What’s Missing that Would Make Bodybuilding a Mainstream Sport?

by Matt Weik

Wouldn’t it be nice to turn on the television on a Friday and Saturday night and be able to watch a bodybuilding show? Instead, we are left to pay for a plane ticket, hotel, transportation, and ticket to go see a show in person. If you’re into that kind of thing, cool. But for those of us who have a family, it’s impossible to make frequent trips to bodybuilding shows. What we are left with are crappy livestream productions that have the clarity and crispness of beer goggles, all while paying more than a damn UFC Pay-Per-View – it’s insane!

So many times, I’ll be chatting with people who are in the industry or who love bodybuilding, and we’ll bring up how nice it would be to have bodybuilding become a mainstream sport where national television would pick up the events and broadcast them. Why don’t they? I have a few ideas why and I have them listed below.

1. No Money (For Anyone)

Let’s face it, it’s almost impossible these days to make it as a bodybuilder. Things have changed, and while in the ’90s, there were tons of sponsorships available, they are few and far between today. So, not only are bodybuilders not really able to make a living from the sport, but the promoters aren’t making a whole heck of a lot either. They’d literally need a television deal to make it all worth it.

2. How to Broadcast Several Simultaneously

The first issue here would be someone would need to pick up the shows to televise. Then, how would they choose which show to broadcast on a given week? There are weeks where several shows are going on at the exact same time – how would you choose? Not only that, but you would almost need several channels to cover the sport in order to cover shows consistently. Think along the lines of sports being on FOX, ABC, NBC, ESPN, TNT, CBS, etc. Many of them cover the same sport but each a different game. They make it work.

Here’s a bigger question… Who has enough money to throw into this and form their very own bodybuilding channel? I mean, golf has its own channel. Tennis has its own channel. And there are plenty of television shows out there that I’m sure have horrendous viewership but still throw money at it. Heck, there’s a spelling bee on ESPN, for God’s sake! Why not toss some money at a bodybuilding channel and see what happens? You can make it a fitness channel and go back to the old ESPN days and broadcast workouts, healthy cooking shows, etc. I think it would be awesome!

3. The Need for Acceptance

It goes without saying, but bodybuilding is taboo. It’s like the hot chick at the gym who has the most gigantic knockers out there and wears a baseball cap down low because she’s a porn star and knows what she does is taboo but just wants to fit it instead of turning heads each time she goes for a jog on the treadmill or has someone recognize her and know they probably saw her latest video of her getting plowed in the ass by seven BBC.

It’ll just never be accepted as “NORMAL.”

Now that I think about it, bodybuilding and porn are nearly identical in terms of acceptance. Both have their niche audience. Both have enhanced physiques. Neither are really accepted and are mostly frowned upon. And neither will probably ever have a big enough and accepted audience that it will make it onto your television set at home.

4. There Needs to Be Some Sort of Hype

As much as I hate drama in sports, I’m not sure there’s any other way to make this entertaining for the non-bodybuilding fans to get interested in. When you think of WWE (or whatever the hell it’s called these days), you know the whole production is fake, but it’s entertaining to watch the feuds and drama unfold. You’d almost need the same thing in bodybuilding.

Think along the lines of Jay versus Ronnie. It was always a battle. It was like the Bulls playing the Pistons back in the day. Or even think about the drama between Kai and Phil. You need something. Heck, even the Blessing and Nick banter back and forth stirred the pot and got people excited. The sport needs a little something more than it’s currently providing.

5. Judging and Scoring Would Need to Be Transparent

As a bodybuilding fan myself, I’ll admit that there are times I look at the judge’s scores and scratch my head. You can have one show where the biggest guy on the stage wins the show, and then the very next show with the same group of competitors you have the most shredded guy win – there’s no consistency. How do you have such wide swings in what the judges are looking for? It’s gotta be frustrating for the competitors too!

On top of that, if anyone were to start watching a bodybuilding show, they’d have absolutely no idea who is placing where because scoring isn’t posted. There’s no transparency and therefore no excitement to see “who can edge the other guy out” and create some suspense. It’s essentially a mystery until the end of the show unless you understand what to look for in the callouts.

6. Inconsistencies with Competitors Competing

For a long time, I’ve been saying that we should be able to see bodybuilders hit the stage more than once a year. Guys such as Bob Chick like to argue with me over this fact, but many top bodybuilders sit out all year if they’ve already got their Olympia invite. What makes a sport fun is seeing the top guys compete. Can you imagine if Michael Jordan sat out all year and only showed up for Game 7 of the Finals? Or if Brady decided he won’t play until the Super Bowl? No. You look forward to watching them compete consistently. And I get it, it’s taxing on the body, but a few shows spread out over the year would be great to see the top bodybuilders hop on stage at.

We need to reconsider how the sport is set up and allow the fans to see their favorite bodybuilders more often. It would bring more excitement to some smaller, more local shows while building excitement for the bigger shows like the Olympia.

What do you think? Is it possible that one day we’ll be able to watch bodybuilding on our television as if it were any other professional sport? Let us know down in the comments.