Tuesdays With Wilcockson: It’s time to help our sport!

I had a long discussion last week with a friend who takes just a passing interest in bike racing. He was asking me about the state of American cycling now that Lance Armstrong has retired. I told him it was going very well, that Armstrong’s peers Chris Horner and Levi Leipheimer were still contesting stage races at the highest level, that U.S.-registered teams BMC Racing, Garmin-Barracuda and RadioShack-Nissan-Trek were winning the toughest races in the sport’s major league (the UCI WorldTour), and that a new generation of excellent riders was coming through.

There are some exciting prospects in this new generation. At BMC, Tejay Van Garderen is being groomed to take over the Tour de France leadership role of Cadel Evans when the Aussie retires, and Taylor Phinney is the natural successor to his veteran teammate George Hincapie. Over at Garmin, a truly homegrown squad, Peter Stetina is working toward contender status in the grand tours, starting with next month’s Giro d’Italia, and Andrew Talansky is shaping up to match him. And while Armstrong has quit RadioShack as a racer, his team is schooling such talents as U.S. road champion Matt Busche and under-23 standout Lawson Craddock.

My friend hadn’t heard any of these names, except for Leipheimer and Phinney. And that was only because Levi received great coverage in the Colorado media last August for winning the inaugural USA Pro Cycling Challenge, and Taylor is the son of local sports icons and Olympic medalists Davis Phinney and Connie Carpenter Phinney. But if you only read the national press, listened to 99.9-percent of America’s radio stations and only watched network television, you certainly wouldn’t have heard of Leipheimer or Phinney, let alone all those other great American cyclists.

You may be thinking, this is nothing new. Cycling fans have known for decades that cycling is regarded as a second-class sport—or not even a sport—by the majority of couch-potato Americans. And we know that the only sports that register on the radar of U.S. sports editors are (American) football, baseball, basketball, (ice) hockey, golf, tennis and NASCAR.

My friend agreed that, besides cycling, the world’s other major sports—football (soccer), athletics (track and field), cricket and rugby—barely get a mention in the U.S. media. And he too was puzzled that while soccer is a far more popular participant sport in schools across the country than gridiron football, that doesn’t translate into the U.S. being a power player on the global soccer scene except, thankfully, for our women. But, then, there’s no money in women’s soccer, and it only makes the sport pages when there’s a World Cup or Olympic medals at stake.

Again, you’re probably thinking, why is Wilcockson going on about mainstream sports when he knows that cycling will never make it with the American media. The only time it does make the national news is when the words “Tour de France,” “Lance Armstrong,” and “doping” are contained in the same sentence.

Yes, I know all that, and I know how frustrating it is for journalists who discover cycling in all its majesty, beauty and history to come up against the brick wall that is the American-sports-editor establishment. All my above thoughts and feelings crashed  together like cymbals this past Monday morning after I picked up our two nationally distributed  newspapers, USA Today and The New York Times. Predictably, both of them headlined golf’s Masters tournament and the fairy-tale win by Florida native Bubba Watson. The sports editors were obviously relieved that in a week when Tiger Woods failed to beat par in all four rounds that the win at Augusta didn’t go to that South African guy with the unpronounceable name. Long live Bubba—who made it an even better story by invoking his Christian faith in his victory speech, à la Tim Tebow.

Okay, Bubba’s success was a great story. But I also expected that our national dailies would have some decent coverage of cycling’s biggest one-day classic, Paris-Roubaix, especially because NBC Sports had decided to broadcast it live in HD and repeated the coverage with a three-hour show at primetime. But, no, my hopes were soon dashed. USA Today didn’t even mention Paris-Roubaix, not even the result in tiny agate type. As for the Times, well, they had a paragraph in its sport-summary section under the insulting headline: “Belgian wins French race.”

Let’s admit it, American mainstream sports editors are out of touch. They propagate their views by only covering the sports that they’ve always covered. They may say that it’s too expensive or too difficult for them to put cycling on their pages — and why would anyone be interested in cycling anyway? But Web sites with a shoestring budget manage to cover cycling very well indeed, and virtually every American, like my friend, rides a bike at some point in their lives, so why wouldn’t they want to read about the heroic athletes who compete in one of the most dramatic sports ever invented?

