Brooke Wells: The Controversy of Standards and The 2018 CrossFit Open

PSA: This is an opinion piece. This content piece is in no way affiliated with CFHQ, the athlete, nor it’s partners.

There’s a good handful of controversy floating around about Brooke's recently accepted video submission and 2018 CrossFit Regionals offer. Did she even touch the tape? Did she get above the tape? Was her video submission too far away? Why was it accepted if she didn’t do HSPU correctly? Questions like these and more are stirring the pot of frustration and disappointment in regards to CrossFit HQ’s score submission and video review standards.

“We took the information shared on the thread and circulated it internally. The video is shot at a poor angle, which makes review difficult. There do appear to be HSPU reps that miss the line. In terms of the video verification following the Open: This video was submitted as a verification of capacity to complete the score submitted. These spot checks are designed to allow us to verify that athletes are capable of the work they claimed to be. In rare, egregious cases, score adjustments based on the quality of movements or massively miscounted reps can be made. It was determined that this video did not represent one of those cases. Brooke's video has been accepted.” - CrossFit HQ

CFHQ controls a lot when it comes to pretty much anything CrossFit, including the Open, video submissions, even who does and doesn't move on to Regionals. In summation, HQ is "pretty much the god when it comes to anything CrossFit". What doesn't CFHQ control though? They don’t control talent, they don’t control effort, they don’t control training nor dedication nor heart nor passion. This video and decision are very controversial, there's no doubt about it.

Whether you’re an elite level athlete, the ‘fittest individual in the world’, a newbie, an everyday crossfitter, or someone somewhere in between, the only way you are created is by what you set out to accomplish, for yourself. So why is everyone up in arms about this video submission if the root of CrossFit is to simply become the fittest, healthiest, and happiest versions of ourselves, and then be able to pursue competitive ambitions if we wish to? Maybe HQ forgot that their job was to enforce standards equally. Maybe we've forgotten that's what it's all about - fun. 

Why Is There So Much Controversy Around Brooke Wells

She's popular. She's got a great body. She's presentable and she's got a fun personality. Sure, we get it, she's great on social media and she's popular as hell. Moreso, why are people caring SO much about Brooke's video submission? My thought is this - when you pay for something, you expect a very high standard of quality and equality of play. In the video above, it doesn't appear that Brooke's feet meet or exceed the new HSPU standards, which would result in a no-rep, of which didn't happen. It didn't happen so much, by the looks of it, that her score doesn't lineup with the reps in the video. The judge approved clean reps, her score was submitted and accepted. The only time there's been pushback on her score? Since the video was discovered online. 

Brooke Wells moving forward is a, well what has been claimed to be, a low standard of quality of efficacy of the Open Standards, by which hundreds of thousands of individuals rely upon to have an accurate representation of themselves as competitive athletes. Insert the controversy and the problem with this whole thing. Also, insert the thought that, if not everyone is held to the same standard, why is it a standard in the first place? The people have spoken and many don’t feel that this standard was upheld. Is the video to blame? Is HQ to blame? Is the athlete or the judge at fault? Are we to blame ourselves for criticizing it in the first place? Maybe it's a little bit of all of it. Even bigger of a question though...

Did Brooke Wells Cheat in Workout 18.4?

I’m not one to tell. I don’t have any say nor influence nor jurisdiction to even form an opinion (obviously). I don't know if enough people petitioned it, it'd even do anything. Sure, I watched the video and it seems sketchy. I checked Reddit and everyone is really pissed. But what can we do about it?

According to CrossFit HQ: Does HQ believe the judge was accurate in their ability to record an accurate an honest score completed by Brooke? Yes. Does HQ believe that Brooke Wells cheated on her score and video submission of the 18.4 CrossFit Open Workout? No.

Since judging was done on-site of Well's video location, “for the on-site judge’s decision to be overturned, something egregious has to have happened”. Brooke’s video is not egregious enough, by HQs standards, to be overturned and ample enough to revoke her Regionals Invitation. By the looks of it, the only reasonable action is to get over it. Or is it?

Did Brooke Wells Ruin The Open for All of Us?

If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? 

It's an old question, but it beckons a matter of perspective. If there was no video submission, would we question her score? Would we question her ability to rise up to the 2018 CrossFit Open HSPU Standards? Would we question her talent? Would we blame it on her glorious booty and social media presence? Probably not. If there was no video submission, would people still be sitting there vowing to never do the open again because it's ruined? Here's my take:

Brooke Wells didn’t ruin The Open.

If the Open is ruined for you, then you ruined it for yourself.

If one person, one thing, one event ruins it for all, then is there something wrong with the system? Is the sport and the community, the challenge and the passion, is the drive and dedication and heart not enough to continue pursuing excellence? Remember why you started. The overall purpose of CrossFit is to be your best, your fittest, your happiest and your healthiest. And if you so happen to become the fittest in the world? Well, that's just the cherry on top. Call it mushy, call it the silver lining, call it naive, but whatever it is, it's the reason why the majority enter The Open in the first place. It's the reality of a lot of individuals out there. My opinion might not be the popular one or the one you agree with, but it's an opinion worthy of considering nonetheless. 

