The 2016 Mr. Olympia has come to a close, and as great as Phil Heath looked and how much he dominated this show, not many people are talking about him. Even people who hate the guy—not only as a bodybuilder but as a person—were like, “Yeah, he pretty much owned that shit this year. Props to him."

At first I was like, “WTF?”, and then soon realized what was going on: everyone was saving up their bitching, pissing, and moaning for Kevin Levrone.

This Mr. Olympia ended up being about Kevin Levrone, not Phil Heath. There was a lot of hype and build up, and even though it was likely fueled more by our high expectations for Kevin than Kevin’s own expectations, a lot of people waited with bated breath, anticipating Kevin somehow giving Phil, Dex and Shawn a run for the top spot. This, unfortunately, fueled the ridiculous amount of negative comments against Kevin over the weekend. You couldn’t read something about the Olympia on social media without an argument over whether or not Kevin should have competed or not and how “terrible” he was or how “embarrassed” people were for Kevin.

Embarrassed for Kevin? You can’t be serious. The people in this sport are sometimes so far out there that I struggle to understand their thought processes.

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The Mr. Olympia absolutely is the Super Bowl of bodybuilding — yes, if we were to compare a beauty pageant to a real or legitimate sport like, say, football. Though there is no skill involved in bodybuilding, I concede that the pinnacle of bodybuilding every year is the Mr. Olympia and the winner is considered the best bodybuilder that year, just as the winner of the Super Bowl is considered to be the best football team that year.  We want to see the best of the best competing at this show and Kevin was clearly not at his best.  We all wanted him to be, but he just wasn’t.

Why wasn’t he? A myriad of reasons, some of which are that he took a long layoff of not only from competing but also from training.  Kevin is and was known for only training and dieting for part of the year. If that was his approach this time, it wasn’t enough. He also had a pec injury only a handful of months ago and tendonitis in his knee that allowed him to only train legs hard for the last eight weeks before the show. He also made this comeback at 52 years old. I could go on and on, but I think you get the picture that he not only had legitimate obstacles, but when combined with not training or dieting very long, it was incredibly unlikely that he was going to threaten to win bodybuilding’s Super Bowl.

Why I Came Back, Live with

What I don’t understand—and no one is going to explain to me to make me understand—is why so many people in this industry (most of them competitors) would go to such great lengths to speak with such vitriol of someone who the large majority of them consider to be a legend in the sport of bodybuilding. I have taken a couple days to try to comprehend the responses and the negativity and here is what I have come up with:

I think that even though a lot of people say they were embarrassed for Kevin, that is not the case. I believe what they mean is that their thoughts are essentially ineffable and the best they can come up with is comparing the situation to someone that showed up to a state show without shaving, putting on tan stain, or even dieting.  Though this comparison seems absurd on the surface, the point is that people with high standards and high expectations wanted more and expected more from Kevin’s physique.

Kevin may not have been embarrassed (and likely was not) but for those that bought the hype and fed the hype for the weeks and months leading up to this Mr. Olympia, they almost certainly were embarrassed — embarrassed for thinking he would show up 95% of what he was at his peak, when he didn’t or arguably wasn’t even close. Those same people don’t look into themselves, but rather quickly put the disappointment or “failure” on Kevin. What Kevin did was extraordinary, so there would be no reason for him to be embarrassed.

This is only one group of people in the industry, though. I belong to the OTHER group.

Members of the other group are older for the most part, and though the large majority of us were also disappointed with Kevin’s physique, we were still impressed with his story and his comeback. We respect the fact that he could have stayed at home, saved the energy, and remained the legend in this sport that he has always been. We appreciated that he had nothing to prove (to us) and that coming out of retirement could put his reputation on the line with a lot of people.

Why? Because most people in this sport don’t give a shit what you have done in the past and judge you on what you have done LATELY.  Aside from the psychological toughness it must have taken, the physical limitations were just as difficult, if not more so. Training and having a great physique at 52 is impressive, but letting your world-class physique go for years while you don't train, and then coming back and proclaiming that you are going to step on stage again at 52 with the best in the world is something entirely different. I have nothing but respect for what Kevin did and the example he set for guys who can relate to his situation. I was nowhere near as impressed with Phil’s convincing win for his sixth Sandow as I was for Kevin making a return to the stage.

I would have felt better about the entire situation had I seen more support and positive vibes for Kevin from the younger generation in our sport. Most of the older population supported Kevin and were considerably more realistic about the condition he would show up in than the younger crowd was. I think what it shows is that the people that supported Kevin see more to this last weekend than just placings and winning.

We all want to win, but the message that Kevin provided, I feel, was missed on the younger generation. It wasn’t about the fact that he could make the comeback or not, but rather how many people he inspired by doing so. The younger generation can’t comprehend having to give up something you are so passionate about due to age, so there really is no way for them to comprehend the desire to want to make the comeback, either.

I think some of us need to step back and ask ourselves, honestly, why we respect people. Speaking for myself, I respect people for the impact they have on others, their work ethic, their character, and how they carry themselves. Sometimes I respect people who win because they also have the traits I listed above, and other times they might come in dead last in an amateur show and I have no less respect for them. In short, I don’t have more respect for Phil Heath for winning six Olympias than I do Samir for winning one. Titles or placings have no impact on the level of respect I have for someone.

I didn’t need Kevin to show up and destroy the field; I needed him to show up and follow through on the commitment he made after dealing with obstacles like injuries and age, knowing that he would have all eyes on him this last weekend. He showed up, followed through and knew he could have been a lot better. He also inspired a lot of people and made some of us feel that 52 isn’t as old as I thought it was just a couple weeks ago.

For these reasons, I have 100 times more respect for him than anyone that badmouthed him on social media last weekend. If you plan to win the respect of others by winning titles, you have a lot to learn, young gwasshoppa. Just sayin’.