It’s time to take those elitist sports editors out of their ivory towers and plunk them down in a frenzied crowd of fans on Mount Baldy at the Amgen Tour of Colorado, on Independence Pass at the Pro Challenge, or on the Manayunk Wall at the TD Bank Philadelphia International Championship. Better still, give them a VIP package to any of these American events, or ferry them across the Atlantic and wine and dine them at the Tour or Giro — or give them a front-row seat at the worlds or any of the one-day classics. Perhaps even take them to the Forest of Arenberg or the Carrefour de l’Arbre at Paris-Roubaix to see the athletes battling (and crashing) their way over the cobblestones at speeds that only four-wheel drives or trials motorcycles can normally contemplate on such rugged roads.

It was encouraging that NBC Sports (formerly Versus, formerly OLN) devoted its time, energy and resources to broadcast the live feed of Paris-Roubaix, even if it’s a half-century since the European networks first covered the Hell of the North classic. But it’s shameful that our national press virtually ignored one of the world’s truly great sports events, especially in a year when Tom Boonen made the most brilliant performance of his phenomenal career to become only the second man in a century to win at Roubaix four times.

And outside of Boonen’s triumph, there were a dozen other stories to whet sports fans’ appetites, including the amazing debut (and top-15 finish) of Taylor Phinney at age 21, and the record-equaling 17th Paris-Roubaix finish of George Hincapie at 38. You can bet that if Samuel Abt of the Herald-Tribune hadn’t retired and was still writing for the Times that he would have given his unique take on the race, and if Sal Ruibal hadn’t been let go by USA Today he would have seen that the newspaper at least mentioned Paris-Roubaix.

So what can we do? I suggest that everyone who reads this column begins writing letters, sending emails and making phone calls to the sports editors of every newspaper they read (on-line or in-person) to make them aware that cycling is a major sport in this country, not just in the rest of the world. Keep on sending those messages and send this column to your friends to do the same. Don’t take no for an answer.

If we can’t get the media to see cycling as a major sport then riders such as Phinney, Talansky and Van Garderen will continue to be perceived as second-class sports citizens in this country. You know and I know that these guys are far superior athletes to the Bubba Watsons and Tim Tebows of the American sports establishment. Let’s start to help our young pros (and help our sport) gain the recognition they truly deserve!

 

Follow me on Twitter: @johnwilcockson

Image: Photoreporter Sirotti

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39 comments

  1. Scott G.

    I am grateful cycling is not mainstream entertainment, I’d like the sport
    to remain sport. If you could get Eurosport on cable or satellite, that
    would be perfection.

  2. David Hendry

    You are facing the same problem I had in my chosen sport, rowing. No matter how much we love the sport for it’s required effort, courage, fitness etc. I translates terribly into 30 sec sound and pic bites. The glory is in watching a breakaway for hours try to hod off the peloton and while I find that fascinating you can’t capture it in a 10 second bit o the news before you go to commercial for the latest 1/2 lb greaseburger deluxe. Given that the editors take the tried and true. Never forget their job is not educating or amusing you it is delivering viewers to the advertisers and more viewers want to see a steroidal freak bash another on the football field rather than watch an epo laced freak ride fro 4 hours.

  3. gmknobl

    Here, here!

    I am soooo tired of hearing how though a game football is and hear the implied you can’t be a man if you don’t play one of the marquee sports. Ridicule is still directed at those “girly guys in those tights” and we face anger on the roads because of it. Making it a regularly talked about and lauded sport in America would go a long way to making it safer to ride a bike for recreation or a commute on a bike.

  4. Steven

    Hi
    Interesting article, being an european who holidays in USA I would say that I have found, in very general terms, America is very insular in most things and that the only world is America and its world image sports and thats it! Certainly your tv sport coverage reinforces the “man” sports of ice hockey, football. Perhaps there is not enough money being paid to these athletes or big time sponsors.

    But having said that here in the UK cycling has really only hit the big time media in the last few years due to the achievements of a number of UK cyclists. Still nothing compared to tv coverage in France Italy etc.

    It was interesting to note when local people asked me why was I on holiday in Colorado they were amazed when I spoke about ice climbing as a sport………

  5. SimsKey

    absolutley love cycling but these guys aren’t near the athletes that Tim Tebow is…making statements like that is going to kill your clout, imo.

    like the article overall though.

