The New Testosterone
A lot of you already know this story, so bear with me a second while I fill in the neophytes.
I used to run this newsstand magazine with the unlikely name of Muscle Media 2000. We changed the bodybuilding landscape. We talked about stuff that made Joe Weider and the rest of the bodybuilding hierarchy shift uncomfortably in their seats, but we were one wedgie they couldn't dislodge.
We were the first ones to openly talk about steroid use and we were the first to talk about the sometimes-dishonest machinations of supplement companies. We were irreverent. We made a living poking a stick into the sickly liver of the business that fed us.
We kicked ass.
We got very popular.
Just as we got to the point where we overtook the sales of Flex Magazine (up to that point, the leader in the hardcore category), the guy who owned MM2K — an often brilliant but socially inept man who had more than his share of demons to contend with by the name of Bill Philips — decided to reinvent the magazine overnight.
Inexplicably, Phillips wanted to go mainstream. He decided the magazine should stop talking about steroids and gray-market supplements and hardcore bodybuilding and instead talk about training for tennis and endurance sports. The irreverence was quashed. The tone became indistinguishable from Better Homes and Gardens.
He wanted to get artsy. He wanted style to replace substance.
I was told to step down as Editor-in-Chief. A non-weightlifting photographer from San Francisco with no editorial experience replaced me. I was relegated to staff writer and was expected to write the most boring, generic pabulum imaginable.
The first issue under the new management featured a B-level bodybuilder named Clarke Bartram. He was covered from head to toe in gold paint, much like the dead babe on James Bond's bed in Goldfinger.
Of Golden Boy and Golden Snatch, we prefer the latter, natch.
That issue became notoriously known as "the Golden Boy" issue and it heralded a precipitous drop in sales and readership.
Fiercely loyal readers felt like they'd been pole axed. They felt rudderless. Disillusioned, eyes glazed over, flatulent even, they wandered the countryside like the survivors in 28 Days Later.
Similarly discouraged and flatulent (this kind of drama causes a lot of stomach upset), I left Muscle Media a few weeks later to join up with this crazy, wild-eyed youth from Colorado Springs by the name of Tim Patterson.
While Muscle Media sputtered along for another two or three years, it was finally, mercifully, discontinued.
But the legend of "The Golden Boy issue" lives on. It's become synonymous with the term "jumping the shark," which refers to the Happy Days episode where the writers had presumably run out of ideas and in a fit of desperation conceived a plot where Fonzie puts on water skis and jumps over the open jaws of a Great White Shark.
Oddly enough, I hear Golden Boy invoked every time Testosterone so much as changes a font on its home page.
"Oh man, can you believe it? They fuckin' went sans serif! It's the Golden Boy issue all over again!"
Personally, I'd like to feed these alarmists to Fonzie's shark, but I guess I understand the paranoia. A lot of people are resistant to change of any kind. They get comfortable with the status quo and when the status quo ain't no mo, they get nervous.
They're probably the same guys who, in 20 years, will be complaining about the "new music" that teenagers are listening to.
"Whatever happened to the classics sung by Diddy and 50 Cent and Megadeath and will you just look at the way they wear their pants hiked up high instead of showing off their ass crack like we used to and...hey! Hey! You kids get off my carbon-neutral genetically-engineered lawn! Goddam punks. Got no respect, no respect at all."
But they've got nothing to worry about. We may have changed our look and added new features but our philosophy remains intact. In order to assuage your fears, I thought I'd pull out the amendments to the Testosterone Constitution that we store in the Testosterone National Archives:
We the Meatheads of Testosterone, in Order to build a more perfect Body, Glorify Man and Embrace Woman, spit on Dogma, set ourselves apart from the Unwashed Masses, and get as damn Smart as possible, do ordain and establish this Constitution for Testosterone Nation.
We shall promote a new type of bodybuilding.
On second thought, we should say we promote an old type of bodybuilding. Old-time bodybuilding, with its roots in Charles Atlas and Dan Lurie and Vince Gironda and Steve Reeves, wasn't just about looking strong; it was about being strong, too.
Some time around the late seventies or early eighties, being strong lost its importance. Come to think of it, it was right around the time those kit cars got popular. You'd take your old beat-up Volkswagen and pimp it up with a fiberglass shell that looked vaguely Ferrari-ish.
It may have looked fast, but it was still a 60-horsepower turd. We think bodybuilders should be more than 60-horsepower turds.
We kinda' like symmetry, too. We're not real fond of the cookie-cutter body look of the 90's and this century. If you were to cut the heads off today's top bodybuilders, you probably couldn't identify their bodies without reading the toe tag.
It didn't used to be like that. You could have easily identified Larry Scott by his biceps or Serge Nubret by his chest and his waist. Who couldn't pick out Franco Columbo's back from a line of stiffs?
I have this theory that there's a sort of steroid threshold that's part of our genetic make-up. Maybe it's 3 grams or 4 grams a week, but once you exceed the threshold, growth supersedes genetic differences.
