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At long last: welcome into the mainstream

Best of Bermuda: De-Von Bean, centre, and his fellow bodybuilders are worthy of being treated the equal of those who would bring their sports into disrepute on and off the field (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Today marks a watershed moment in the history of The Royal Gazette and its approach to a pastime that has sustained its popularity among our citizens over the past three decades and more, but has struggled to command column inches in the only daily newspaper in Bermuda.

Bodybuilding. Is it a sport? Is it a fashion show with little or no clothes?

While editors have fumbled over its inclusion, and day has turned to night, bodybuilding has soldiered on — occasionally appearing on the sports pages, occasionally appearing on the lifestyle pages, but never with any constancy or sense of having a place to call home.

That ends today with coverage of the Night of Champions held at the Ruth Seaton James Centre for the Performing Arts on Saturday night taking pride of place in the sports section, where bodybuilding will now call home.

These athletes, and they do deserve to be categorised as such, put in the hard yards and have a commitment to excellence that comfortably rivals those who are afforded more prominence. In fact, given the indiscipline of those who have dragged the national sports’ names through the mud, it can be argued rather convincingly that they are more deserving.

When was the last time during competition that an official was spat on (football, December 26, 2013) or threatened with physical violence (cricket, July 18, 2015)?

Health and fitness are essential tools in the bodybuilder’s CV and they are also central to policymakers’ desire to combat the Island’s worrying obesity rate.

So, for that purpose alone, bodybuilders can be seen to be role models and standard-bearers for a healthier society.

This decision may lead to raised eyebrows among those who champion the cause of borderline sports such as mixed martial arts, but the rise of the Ultimate Fighting Championship is still in its early stages and the jury is out as to whether accelerating its message into mainstream print media is the appropriate thing to do.

It is often said that when America sneezes, Bermuda catches a cold, but that is one cold we are forearmed against until there is no doubt that a policy switch is absolutely necessary.

As much as the worst of American society has caught on in once-idyllic Bermuda and has contributed to making this Island a far unfriendlier place to live in than at any time in modern history, it would be unfair to put UFC in the same category of unedifying and welcome exports as gun violence, offensive music, antisocial behaviour and disturbing dress sense.

Exciting to some though it may be, UFC nevertheless represents a barbarism that for a very long time was attached to boxing and prevented its ascension in print media until personalities the like of Rocky Marciano, Sugar Ray Robinson and Muhammad Ali surfaced and changed the way people think. And it, or rather professional MMA, which has been likened to aestheticised violence where you can be legally killed, is still banned in the most famous American city of all — New York.

Not everything that happens in life deserves to be in a newspaper — let alone a national newspaper.

Although the size and scope of a regional, a national production is exactly what the Gazette is, and the example we set has to be that which observes a maintenance of certain standards.

We do not do sex scandals. We do not do images of barbarous acts of brutality, whether in the name of sport or war.

But media organisations have changed with the times; the advent of social media has been the driver of that.

If someone as devout against MMA as was John McCain, the former US presidential candidate who referred to it as “human cockfighting” when he attempted to get it banned from cable TV, can have a change of heart, then so too can we. But not today.

As with some media in Britain, where it took the rise to prominence of a local to tweak the conscience of some newspapers, it may take a Bermudian entering the MMA professional ranks for there to be any sort of resonance that demands coverage.

Otherwise, like a truly bad movie that can get no backing from Hollywood or to appease those who have little better to do with their lives than try to keep up with the Kardashians, it remains “made for TV” — not print.

So to end where we began and with a tip of the cap to De-Von Bean, crowned as “Mr Bermuda” — there was no women’s category — and a host of other category winners in Prospect on Saturday.

The former track star turned bodybuilder set a standard that no one else could reach and in doing so hearkens a new era when those in sports that have traditionally been given attention but have done little in modern times to justify it are now put on notice.