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Behind the Games Broadcasts With Mike Roth

Mike Roth(3)-Mike-Roth
 

Sean (00:00):

Hi everybody and welcome to another edition of Two-Brain Radio with Sean Woodland. On today’s episode, I speak with the man who was the television director for the CrossFit Games from 2011 through 2018, Mike Roth. Over the years I’ve covered dozens of fitness events all around the world and I have seen the best of the best work with coaches to find success. Yet many business owners don’t think coaches can help them. If you want to hit a revenue PR, visit TwoBrainbusiness.com to book a free call and find out how a business coach can help you. Mike Roth, or as we call him, Rothy, has been working in sports television since 1984, and nobody has directed more broadcasts of CrossFit events than he has. We talk about how he first got roped into directing the CrossFit Games way back in 2011, how many times things almost went completely off the rails during a broadcast and what needs to happen for the CrossFit Games season to get back to where it was in 2018. Thanks for listening everyone. Rothy, thanks for doing this, man. How are you today?

Mike (01:13):

I’m well, thank you. I’m well, I was at the gym this morning feeling like an old guy, but I’m recovering slowly.

Sean (01:19):

You’re looking good man.

Mike (01:20):

I appreciate you saying so, I’m working hard enough.

Sean (01:24):

Yes. Hey, you know, just keep moving forward. Before we get into the whole TV side of things, there are people who don’t know a lot about television and may not know what a television director does. So what does a sports television director do?

Mike (01:38):

So the easiest way to explain it is when you’re watching a television show at home, you’re seeing the shots change, right? And that’s different cameras and you’re seeing graphics go in and out or you’re seeing a replay happen. And my job is to paint a picture with cameras, right? So my job is to pick the right shot during action, right? Whether it’s a hockey game or a CrossFit event or a basketball game, so that you at home are seeing the very best angle in real time. Then my job at the same time is to be listening to a producer who is sitting next to me and listening to announcers who are talking to make sure that if a whistle blows or there’s a break in the action or using the CrossFit example, it’s a long event and you know Sean and you and Tommy want to talk about somebody in lane five that I’m listening to you and I’m listening to my producers so I can get us to lane five. Once I do, right, what’s the best shot?

Mike (02:38):

And then, OK, now we have a graphic with that athlete’s name. Put that in. Let people read it, take it out. So I’m really painting this picture with cameras and I’m talking to the cameramen the entire time, the camera operators, telling them what to shoot, shoot tighter, shoot looser, shoot the guy in lane five, shoot the guy in lane seven you know, we’re watching the finish line. So all of that’s in real time. And hopefully if you’re sitting at home, it doesn’t feel like all of that’s happening, it’s just one seamless, you know, coverage.

Sean (03:06):

How did you get roped into the production side of things of the CrossFit Games?

Mike (03:13):

So I was working in Phoenix, Arizona at the time, and I got a call from an old pal of mine, Eric Thomas, who I’d worked with for years on car racing all over the world. And ET called me and he said, I’ve got this crazy event and we need a director and I think you’d be the right guy to work with these people. And I said, what is it? He said, you know what CrossFit is? And this was 2011 and I said, no, I don’t. What is it? And he said, it’s world’s strongest man meets Olympic gymnastics. I said, OK, all right. Yeah, sounds good enough. And he said, it’s a week in LA. And what you have to understand about this group of people is they’re the most dysfunctional people you’ll ever meet.

Sean (03:57):

That was an understatement.

Mike (03:59):

They are. They are unable to focus on anything for more than two minutes before some sort of athletic endeavor breaks out.

Mike (04:09):

He says, all of a sudden they’re running stairs. They’re doing push-ups or there’s some competition at all times. He said they speak their own language, but it doesn’t matter because they won’t tell you what any of the events are until an hour before the events. I said, well, how do I cover an event if I don’t know what it is until an hour before? He said, well, that’s the good part. They’ll put cameras whereever you want. As many cameras as you want. I said, really? So I said, all right, they’re dysfunctional, they speak their own language. They can’t focus on anything. Sounds perfect, man. A week in LA, I’m good. So I agreed to fly to LA and meet Tony Budding, Rory Mckernan and a merry band of misfits. And I remember ET rented a van and he picked us all up at LAX.

