Here in the United States an important election is taking place. It is arguably the most important mid-term election in more than 15 years. The talking points have been by turns filled with drama (Lisa Murkowski running as a write-in candidate after losing the Republican primary to Joe Miller), hypocrisy (Meg Whitman claiming to be tough on immigration until the revelation that she employed an illegal immigrant for nine years) and, on occasion, ridiculous (I’m not a witch).
No matter what your views are, the power to vote is such an immense privilege that making one’s voice heard in the political process borders on responsibility.
Cycling has its own democratic process, called sponsorship. Fortunately, participation isn’t nearly so fraught with disagreements and liabilities. And just like with politics, the process goes on whether we participate or not.
I wasn’t in the sport for long before sponsorship influenced my buying decisions. In fact, I began consciously supporting companies that sponsored cycling. I visited 7-Elevens rather than Circle Ks, brushed with Crest even though Colgate would do just fine, and after seeing a photo of Jacques Anquetil in his Bic team jersey, purchased only the French company’s ball-point pens.
I took note of which companies purchased advertising time during Tour de France broadcasts and remember vowing to shoe my car with Michelin tires before the winter arrived. Then I found out just how much they cost. It would be a few years before I could afford their tires in a size smaller than 700C.
I’ve continued to keep an eye on those companies that sponsor our sport. I do what I can to patronize them, though I haven’t moved my banking to Rabobank, nor have I dumped my iPhone in favor of one from HTC. But I’m just enough of a geek that I patronized Radio Shack long before they hooked up with Lance inc; I stop by almost any time I’m working on electronic gadgets. Try not to let that get around, though, would ya?
Some of cycling’s top athletes face allegations that suggest they are, in the grand scheme, less bereft of ethics than the crop of candidates who hope to steer this democracy. Yet we still face the prospect that many companies with pockets deep enough to sponsor Formula 1 or a football (doesn’t matter which kind) stadium may walk away from our sport.
We can’t change who takes what or how justice is administered, but we can continue to show our support for those who spend on our sport. Likewise, we can’t prevent a company from leaving the sport, but our patronage can do much to counteract the perception that their image was sullied by cycling.
And while it can be hard to fathom just how the spending of dedicated cyclists can be quantified or even registered, the great marketing machine in the sky knows when and with whom we spend.
It is likely you already do this and don’t need any reminding from us, but the political process can be frustrating, even in the best of times, but this is one time we can say it with a straight face—
Vote early; vote often.
Image: John Pierce, Photosport International