I have a friend named Fred. This is not about him.
“Fred” is a cycling term for a rider that is essentially a poseur. Poseur is a French term. A poseur is a person who attempts to impress others by assuming or affecting a manner, degree of elegance, etc., other than his or her true one.
The French really are into bicycle racing. They have a big race that tours their country every year. The French can pick out a poseur in cycling in a heartbeat. Americans can do the same, but we’re not going so pronounce poseur correctly, so using American ingenuity we call the poseur in US cycling, “Fred.”
There are all sorts of theories how we Americans came up with “Fred.” Some claim there was actually a cyclist named “Fred” that dressed a little goofy – not to serious cycling standards. Other claim “Fred” was a guy from Athens, Georgia who was a toured around on his bicycle complete with camping gear. The Georgia “Fred” would enter bicycle competitions on this touring bicycle, camping gear loaded, and it was not unusual for this Southerner to beat all other ‘proper’ cyclists. Really, I have no idea how “Fred” came into cycling lingo, but I’m pretty sure ‘poseur’ is a word of extreme rarity south of the Mason-Dixon.
The female equivalent of “Fred” is a “Doris.” I don’t know anyone named Doris, but I have met her, given name unknown, on a bicycle.
We can probably find a “Fred” in every sport. I don’t know for certain, so I am leaving room for doubt. That’s not to imply that a “Fred” is necessarily a bad person. The “Fred’s” I’ve known were truly in love with their sport. They’re problem stems from a hyper-inflated self-image of themselves within their beloved sport.
All athletes, from the weekend warrior to the top dollar professional, have an ego. How that ego manifests is as different as personalities. In my mind, there will one day be songs sung about my sporting achievements. I do have restraint and common sense so such thoughts are never uttered out loud. Aside from this admission of dreamt grandeur, I remain hopeful of a win now and then. But, this is not an essay on the psychology of the sportsman or sportswoman. This is devoted to a “Fred” I recently encountered.
The “Fred” to whom I refer is a sportsman. He’s an outdoor enthusiast. He has a very popular website where he writes about his adventures in the wilderness.
Since I am always searching for an angle or knowledge on how to better run this website, I read his pages and viewed his photography. The photography caused me to shut down for a second.
The photograph that initially stopped me was that of a truck that held two kayaks on its roof. The vehicle and boats were parked in a field of wheat overlooking a small cow pond. The colors were awesome. The pristine 2017 model truck and kayaks all seemed to have come directly off the showroom floor.
My first thought was, “Why would anyone take a kayak to this dinky little cow pond?” My second thought, “Wow, this guy really keeps his stuff clean and shinny.”
I clicked through more photographs and pages. The art work was way better than anything I’ve got here. (To avoid shame, there are no photographs included with this writing. Plus, I don’t have any that apply.)
The more I studied the more I began to sense a foul. The site was spectacular. It included professional grade pictures, incredible movie style videos, and lots of items for purchase.
Not only that there were loads of big of advertisers. You can’t get through a page without an ad popping up. Throughout all of this high quality production was the central figure. The hunter, archer, athlete, runner, mountain biker, rifleman, and kayaker. As I gazed at his manly image I thought, “Is this guy wearing make-up?” And, “He looks kind of soft.” Then, “How can anyone that describes that much work and exercise appear so fragile?”
Sure, looks can be deceiving. I was once passed by a runner at the end of a marathon whose looks versus speed would have fooled me had I not been witness. She was maybe 5 feet 2 inches tall and weighted an easy 165 pounds. To make this more incredible, particular to this 26.2 mile run, it was the final leg of the Louisville Ironman. To this day I wonder whether it was real or an hallucination. (It was real. My friends were watching the event. Since we were near the finish line when she passed me – I stopped as she passed, no way was I getting into a sprint across the finish with her – and my friends watched it all. The event has yet to fade from their memories. At least they ensure I won’t forget. This happened nearly a decade ago.)
Back to the mega-man’s website: One photo, a deceptive picture, that was particularly revealing was a mountain bike-racing photo. Our manly man is sprinting on a downhill curve, taking a risk that could lead to a crash. I know, too many times trying to make such a cut I crashed. (I always preferred going uphill. It you fall going up it’s not so bad.) What was most puzzling, the mountain bike racer’s face was cropped out of the photo. Why would our champion post a photo of himself without his head? What was offered for viewing was the phenotype of a whippet as an athlete. The webpage’s central figure is a big fellow, not a whippet.
Of the fully figured pictures there’s not a smudge of dirt on anything or anyone. The kayaks all appear waxed and polished. Not one of my seven boats would have matched his in a beauty contest. Then, I looked at the truck more closely. Incredible, brand new, spotless even when supposedly driven off-road and parked. Heck, the tires, yes there is a close-up to promote the tires, were dirt free.
Every image, every product all seemed pictured at their very best. The lighting, the settings, the framing. Good Lord, my adventures pale by photographic comparison.
There were even posts on fitness and a video of this champion working out on a stair climber. The videoed stepper captured during a workout without concern for sweat, none being broken or seen to dissuade a potential candidate from exercise.
How does this giant among men perform such feats? Fish hooked and landed the size of small torpedoes. Deer stalked, photographed at arm’s length and then shown dead (from a distance) all without the mussing of a hair. Trucks, kayaks, bows, guns, rods and reels, camo clothing, gadgets and widgets all pristine (and all for sale via a simple click) despite eons of written about use.
Not only does this demigod hunt and kill wild game he is a chef of acclaim. Don’t believe me, just read his posts. And by all mean use your credit card and order his cooking gear immediately. Link attached for selection and transaction.
I venture to guess the impression is only skin deep. The superman can certainly perform some of the marvels depicted on the webpage. But, no he is no expert at any of them. In fact, I’d go out on a limb and suggest he is a rank-less amateur. Yet, he is part of a machine that seeks revenue through the marketing of an imagine, an image someone hopes you want. To get it they pray you’ll buy their products that are displayed on the webpage and in company brochures.
The e-hero is “Fred.” He’s perfect for the role, a model poseur. I for one would never be that guy, without substance pay. Until that time, should you read the writing here you’ll read about real activities that get you dirty, sweaty and occasionally hurt. You’ll also view second-rate photography mostly captured using a phone.* Unless, I forget the phone (or my back-up $79.00 camera; currently missing in action) then all you will receive is a story.
One last comment on this “Fred”:
“Fred” is careful not to list an address on the website. But, “Fred’s” electronic fingerprint is extensive. It took only a few minutes to learn he lives in a major city! In fact one of the larger cities in the US. Most of the pictures would mean a day trip to capture. Somehow, I don’t see “Fred” as a fellow that would fare well in a wild place. But, truly his pictures and computer skills are fantastic. Certainly, he has tricked a lot of people. That trick is paying well for “Fred.” So, good for “Fred.” (Perhaps, I should enroll in a few computer skills classes.)
“Let us be thankful for the fools; but for them the rest of us could not succeed.” M. Twain.
(*) The phone readily revealed and marketed here if only the company paid a fee.