Say you have three balloons. One is small and round. The second is bigger but a little oval, and the third is longer and skinnier. If you pump enough air into all of them, and assuming for the sake or argument that they won't break, they'll all end up looking pretty much the same — big and round.
Maybe it's the same with muscles and large amounts of steroids.
Regardless, the point is that a good artist working in clay knows when to stop adding clay and when to start refining the shape of his statue.
Testosterone shall preserve a traditional male mindset.
Testosterone, beyond disseminating information about how to lift more weight, build more muscle, or lose body fat, is about a way of life that we think is worth preserving.
Men are good. Male attributes are good.
We believe in moral laws and ethical laws more than we do in societal laws that pertain to what we can do with our body or put into it. We like to think of ourselves as virtuous bad boys.
This is a place where you can be a guy; where there are others who think like you. Come. Hang out. We're not about formality or pretense. Take your shoes off. Relax. But keep your schlong in your pants.
And when you leave for the day, you don't have to thank anyone or hug anyone or ask for the recipe or say how the experience changed your life and thank-you-very-goddam-much.
Testosterone readers shall mentor the wretched newbies.
There aren't many weightlifters left in the world, at least not that many like us. Maybe bodybuilding is seen as wretched excess or maybe it's seen as just too blatantly egocentric and narcissistic. Maybe the public is so hyperaware of steroids that anyone who shows a little muscle is thought to be a drug user and that perception turned off a whole generation of potential new lifters.
Whatever the reason, we need to mentor those who show the least little interest in our sport. Most of us were scrawny and weak at one time and most of us had someone to mentor us, whether it was a grizzled old gym rat or a particular writer in a bodybuilding magazine.
If we don't mentor, our numbers will continue to diminish. For every one who squats or deadlifts, there'll be a thousand Bosu ball trainers. Mentor or get ready to say goodbye to this lifestyle.
Much like European kings and lords of lore, TC shall have first-night carnal rights to the bride of any member of Testosterone Nation.
After he's indoctrinated the new bride to the ways of love, he shall return her to her new husband, not only cleaned, scrubbed, and coiffed, but also with valuable Biotest coupons stuffed in her panties.
"Don't be alarmed, my little blond bridal pamplemousse. It may look angry but it is only its love for you that is fierce."
Testosterone men shall make no apology for their biology.
We're comfortable with our piggy nature. We like women. Especially naked women. Why, they're our favorite mammals! That doesn't conflict with our respect for them. They're ultimately why we get up in the morning, why we work, why we lift, and why we cry ourselves to sleep at night because there are so damn many of them and we want them all.
Testosterone will not sweep steroids under the rug.
We wish steroids were legal, but they're not. That doesn't mean we aren't going to write about them because they'll probably always be a part of bodybuilding and sport in general.
If we demonize Barry Bonds, it's because he's a rude mo-fo and not because he used steroids. We think drugs and sport are tricky issues. When, exactly, do the advantages conveyed by technology constitute cheating?
Is it cheating to use Spike before a game? Is it cheating to use Carbolin 19 to increase Testosterone levels and improve V02 max? How about drinking coffee before a game? Is that cheating?
See what we mean? It gets complicated.
Besides, we need the steroid users. The chemicals in their rich urine make their way into our waterways and help offset all the estrogen from birth control pill users that have been flowing into the waterways since the early 1960's. For every 2 male fishes that have been feminized through female androgen pollution there'll be one that has two scaly penises.
No woman shall, in the company of a man, wear pantyhose.
Talk about turn-offs! Listen, when you hike your dress over your head and we see pantyhose, you know what we think? We think of a lightly bearded bank robber with a stocking pulled over his smushed-up face to hide his identity!
It's very scary. We don't know whether to cold cock you with a Nintendo Wii wand or dial 911.
You shall wear thigh-highs or go natural.
We shall not do curls in the squat rack.
This is more of a symbolic gesture than an ironclad rule.
Obviously, on a practical level, if you're training at home or in an empty gym, it matters little where you do your curls. By the same token, any nitwit knows better than to do squat rack curls when there are guys waiting around to use said squat or power rack for squats, deads, or any compound movement that requires the damn rack.
However, on a symbolic gesture, refusing to do curls in a squat rack is our way of saying the rack is a special place, hallowed ground, if you will. It's true nature is either unknown or unacknowledged by Bosu ball trainers and their ilk, but we, as a measure of respect and a way of saying F you to the spineless flotsam and jetsam of the gym world, refuse to use the racks for anything except their intended purpose.
Ronald Reagan never walked into the oval office without a suit and tie on. Similarly, we don't do curls in the squat rack.
We shall not wear Crocs or those new combination cargo/Capri pants.
Hey, clothes don't necessarily make the man, but c'mon, you have to draw the weenie line somewhere.
Eenie, Weenie, Minie Moe....
The Testosterone Constitution is hereby ratified.
Novus Ordo Seclorum!
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