Mike (04:57):

We’re all at different terminals and we had everybody in the car. And the first thing Tony Budding said was, “We’ve got to go eat.” And ET said, I forgot to tell you, everything’s about eating. Like we’re going to go eat breakfast for an hour. And as soon as we’re done eating breakfast, we’ll be talking about lunch. I said, wow, we only have a few hours guys. And they said, no, we’ll talk over breakfast. So we went right to breakfast. I realized quickly, Tony and I were brothers from different mothers and I went through the weirdest site survey I’ve ever been through and I realized, these guys have no idea what they’re talking about, but it sounds like it could be a fun ride. So I signed up and I directed my first CrossFit Games in July of 2011.

Sean (05:40):

The CrossFit production department was pretty much in its infancy at that point. What did you think about what they had built so far when you first saw it?

Mike (05:50):

They hadn’t built much. I mean, they had the website and there were videos on the website and I was impressed with the volume of videos on the website. You know, it seemed like every day there were new videos and that was impressive. From a live standpoint, they hadn’t really done anything live. They sort of did the 2010 Games in LA to a big screen. I don’t think you could see it anywhere except if you were there, but I was told they bought three pro zoomer cameras and they pulled some CrossFitters out of the crowd and said, you’re running camera. So in 2011, we added our first TV truck and we were a crew of about 30, and we parked in the bowels of the StubHub center.

Mike (06:38):

And you know, all of a sudden here we go. And you know, like literally I got there, this will tell you how little I knew. I got to LA on Monday and was told, Oh, we’ve added an event on Wednesday in Hermosa Beach. On the beach, on the pier and you have to go set it up tomorrow and then you’ll be live Wednesday at like 6:00 AM. And I said, Oh, can I put cameras on the pier? No, no, because we don’t have a permit. Really. We kind of have a permit. We don’t really have a permit. And interestingly, I said, well, what are they going to do? And they said, well, they’re gonna run, they’re going to do kettlebell swings on the beach. And then they’re gonna swim around the pier. I said, Oh, well I’m going to need a helicopter if they’re going to be out there in the water, you know, they said, OK.

Mike (07:34):

I thought, wow, that didn’t take very much. So Tuesday comes and we go out to Hermosa Beach and I said, who’s the camera guy who’s going to be on the helicopter? I want to call him and talk to him. And they said, what camera? And I said well, we need to have a camera on the helicopter. They said, no, we got you a helicopter. Because as soon as you’re done here, you have to get on a helicopter and fly back to site because you have to direct the team stuff that afternoon. And I said, wow. So they got me a helicopter and Heber Canon was on that helicopter, Heber and I, and there was one other person, they drove us to a helipad and they helicoptered us to the the StubHub center. And I remember landing and looking down and there were all these different boxes were represented and they all have their different colored T-shirts on. And that’s the first time I said it looks like the Woodstock of fitness. And it was absolutely wild. But yeah, so we had helicopters, just we didn’t have any cameras on it.

Sean (08:35):

Other than not knowing events, maybe minutes before they took place, and you know, dealing with equipment shortages, what were some of the challenges that you faced in 2011 getting that competition on air?

Mike (08:50):

Dave Castro. And I will preface this by saying Dave and I have come a long way to finding middle ground. And I think we’re in a fairly good place now. But Dave certainly wasn’t used to having to run things on a schedule other than his own. And I was used to TV time, which is if you’re not five minutes early, you’re late. If we say we’re going at 12:01, then at 12:01 we go. And we definitely struggled with that. I was not used to a sport in which the rules change mid-heat, which is, you know, a CrossFit standard, time caps changing and rules changing and those sorts of things. So I, you know, I had to learn that. And then the other thing that I had to learn that I didn’t expect was I didn’t know anything about CrossFit.

Mike (09:47):

And the biggest thing to me was a guy would finish clean and jerk and he would drop the barbell and then he would walk to a box to do box jumps. So I would cut to somebody else and I kept hearing the transition matters, the transition matters. And I thought, well, what? It’s just a guy walking from a barbell to a box. What I learned later on in my CrossFit life, cause at this point I was not CrossFitting, was that that transition tells you a lot about where an athlete is. Right. Is his chest high? Is he breathing normally? Is he grabbing his shorts? Is he limping? Is he crawling, you know, those sort of things. So there was a lot of that. And Tony Budding who is a dear, dear brother of mine, stood behind me the entire week and just screamed in my ear what he wanted to see cause he was, as he said, helping loudly.

