Betty Diaries: In praise of dad bods￼
Who doesn’t love an underdog?
In a Type-A town full of pro skiers, world-class mountain bikers, Olympic gold medalists and multimillionnaires, it’s getting harder and harder to be an underdog.
Just ask Max Valverde. He invented a product that got on Shark Tank. He was the CEO of a niche travel site that got sold to Booking.com. Now pushing 40, this former-high-school-athlete-turned-dad-bod has launched a bid to make Team USA in the 2026 Winter Olympic Games.
After selling his software company, Max decided to take a few years off and moved with his wife and kids to Park City. He started backcountry skiing and skinning up Park City Mountain while pondering his next move. That’s when he learned that ski mountaineering, or “skimo” as it’s known by aficionados, would be coming to the Olympic Winter Games in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, in 2026.
For the unitiated, skimo is sort of like alpine skiing, only the athletes skip the lift and skin up the mountain on skis. At the top, they rip off their skins and then race down through gates as fast as they can.
“I’ll be 41 in 2026, and I’d been looking for a good midlife crisis to go through,” Max says. “My intention after selling my company was to show my kids what working toward a goal looked like.”
In the beginning, what it looked like was this: their slightly overweight dad brandishing a hairy muffintop on Instagram and TikTok, where he’s known as “Dad Bod Goes Pro.”
Cue the theme to Rocky.
About a year into his vision quest, Max has gone from a beer gut to a six-pack. Which is not surprising given that he trains 30-35 hours a week, just like a professional athlete. Despite all of his hard work, Max is a self-proclaimed “normal guy” and a long shot for making the games. As he puts it in his Instagram bio, “All the guys on Team USA currently are absolute savages. They can all probably run four-minute miles.”
“When people say I’ll never make it, I just chalk it up to them being logical,” Max says. “If there’s a 5% chance I can make the team, there’s a 95% chance the haters are right.” While he focuses most of his energy on the “insane outpouring” of positive vibes coming from the internet, he says he also sort of loves the non-believers. “I need to prove them wrong — otherwise, I wouldn’t be an underdog.”
And who doesn’t love an underdog? Just watch Eddie the Eagle, who competed in the Olympics — and came in dead last. Or this year’s underdog upset of Kentucky, Duke and North Carolina in some of the craziest turns of March Madness.
My English friend Sally says some people love underdogs because they make us feel better about ourselves. The Germans actually coined their own word for it — schadenfreude — or the idea of taking joy in other people’s misery. But why? Maybe it’s because you don’t like them. Or you thought they deserved it. Or maybe it’s because you just thought the little guy needed a little more love.
The people who win all the time are kind of boring, to be honest. Success might win you money and fame, but it pales in comparison to watching the ball run through Boston Red Sox player Bill Buckner’s legs in the final inning of Game 6 when the New York Mets won the 1986 World Series.
It’s the unexpected outcome. The surprise upset. The Davids kicking Goliath’s butt. The ones who take risks. Who hustle hard and stay humble. Who use troll-talk as a kind of rocket fuel. Who have nothing to lose because they’re quietly willing to sacrifice everything just to be in the game.
I was thinking about all of this as I skinned up Park City Mountain by myself one Thursday night. I had actually come with a friend, but she quickly outpaced me. Between gasps, I managed to get out the words to tell her to keep going. “Just leave me here to die,” I thought to myself.
A herd of high-school greyhounds sprinted past me. A trio of 70-something women laughing and gossiping had stopped in front of me and I gleefully overtook them for about 20 seconds before they sprinted past me. I looked down just in time to see a tiny mouse fly by and dart into the woods ahead of me.
It’s not easy to be an underdog in a town like Park City.
I turned to look down the mountain and could see a trail of headlamps still coming up behind me. I was only halfway up the trail. No matter how slow I was, I’d never given up on a skin up the mountain before. But on that night, in that moment, I just didn’t care. I ripped off my skins, clicked into my bindings, took a deep breath and skied down toward the brights lights of our beautiful town.
To sort of quote Eddie the Eagle, where is it written that any glorious achievement — whether Olympian or more earthbound—is only for winners?
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