that I felt while walking onto the famed Lincoln Road in South Beach Miami, and then entering the beautifully decorated Lincoln Theatre, I knew that this organization was taking every blood, sweat, and tear that the athletes shed in preparing for this day, and channeling it throughout the stage and sound system.
Each athlete could feel the excitement of the show, while walking on stage your made to feel like a star, starting with a personal introduction while the music energizes the prejudging show like no other event could even begin to approach.
The prejudging was grueling yet the fairest judging that I have witnessed at a bodybuilding contest, giving each athlete a fair shot to be evaluated, after putting in all those hard working hours in the gym and with the dieting it's a pleasure to finally find an organization that will let you display your physique in all its unique beauty, to the judges. At one point during the show I felt like a pro bodybuilder, while there were members of the staff actually offering and delivering to me on stage towels to dry off and bottles of water. I was finally getting my due; I could have finished 20th out of 20 competitors and still felt like I was just as important as the man who placed first.
The night show was a spectacle that has to be seen to be believed. I have seen many IFBB finals competitions and none of these routines by the pros could match the routines by the natural pros as well as amateurs at the MuscleMania finals. The MuscleMania actually makes your final posing routine 25% of your final score, which gives the athletes much more creativity in developing an entertaining routine. When it was time to do my routine I was shocked to actually see an ESPN camera staring directly at me, the adrenaline rush was exacerbating to say the least, but a sense of pride and accomplishment came over me just as quickly. After exiting the stage I was taken backstage to give an actual urine test, the true standard of drug testing in sports today.
At the beginning of the night show the classiest act that I have seen done at a bodybuilding contest was to bring all the contestants out on stage regardless of placing, and let them get introduced to the sold out crowd and pose down with all the competitors in the class, A true pleasure to witness. The beautifully sculpted trophies were also a treat; resembling and Oscar award, again making the athletes feel like stars. After the show the fun still was not over, we were invited as athletes competing in the MuscleMania to one of the areas hottest nightspots for VIP treatment, simply amazing.
The next morning was media day, and I couldn't begin to tell you how much fun it is to work so hard for a competition and actually have a day dedicated to capturing the athletes on film displaying their physiques for all in the fitness world to marvel. I would like to personally thank everyone involved in making MuscleMania what it is today, and Im sure all the natural athletes who ever get to experience a MuscleMania contest would agree they set the standard for natural bodybuilding.