Sean (10:40):

That’s another understatement. When you finish this whole competition up, you’ve been there now for the whole weekend and it’s all said and done, what’s going through your head?

Mike (10:47):

Never again. Never again. I honestly left there thinking, there is no way I can work with these people again. Like this is madness, and I was one of the only TV professionals on the production side. Heber Canon, who’s a friend of the show, he will tell you his one and only live TV producing experience was that week. They made Heber the producer, and he swore never again as well and went on to a phenomenal career doing other things. But yeah, I walked away and I was like, there is no way I could put myself through that again.

Sean (11:26):

So why did you decide to come back the next year?

Mike (11:31):

So, I got a call from Tony in March of 2012 and he didn’t ask so much as tell me that we are doing the Central East Regional as a test broadcast for the CrossFit Games, and here were the dates and I should be there. And I said, OK, hang on. I said, the only way I’m coming back is if I can bring a producer. And he said, great, great. Get a guy. And I said, all right, all right, this will be better if I have a producer. So our friend EB, Eric Barnhart, I dragged him into the fray. I didn’t tell him much, admittedly, I can’t believe we’re still friends. And I said it’d be fun. It’s different, you know. And Tony had this plan where we were going to be live for 12 hours a day with a set and competition and 20 announcers and it was madness. But it was sort of the point at which I said, all right, as long as I’ve got somebody who knows TV riding with me, I can do that. That was the first time we met.

Sean (12:41):

Yeah. And one of my favorite stories from that was, I don’t know who asked whom, but someone was in the room and said, if you’re an announcer, raise your hand. Where were you during that whole incident?

Mike (12:56):

I was the one who said that. And then 20 hands went up and I looked at EB and I said, and that is your problem. So the producer typically deals with the announcers a lot more than the director. So I felt like I was getting off easy on that one.

Sean (13:14):

From a broadcast standpoint, obviously things are starting to grow, but what did you think that CrossFit as a sport needed to really get to the next level?

Mike (13:25):

It needed to be easier to follow. Well it needed to start on time and that was what I tried to explain to Dave and Tony was, you know, if you’re looking at networks, you know, in 2011 we ended up on ESPN3, which you know, timing doesn’t really matter, but I said if you’re looking at networks, you can’t tell ESPN, hey, we’re going to start at noon and then you know, at 10 after noon and be like, yeah, we’re thinking about it. But the other thing was it had to be easier to follow and back then things were not at all linear. There was a lot of, you know, you had athletes moving in both directions or sometimes all four directions and so as a spectator or as a viewer on television, it was very hard to tell what was going on. And that was the next thing that needed to be addressed was just who’s actually winning this thing when I tune in.

Sean (14:15):

The 2012 Games was, fast forward now, we’re back in Los Angeles, presented one of the most unique challenges from a production standpoint because we had to go cover those events at Pendleton. What stands out to you about that day at that location?

Mike (14:30):

The two biggest things from Pendleton, I will give you two. The first is that we had a full set-up day because we had to take all of our cables and bury them in the sand all the way out to the cameras. So you’re talking about hundreds of yards for some of these cameras. And we had a map with a start line and a finish line on it. And we had a camera plan and all that had been signed off on and we did this and we trenched the beach and we buried the cables and we did all of those things. And the next morning, Tony and Dave Castro came out and said, we didn’t realize it was going to be low tide so the athletes can actually enter the beach here and exit the beach where we had told you, we have to move everything a hundred or 200 yards down the beach.

Mike (15:21):

And I said, well, we can’t move all the cameras in an hour. So what do you want to do? And they said, well then it’ll just be whatever it is. And I said, OK. So that was the first thing I remember just thinking, I had this beautiful jib with a 35-foot arm in the middle of nowhere, like literally not shooting them entering the water, leaving the water or anything. And then the other thing, and this is madness, and in my entire career I’ve never experienced anything like this. The plan was that we were going to cover the athletes. They were going to run down the beach, they were going to jump in the water, they were going to swim back, they were going to run across the beach, they were going to get on bicycles. And they were going to head off into the hills.

