"I realize now it's vital to the media coverage of CrossFit that the people working on the shows are CrossFitters."
Mike "Rothy" Roth knows sports.
Working in the sports broadcast field for 29 years, Roth’s resume lists positions such as ESPN College Basketball Director, CBS Sports Network College Football Director, Producer for NBC Olympic Soccer Coverage at the 2012 London Olympics, Director for Professional Bowling Association shows on ESPN and most recently, TV Director for the 2011 and 2012 Reebok CrossFit Games.
Unlike the football and basketball games he’s covered for years, CrossFit is not on the same level as other spectator sports. In order to fully understand the intensity of CrossFit, Roth says it’s important the members of the CrossFit Media team participate, as well.
While Roth knew what a snatch was prior to joining an affiliate, he never fully understood the sport until he decided to give it a try.
“I now realize it’s vital to the media coverage of CrossFit that the people working on the shows are CrossFitters. They just know what to look for, like certain movements and transitions,” Roth says. “For example, my first year covering the 2011 Games, I remember my producer getting all excited about Dan Bailey transitioning from a barbell to a box and I didn’t get it. But now, I realize how he was transitioning told a lot about where he was at in the game … it’s beyond crazy what these athletes do, and being able to understand that behind the scenes is crucial to directing where the camera needs to be.”
Roth wasn’t sold on CrossFit at first.
“I had always worked out in the gym, did weights, rode the exercise bike — you know, typical stuff. I didn’t get CrossFit at first, didn’t get that it was scalable and I was hesitant to try it,” he recalls. “My first year at the Games, I was covering guys like Rich Froning, Dan Bailey, Matt Chan and would think … ‘Those guys are young and I’m old.’”
This changed last May when Director of Media Tony Budding made a deal with Roth — a promise he would pay for Roth’s first 10 sessions at a CrossFit affiliate in his hometown of Chapel Hill, N.C.
“Now, I am preaching the gospel every chance I get. I am in love with it. It changes your life,” Roth says.
“My two daughters (ages 14 and 12) were laughing at me when I still was having to slide up and down the stairs on my butt two days later,” he says about his first workout. “The intro-WOD killed me: a 500-meter row, 40 air squats, 30 sit-ups, 20 push-ups and 10 pull-ups. I finished in seven minutes and 35 seconds and it wiped me out.”
More than six months into regular workouts at CrossFit Local, Roth diligently attends class every other day when he’s not out of town.
“My schedule can get kind of crazy with traveling on the road to cover different games, depending on the season. As a freelance sports director, I do have the flexibility to set my own schedule, but it still keeps me pretty busy,” Roth says. “I may be covering college football for CBS one week, college basketball for ESPN another week, then onto hockey when it’s that season … next week I am out of town for pro bowling coverage for ESPN. There’s never a dull moment, that’s for sure.”
He does not let traveling interfere with his fitness.
“My first question any time I check into a hotel is, ‘Where is the gym?’ You really can do it anywhere, and I’ve learned to become creative, working with whatever there is,” he says.
Even if that means working out on the job site while setting up for a big game.
“This past football season, I started doing my WODs at all the great stadiums I would travel to,” he says. “And I’d ask all the guys who were out on the road with me if any of them would want to join.
“A lot of my road buddies are guys like me — in their 40s — some may workout regularly, some may not … When they would see me working out at lunch time, they’d ask ‘What is that?’ And I’d show them how to get a great workout in about five to seven minutes.”
By the end of the season, he was programming workouts for a larger crew. “My favorite is doing push-ups until failure, then sprinting 50 yards for 10 rounds,” he says. “Getting my workout in makes all the difference in the world when I am on the road. I sleep better, I feel better, even if I am sore.”
Cameraman Charles Montgomery first met Roth three years ago when Roth took over the media director’s position for the Professional Bowling Association tour. Together, the two have covered games for the CBS Sports Network, Conference USA College Football and now, CrossFit.
“Mike is a die-hard CrossFitter and has become a fearless leader for several of us on the road. We look to him to set the workout time and exercises,” Montgomery says. “I can't remember the names of any of the workouts, but we've done everything from push-ups, sit-ups, long jumps, to working with dumbbells and running sprints. He is always encouraging everyone on the road to try it. There’s at least two of us alongside him when he (works out).”
Montgomery says he looks forward to working with Roth on the road now — it’s really the only time he can do CrossFit.
“Mike first introduced me to the sport when he invited me to work with him last year at the 2012 Regional competition in Ohio. After that, I attended a local CrossFit box for a few months and enjoyed it very much,” Montgomery says. “But I am on the road all the time and wouldn’t be able to make it to class more than one to two times a week … I know when I am with Mike, though, he will always find a way for us to get a CrossFit workout in.”
In his three decades of experience, Roth says nothing compares to working with the CrossFit Media team.
“Everyone is great. CrossFitters are just good, outstanding people. The sport also makes great TV,” he says. “It is so intense, and there’s so much going on and it’s fun to watch.”
His greatest coverage highlight is last year’s Pendleton Event.
“The 2012 Games triathlon at Camp Pendleton on the Wednesday before the weekend events was unreal. I don’t know how we pulled it off, but we did,” Roth says. “We faced quite a few challenges in getting our cameras out there. We could be live on the beach at the beginning of the race when the athletes were swimming and then starting up the mountain on the bikes, but once they got into the mountain, we lost all frequency and had to wait to cover them on the other side of the mountain.”
Roth points out that covering Pendleton would have usually required eight to 10 hours to set up.
“Well, we ended up doing it in only two hours — it was crazy. I think by the end of the day we felt like we had run a triathlon,” Roth says.
“The Games is a long, jam-packed weekend, but the energy is amazing and all 58 crew members, 28 announcers, not to mention tons of volunteers, give it their all to make it happen.”
Now, Roth is focusing on preparing for coverage of the Games in California this summer while working on his own CrossFit goals, as well.
“My goals this year include back-squatting 200 lb., deadlifting 255 lb. and to Rx Diane. It won’t kill me, but I may die trying … or at least, I may be there all day,” Roth laughs.
“I am the luckiest man on the planet,” Roth says. “I have the greatest wife, two amazing daughters, a job that challenges me daily and now, CrossFit, something like nothing else I’ve ever done in my life.”