CrossFit is, and Always Will Be, Imperfectly Perfect

Bear with me here - if an NFL referee made a poor call during playoffs, the game continued on, the team that favored the bad call continued on in the bracket, and nobody noticed it until two weeks later, what happens? How bad does the poor call have to be in order for the entire organization to reverse the decision of the referee, changing the entire outcome of the playoffs and contestants of the championship game? Mistakes are an inevitable piece of life, CrossFit is no exception. In order for the call by the ref to be overturned the call must have been absolutely egregious and affecting the play of all. 

According to HQ, Brooke's video submission, for the foreseeable future, will not be revoked for egregiousness. The handstand pushup standard will probably be different next year. Yes, again, there will be people upset by it. And no, there will never be a one-size-fits-all approach to the sport. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions and interpretations, there will never be anything wrong with that. But remember this - the sport and CFHQ will never be perfect. You’ll never be perfect either.

The Open is for Everyone – Regionals is Not

Anyone, literally anyone can register for the CrossFit Open. That’s what it’s all about – inclusion and participation. The opportunity to be included. Sure, they still get $20 bucks from someone, but at the end of the day, it is about the experience and opportunities that you create. You would pay someone to put on a show for you, you pay for someone to press play at the movie theater so you can sit and enjoy some popcorn, you pay to look at animals at the zoo, and you pay to compete in the CrossFit Open. What does the CrossFit Open do? Simply put, it weeds out competitors who miss the competitive bar of excellence, the baseline standard, to compete at Regionals. What did CFHQ's decision about Brooke's Open finish? Just that. 


The CrossFit Open – Is it the Root of the Problem?

How many people did the CrossFit Open begin with originally? Thirty. When Greg Glassman launched CrossFit in 2007, tiny is an understatement, and it resembled a weekend box throw down. Regional events were introduced in 2009, and by 2011 the Open was an opportunity that became worldwide, for all.

Fast forward, and just how many people competed in the 2018 CrossFit Open? Over half a million. And each one of those individuals (talking the majority) paid for the opportunity to submit their scores to the online leaderboard. The half a million that competed doesn’t include those who do it at their local box or at home for fun.

Why am I saying the problem starts at the beginning of the CrossFit Games qualification process? Because it doesn’t take long to do the math – if I paid $20 to ‘do the Open’ and the rest of the half a million-plus people paid $20 to ‘do the Open’, well, it doesn’t take a calculator to know that’s a whole hell of a lot of money. It’s referred to by some as a worldwide online playdate at their local sandbox, and by others, as the best experience, they’ve ever had in CrossFit.

When you don't know where that money goes, you get jealous and frustrated and conspicuous of what you're paying for, especially if you don't feel like the quality standard you expected, was met. Insert - this whole issue with Brooke's video. It wasn't anywhere near the quality that we're used to. It isn't the type of decision many people support.

“CFHQ is a Money Hungry Bastard”

Newsflash - the problem with the Open isn’t the fact that we have to pay for it and it isn't that HQ is this big money-hungry giant. And if you still think they are, then stop supporting them, all together. For the rest of us? Maybe the problem is with our perspectives and where our hearts are. HQ’s responsibility is to run a business and find the fittest individuals on Earth. By paying for the Open, you pay for the experience, and ultimately, the experience is what you make it. 

If you really want to see a change?

Be the one who beats Brooke Wells.

Not the one who beats down Brooke Wells.

And if you choose to be the latter, then check yourself at the door. CrossFit, at the very root, is about pursuing competitive and personal excellence within our own capacity. It’s about taking the challenge by the horns, going to the dark place, going past all the people and things and opportunities in life that have beat you down, held you back and screamed NO YOU CANNOT DO IT straight in your face. It’s a proving ground to none other than… yourself. 

Is Brooke Wells an Exception to the Rule?

There are always ‘exceptions to the rule’ and those who are made into ‘examples of the rule’. This happens in every workplace, every sport, every social community, every government. It’s because we aren’t perfect as humans, our systems aren’t perfect, and the only thing failing us is our expectation of whatever we define perfect to actually be. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not sitting here saying settle for less or that good is enough, but this perfect standard, will never, ever, be perfect. It just simply doesn’t exist. It doesn't exist in your own life, it doesn’t exist at CrossFit HQ, it doesn’t exist anywhere. In this case though? Brooke Wells seems to be the exception, and Jacob Heppner (read more here) seems to be the example. 

Is it unfair? Yes

Does the whole situation suck? Yes

Is it an exception to the rule undefined by the rule? Yes

Does Brooke Wells need to learn how to make a better video since it’s 2018? Probably

The Takeaway - Standards are Meant to Be For All, Not Just Some

Standards are meant to be just that: standards. Not just for one person, but for everybody. When you don't uphold the same standard, you create controversy. The problem - everyone has to be held to the standard, even Brooke Wells. It's not based on objectivity. There is no subjectiveness in a standard.

Because of this, the decision has to be completely based off of what it is, fact, not opinion. And the fact of the matter is, if her feet did not cross over the line, she failed to meet the standard, no matter who he/she is.

I'm not saying that her feet did or didn't go over the line. I'm just saying standards are meant to be followed so that subjectivity is not included in the overall decision of who or who does not qualify and move forward. 

Please feel free to let your anger rage in the comments below. CrossFit is as much as your community as it is ours. 


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