Mike (15:59):

We were going to cover all of that until the last bike headed up in the hills and was out of sight. We were then going to pack up the entire television truck. Now mind you, this normally takes between two and three hours when you’re not dealing with the beach. We were going to pack up the entire television truck, drive it around the mountain, park it, pull everything back out, reset it in time to cover the athletes coming down the mountain. And then the obstacle course race that was going to be on the other side of the mountain. And somehow, we got one camera up and running as the first man crested the hill and we actually had video of this. Whoever won the event, I don’t remember, coming down the hill and I remember Tony Budding looking at me and saying, see, you thought it couldn’t be done.

Sean (16:56):

Along those lines, there have been plenty of times throughout your career directing the CrossFit Games where things almost went completely off the rails during a broadcast. What are some of your more memorable incidents where things almost totally crashed and burned?

Mike (17:11):

There are so many. I mean the beauty of what we do and you know, the magic of it is if you’re at home, you don’t know that everybody’s pants are on fire, we’re doing our job right. And literally there were times where things were on fire. But there were moments, and this happened a lot with offsites, where all of a sudden they changed where they were running or the direction they were running or where they were going to enter and leave the stadium. And I would find this out an hour, maybe two before coverage started and now we had to move all our gear. And so there were definitely times where not was moved when they were starting the event. And so, you know, with one side of your brain, you’re watching to see when cameras started coming up and the truck where I can, OK, now I can see that camera, I can use it, now I can see that camera.

Mike (18:01):

And at the same time, you’re directing the show with the cameras that are working. Those happened, you know, more times than I care to admit. But you know, we got really good at dealing in the mayhem and chaos. And a big part of that is we put together a great group of people, people who were more than just a crew, you know, they were family and they were invested. And you know, so my last Games was 2018. So in 16, 17 and 18, we were nine television trucks and 350 people on the broadcast crew. That’s as big as the Super Bowl. And we, that group of people, you know, we would get everybody in the meal tent for a mandatory crew meeting on Wednesday morning or Tuesday morning. And everybody there was there because they were handpicked and because they wanted to come back.

Mike (18:59):

And we had, you know, technicians who had worked all eight years that I was there with me and they were committed to making this a success and we would never have been able to pull off what we pulled off, never, without guys who were that—not just good at what they did, but able to evolve. You know, we realized early on like bitching about it wasn’t going to change. You know what I mean? Yeah. It’s frustrating. It was, you know, my first couple of years, it really like my head was blown a lot that things would change, like remember the runoff? All of a sudden we see guys putting their sneakers back on in the stadium and you were on the air calling it and it’s like,

Sean (19:43):

I have no idea what’s going on, we’ll let you know when we find out.

Mike (19:47):

Exactly. And we have no idea what’s happening and, you know, and things like that. And then also because it became so big, there were times where things that we had no control over, like there’s no audio in the beer garden. OK. I’m sitting here in a TV, I don’t even know what that is, but you’re all losing your minds and I’m still, I have to direct this. So can you lose your minds outside, you know, or at one point I remember hearing Dave Castro doesn’t like what’s on the big screen. Again, OK. But that’s not our department, you know, so we’re just going to keep making pictures until we can’t. But so there were a lot of occasions where you kind of went, oh man, I don’t know if we’re going to pull this off. We probably will. The last year, in 2018, they had the parade of nations for the first time and we were supposed to do it in the Coliseum in Madison.

Mike (20:43):

And an hour before I get a call, they said, what if we to move this to the North park? Cause we have all these people waiting outside and we’re afraid we have too many fans and we’re going to have people who aren’t going to be able to get in. And I said, well, you could move it to the North Park. You have no cameras there or no cameramen. Now you can move it anywhere you want. And I was asked, are you sure? I said, no, I’m sure that you cannot be covered there. We don’t have equipment there. Nothing is ready to go. But that was, you know, that was CrossFit. And I learned that it was important to tell them the truth and not try to be a hero when we couldn’t and then be a hero when we could.

Sean (21:22):

We will continue our chat with Mike Roth and just a moment. But first I want to tell you about 500-pound deadlifts. To get a big deadlift, you need to follow all the steps in order. It’s a journey. You can’t just step up to a heavy barbell every day and pull. It’s the same deal with business. So Chris Cooper has mapped out the exact steps a gym owner must take to level up and eventually reach wealth. All these steps are based on research and data. There’s no guesswork anymore. A Two-Brain mentor can help you analyze your business, figure out where you’re at, then tell you the exact things you need to do to grow. It’s all in the new Two-Brain Roadmap available to clients. To find out if working with a mentor is right for you, book a free call at twobrainbusiness.com. Now more with Mike Roth.

