Sunday, January 15, 2012

Discussing Cults and TNT

In some of the message boards claiming what a scam TNT is (which I am refuting), there are sometimes comments about us being a cult. I already wrote a tongue-in-cheek piece about TNT as a cult, but wanted to come back to this in a more serious vein.

Here is one comment I read that kind of suggests the writer's view of us as a rude cult: "During races if you pass a TNT cheer squad and you are not in purple, you will not be cheered - just silence." And here is another: "I can't tell you how many times I've seen some purple clad a__hole cut in front of others in expos saying 'she is running for charity, the rest are just running for themselves.'" Other people simply write: 'It's a cult!"

Here is the best definition of cult to this situation: "A group or sect bound together by veneration of the same thing, person, ideal, etc." Switch the word veneration to dedication or interest and that might describe it, but that changes the definition to something other than a cult. I don't consider us a cult any more than I do the Hash House Harriers (a drinking group with a running problem), the local Saturday morning marathon team, or the ladies sewing circle.

I am no sociologist, but it seems like from our earliest days, we have wanted to form groups. It is part of our nature. We are a social animal. You cannot have social bonds with one million other people. So we join groups with common interests. We form teams. We root for a certain sports team together. We join clubs. We have a circle of friends, and some have a larger circle of Facebook Friends. We go out and find Meetup groups that we are interested in. This happens all of the time. It is not peculiar to Team in Training, although some of the same ideas are at work. Join together for a cause that is bigger than you - to cure blood cancers. Run and have fun while doing a good thing. Get in better shape, make new friends. I don't see that as cultish - I see it as normal human behavior: to join up with people with the same interests.

I do want to address the two specific comments about the rude behavior. Regarding the cheer teams, I don't doubt that has happened sometime. I have not seen it. I have voluneered three or four times for cheer squads for TNT, and in every case, our written instructions tell us to cheer for everyone, not just TNT runners or cyclists. I joined several teammates after we ran the Country Music Half Marathon in 2009 to cheer the marathoners for several hours, and we cheered and encouraged every single runner and walker who passed by. And two years ago, I joined several friends to cheer the Shamrockers. Yeah, we went there specifically to cheer for our TNT comrades and would not have been there were it not for them, but once we got there, we cheered everyone who passed by. Did we cheer a little louder if we saw someone we know? Sure? Wouldn't you? But we cheered for the whole field.

Regarding the comment about the rude and dismissive line-cutters at the Expo, I have never once seen that, let alone multiple times. I see people who are happy, cheerful, and excited, but never rude like that or putting others down by pretending to be better. I just haven't seen it, not from a Team in Training person or from anyone else. I can't say it didn't happen, but I also can't see how it is common like the person that made the comment suggests.

So, is Team in Training a cult? If you think so, then so is every other group or club. Everyone wants to belong to something, and most people - especially as they get older - want to accomplish something good. With Team in Training, you can do both at the same time. It is not a cult, but it does strike that very human need.

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