Sean (22:15):

At what point did the synergy between the live event side of things and the TV production side really start to build?

Mike (22:26):

I think in 2013. So I did 11 and 12 and it was kind of a shit show.

Mike (22:37):

And in 2013 now we were live on ESPN for the championship. You know the final hour that we’re going to crown our champions on ESPN and I think that was where everybody said, oh we really need to—this has to go on time. Like we have a one-hour time slot, we’ve got a men’s event, we’ve got a women’s event, we want to crown our champions, like we need to do this right. And I think, you know, here’s the thing about Dave Castro, he’s an incredibly intelligent guy, and the guy make can make anything happen, but he had to have the desire to make it happen. And I think 13 was sort of that year, and you know, Dave started to understand what we did a lot better. We started to understand what he did a lot better. You know, it took a while. It’s science and art and magic all sort of rolled into one on both sides. And so I think like by the time we got to 14 we were starting to really make sense of it and I will say like from 14 to 18, what we did coverage-wise, like I would hang my hat on that. I’m as proud of that as I am of anything I’ve done.

Sean (23:46):

Yeah. Along those lines, what are your proudest moments from directing the CrossFit Games?

Mike (23:54):

Rich’s first win in 11, just cause it was my first Games and that was sort of my entree into this is CrossFit. And that was where I was like, I am definitely never going to CrossFit. Look at these guys. Like there’s no way. Rich’s fourth win in 14, I still go back and look at that and think we really, like the way he won and the dominance in his win and our ability to cover it, I felt like a lot of things clicked that year for us as a TV crew. Saturday night in the tennis stadium from 14 through 18, like nothing like it. The push-pull event for me in tennis is still one of the great things I’ve ever directed. It’s hard to replicate Saturday night in the tennis stadium. It really is. I think what CrossFit’s done in Madison is great.

Mike (24:51):

It’s really neat. It’s got that festival feel and they did a great job with the Coliseum turning it into this beautiful hall of CrossFit, but nothing will ever be Saturday night at tennis stadium. That said, I was really proud of our first year in Madison cause that was an incredible challenge to take this system that we had, you know, kind of banged our head against the wall until we came up with this system that worked great in LA and then to try to move that into a new venue with new challenges, that could have really gone a lot of different ways. And I will say like 2017 in Madison, I really think we did a great job. CrossFit did a great job. Dave programmed a great event. Just a lot of things came together. I was always really proud of that.

Sean (25:40):

As far as a broadcast world goes right now, it’s kind of the Wild West with the CrossFit Games season and the Sanctioned events and they’re all trying to do it kind of on their own and in a different way. But what are the things that they absolutely have to have if they’re going to have a successful broadcast?

Mike (25:58):

So I’m going to say this and I think that many of them don’t have these things. And that’s why I think the quality of broadcast is vastly different than what we were doing. Obviously not just the Games but Invitationals, even Open announcements, you know, there’s a certain quality and it starts with your producer and director. You have to have people who understand not just television and not just CrossFit, but both, you know, broadcast and CrossFit, because where they meet is a very, it’s a very special place, but it’s also a very, very thin line where those two things come together. And if you don’t know both sides of that, that’s an issue. I have always maintained that the camera guys you have on the field of play really have to know what’s going on. Like we’ve got a cadre of guys we trust, the athletes trust, the judges trust.

Mike (26:48):

Dave trusts. When you put other people down there, anything can go wrong. And you know, my guys know, like you never get in the way of an athlete. You never get in the way of a judge no matter what. And it’s also dangerous. Like there’s barbells flying around, there’s dumbbells flying. It’s dangerous. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you can get hurt down there. And that’s my biggest fear where I see some of these events, people just running around and then you can tell they don’t know what they’re doing and that could end badly. I think you have to have announcers that understand, again, not just CrossFit, but broadcast like the theory that anybody can just talk about CrossFit cause they CrossFit, it sounds great, but television, any kind of broadcast is a synergy between words and pictures and graphics. And if we’re not all headed in the same direction, if you’re talking about, you know, the guy in lane five and I’m staring at the guy in lane nine and there’s a graphic about the guy in lane six, that doesn’t help anybody.

Mike (27:47):

And I think those are the things you really need. Like you could talk all day about how much equipment and what equipment and where and how. And do you need a truck or can you do it in a van or can you do it in a room and bring equipment and build it? And there was a lot of different theories and a lot of different philosophies and then a lot of ways to do it. But if you don’t want to have the right people in the right positions like that, then you know, then really you’re doing more harm than good in some cases.

Sean (28:14):

I always get the sense that people think it’s easier than it is. Why do you think people underestimate the difficulty of pulling off a live broadcast?

Mike (28:26):

If you ever go into a bar on a Sunday, football, and you watch football with people in a bar and you say to them, how many people does it take to put that broadcast on television? And they say, well, there is three announcers, there’s a producer. They always talk about the producer on the air. So there’s a producer and then they always talk about their stats guy. So that’s five. And there must be a camera guy. So six, seven? And you say 60 or 70, and they say no, what do they all do? It’s supposed to be magic to people at home. Like they’re not supposed to understand what it takes. And when you talk about what it takes for us, how many cameras and how many utilities working with those cameras and how many engineers that have to make sure that stuff works.

Mike (29:16):

And video operators to make sure that the pictures look the way they’re supposed to. And audio, the team of audio guys and the team of replay guys and the team of graphics people and all of the announcers and all the producers and directors and associate producers and associate directors, like it takes a lot. And the goal is that they never see it. Like it’s always our goal, and you know, you’ve heard me say it a lot, is seamless television, right? It shouldn’t ever make anybody go, huh, what happened there? It should just roll over them. And we educate and we entertain. We do both in every broadcast and the next day, these people know more than they did the day before and they were entertained and they’re talking about the game they watched. That’s when we’ve done our job right. And it does take more people than anybody thinks about. But you know, if you bring somebody to watch in the truck, right, they come into the spaceship. They can never watch television the same way again because they now understand how it all gets to that one picture that’s on your screen.

Sean (30:15):

I get asked this a lot. In fact, I got asked this the other day and I wanted to get your take on this question. People ask me, what is it going to take for the sport of CrossFit to get back to where it was at its peak in 2018?

Mike (30:30):

Money. You know, I mean now that we’ve got the Sanctional season and we’ve got, you know, I think it’s 26 or 27 events this year and they’re autonomous. They can do whatever they want. Right? Great. So they can have a stream, they can not have a stream. They could have a good stream of media, a medium stream, a bad stream, they can have a guy running around with a cell phone, whatever they want. I think the big shock for all of the event people was what broadcast costs. And I think there was this theory that, you know, I’ll put 20 grand in my budget for broadcast, social media, all that and I should be more than covered. And one of the things that they’ve learned is you get what you pay for and there are efficiencies of scale which aren’t being used when you have 27 autonomous events.

Mike (31:24):

Nobody’s really working here, you know, the Loud and Live guys have five, and you know, it’d be interesting to see what they do going forward. I know they’ve got a deal with Flow Elite, so that’s sort of off the table. But everybody needs to start to work together. And when I talk to people, I explain that, you know there are efficiencies of scale and I can help you do your broadcast for less than it would be as a one off if we’re working with five or six or seven other events because now I can hire people and offer them eight events instead of one. I can pay them a little less. I can work with my vendors, my truck companies, my equipment companies and say, Hey, I have eight shows for you. Not one. There are efficiencies there. But I think until people start working together and until people start to value what it costs to do broadcast like we did, and it doesn’t have to be the CrossFit Games. Like when I talk to the folks who run events, I sort of start with an Open announcement. OK. It was a nice small show, five or six cameras, which means a smaller crew, a little truck or a van and even that, you know, but that costs money. You know, it all costs money. A day to set it all up. Cause you can’t try to set it up when competition starts at nine in the morning, you need to set it up the day before. And then all of these competitions are three days long, right? So now you’re talking about four days, and long days, right? Really long days, in a lot of cases. Everything costs money. And that’s one thing that’s got to change, right?

Mike (32:55):

People have to figure out how to afford what a good broadcast looks like. The second part, like I talked about before, is you have to have the right people. And it is the Wild West right now. And because it is, everybody’s running around saying, I can do that for you. And in some cases you’ve got, you know, Sanctional’s who, they put together a broadcast and they hire a buddy, you know, because he knows CrossFit. So he’ll produce or he’ll direct or he’ll announce, and this is a professional game. You know, I do what I do for a living, right? I don’t do it as a hobby and I’ve got more decades into it than I care to admit. And that’s because, you know, this is my art form, right? This is what I’ve chosen to dedicate my life to professionally.

Mike (33:45):

And so you can’t just grab a guy out of the stands and expect that he’ll have the same knowledge that I have based on the tens of thousands of events over all these years. And even just from a CrossFit standpoint, like there’s nobody out there that’s called more CrossFit events than you, right? You’ve called more events than anybody else. So if I’m looking for a guy who’s got that sort of experience and I look past you, I’m immediately not getting the best guy in the business. And sometimes that’s happening. And then the third part of that, honestly is the community. Like if the community is accepting what’s out there and they’re watching it, then all right, great. Then that’s where we’re at. If the community says, you know, we expect a higher standard, then they can kind of start to push the issue a little bit.

Mike (34:36):

You know, I think it’s going to take all three of those things.

Sean (34:38):

Your involvement with the broadcast side of things also required you to get into a gym. What was it like for you the first time you were introduced to CrossFit the fitness methodology?

Mike (34:51):

May of 2012. I was told that it was time to get started. I was told by Tony Budding I needed to CrossFit in order to continue to direct CrossFit events. And I said, but I direct, you know, college football games and I never played college football. And he said, you need to understand the suffering. And he was right. So, I left the Central East on Sunday night. On Monday I went to my local box, CrossFit local here in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. And I said, what do I need to do to start? And they said, come back tomorrow for your baseline WOD. And I was like, OK. And I did my baseline WOD in seven minutes and 43 seconds and couldn’t walk for three days. Like my wife and kids laughed at me. I was going up and down the stairs on my butt. Like I was just destroyed and I couldn’t wait to get back in the gym. Like I could not wait. And I’ve been doing it ever since. It works. There’s no way around it.

Sean (35:58):

How has it changed your life?

Mike (36:02):

One, it’s introduced me to a community of likeminded people that are so wonderful and so accepting. And even from my first class, people were just nice and kind and wanted you to succeed. And that was amazing. That was, you know, cause you’re nervous the first time you go to a class, you don’t know what the hell you’re doing. And you could see where people might get frustrated having this newbie there. But no, everybody comes up and introduces himself and that community has expanded and expanded and expanded for me. Cause I’m lucky, I travel for work, I drop in all over the world. Like, I have worked it out in some incredible gyms all over the world. And everywhere I go, even if they don’t speak English, they’re kind and welcoming and they write the WOD on the board in English, which is ironic in so many ways.

Mike (36:52):

You know, the second thing for me is physically, you know, I’m 53 years old. I’m in the best shape my life. Really, truly am. I feel better. Things that used to bother me all the time, like my low back used to bother me when I traveled, I was always sore. It’s not like that, you know, I feel better. I feel like I look better. I feel like I don’t look, you know, as old as I probably should. You know, I always say I’m leading a zero-sum life. If I’m not getting worse, I’m getting better. So it certainly helped with that. You know, and then through the broadcast side, like the family I have, you know, I mean, from you and Tommy and Ro all the way up and down.

Mike (37:32):

And, you know, I’m so blessed to have all those people in my life. You know, the Justin Berghs and the Tony Buddings and the Joe Novellos, you know, the guys that worked at HQ and the fact that anywhere I go now, you guys are there and it’s amazing to be able to see your family out there and get a WOD in in Sean’s garage, you know, and feel old. But it’s been so positive for me and it really brought discipline back into my life. Like it’s crazy, wherever I go, no matter what time I get there, I’m in a class the next morning. Like I get up and I go to class and it doesn’t matter how I feel and it doesn’t matter what I was doing the night before, I was at a double-bill concert a couple of weeks ago.

Mike (38:22):

I was out until two o’clock in the morning drinking beers and dancing and got home at three and I was at the 9:00 AM like, it’s that discipline has been really, really good for me.

Sean (38:31):

I want to give you credit for a PR that you hit recently. You I know had been chasing the 400 pound-mark on your deadlift for quite some time and I know you hit that, there’s a great video of you doing it on Instagram. What was it like for you to finally pull that weight?

Mike (38:45):

I’ll tell you what I’ve wanted to pull, you know, 405 is the goal. Like I keep saying, I’ll quit CrossFit at, you know, at four wheels. But I weigh 130 pounds. So 400 pounds is more than three times body weight. And I always thought I could get there, but to actually do it, and I did it on a day when I wasn’t trying to do it.

Mike (39:10):

It wasn’t the plan. I didn’t even know I was going to deadlift. I was going in the gym to work out with this group of guys. They are all way younger and stronger and smarter than me. And when I got there, somebody said, well let’s deadlift first. And I said, we’ll see where it goes. And I hit 385 and it felt really good. And I said, what do I do now? Like do I jump to 405, do I go to 395 which is my PR and then see how that feels? And somebody said, screw it man, we’re putting 400 pounds on the bar. Just just give yourself, they said, give yourself five minutes. Just really give your body five minutes and give it a shot. And the whole gym was stopped and was watching and it just felt like it was going to happen.

Mike (39:56):

You know? I had gotten it to my knees a couple of times before and failed. Then I was just like, there’s no way I’m going to fail. And it was a really neat moment for me, man. Like to accomplish a goal. You know, as you get older, like you check a lot of stuff up, a lot of those boxes get checked and there aren’t necessarily that many more goals. This has been a goal of mine and I will tell you it was one of those times that CrossFit brought me a pure joy. You know, usually it kind of kicks me in the nuts and sends me on my way. But it was really an amazing moment for me. I was really proud of it. But now I really haven’t deadlifted in two months since. So it’s time to get back.

Sean (40:37):

Why would you?

Mike (40:37):

Right. Exactly.

Sean (40:39):

Final question. You have directed a ton of events, a bunch of different sports and all different locations around the world, but I know CrossFit obviously has a special place in your heart. Why is it so special to you?

Mike (40:55):

It’s the community. It’s one of the rare things that I do where I feel like I’m serving the community. I remember when we did Murph the first time that we had Murph at the Games and there was a lot of talk about, you know, it’s a pain in the ass to cover cause they’re running a mile outside the stadium and then they’re coming back in and there’s going to be, you know, of course 40 men on the field at the same time. And then 40 women. And I got the crew together the night before and I said, listen, this is an honor and a privilege for us to be able to cover something as important to the community as Murph. We’re going to give the community Murph the first time they’ve done it at the CrossFit Games. And that’s special.

Mike (41:38):

And we need to see it like that. We need to stop complaining about the logistics, we need to cover it for what it is, which is a really, really important part of our community. And I feel like I’ve had a lot of moments like that where I know the community cares. They come out, you know, they do care. And that makes me work that much harder. And that’s the most special part of it for me is just knowing that. And then, you know, secondarily, like again, the family I’ve met, the athletes I get to deal with. They are a pleasure in so many ways. You know, some of the athletes we deal with in professional sports are less of a pleasure. These folks are amazing. They’re amazing at what they do. It’s the most compelling thing I direct every year, is the CrossFit stuff I do. And so it makes me feel good to know that we’re out there doing the best job we can and that it matters to the folks at home. It matters to the community.

Sean (42:31):

Well, Rothy, listen man, I appreciate you taking the time to do this. I appreciate everything you have done for me professionally and can’t wait to work with you again.

Mike (42:37):

Well, I appreciate it, man. You do great work. I’m really proud that we’ve been able to do some great things together and your podcasts are awesome. So keep it up and I’ll keep listening.

Sean (42:48):

All right. Thanks, brother. Appreciate it.

Mike (42:49):

Take care, man. Peace.

Sean (42:50):

Big thanks to Mike Roth for taking the time to talk with me today. If you want to follow his adventures, you can find him on Instagram. He is at @rothy99. If you’re a gym owner and you need some help growing your business, Two-Brain mentors can show you the exact steps to add $5,000 in monthly recurring revenue. Book a free call on TwoBrainbusiness.com to find out more. Thanks for listening to Two-Brain Radio. I’m Sean Woodland and I’ll see you next time.

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On Monday, Two-Brain Radio presents marketing tips and success stories. Chris Cooper delivers the best of the business world on Two-Brain Radio every Thursday. 

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