  6. Scot

    Most Americans have the attention span of a small insect. That’s why they like sports contained in a box(Stadium), where each play lasts only a few seconds, except for NASCAR, where people will stay tuned in anticipation of a crash. Bike races take time to evolve- more time than a lot of people want to devote. Plus the stigma of doping still hangs over the sport, even though a lot of pro football and baseball players are doped to the gills.
    For someone who does not ride, watching a race on TV may not convey how hard it actually is. We know it, but Joe couch surfer has no idea. He does know how hard football is when he sees a guy get his helmet knocked off by a flying linebacker. Plus it’s more manly than a bunch of skinny dudes in lycra. (Just kidding on that last one)

  7. WV Cycling

    “But Web sites with a shoestring budget manage to cover cycling very well indeed.”

    Deadspin’s lack of coverage of cycling has baffled me. Nick Denton’s sites’ reach is very expansive, yet their writers would rather post photos of some baseball player’s receipt that was dropped at a gas station, than cover even the TdF. A big WTF in my opinion. I’ve opined to them several times with no reply.

    What is America’s obsession with ball sports? Is it the safety of the teams not changing names every couple years, or how it is easy to watch on television?

    I think I read an excerpt saying that 1.3 million people were on the roads, watching Paris-Roubaix riders race past.

    All in all, it is a very frustrating “why don’t you see things my way” type argument.

  8. drafthorse

    Here Here!!
    Excellent points. A large part of the problem is that people who ARE interested in cycling (or soccer or rowing) do not complain enough to the media to provide coverage for their sport. Media claims to respond to consumer demand. So we need to demand. Every now and then on the local sports radio, someone will call in to say something about soccer or cycling, and is then promply admonished by the hosts, who think that 99% of the listeners are with them. Show them that is not the case!1

  9. Otherland

    Wow…. People still read newspapers?? Other than the fact that I can’t remember the last time I looked at a newspaper I pretty much agree with everything said!!

  10. ThatGuy

    To be fair, NBC’s live coverage was a bit of disappointment, as they joined the action when Boonen had the race won save a flat tire or a Hincapie style broken handlebar. Still, recorded the 3 hour re-air on Monday and watched it that evening and loved the tension leading into Arenburg even though I knew the outcome.

  11. Doug Page

    During the Lance years I saw what that rapacious beast known as US sports coverage did to bike racing, and I remain underwhelmed. While the picture quality is great when I watch bike races on cable TV, the US habit of showing less than 20 minutes of racing during an hour is so maddening I end up watching Euro coverage online anyway. And as to why US media don’t cover cycling, an anti-cycling mindset exists as one aspect of the culture wars dividing our society. One doesn’t hear much about cycling on the exclusive golf courses where the media’s puppet masters decide for Americans what is important.

  12. Alex TC

    “Never forget their job is not educating or amusing you it is delivering viewers to the advertisers…”

    David, I respectfuly disagree. Though it should not be their priority, educating and amusing or entertaining, adds not only integrity but also dignity and class to what they do (or should do, as I believe was proposed by Wilcockson in this post).

    Truth is, anyone can be a “whore” to the marketing department and stick to the formula. It´s all out there. But it takes some balls to defy convention and do that little extra, that is to balance information with education in some intelligent way.

    My opinion anyway.

  13. ben

    I rarely pay attention to sports outside of cycling. I’ll watch a game here and there (certainly the Denver Broncos games…my home team), fill out a NCAA bracket (I won this year…though it must have been luck b/c no research was done.), and I could name a few NFL, NBA, MLB standouts though I don’t watch ESPN or read Sports Illustrated. I love watching soccer (pro or world cup), but I don’t really know any players by name. I love sport, but cycling is what I love best.

    Sure I guess I wish that more people knew about cycling and racing so that I could participate in sports conversations at work (I’m clueless at the Monday-morning water-cooler talk), but then again I don’t pay attention to golf or ____ball, tennis, or anything else…so why should they?

    RKP is my sports column.

  14. Cat4Fodder

    I am as big a fan of cycling as the next guy, and even pay for Universal and Cycling.tv to get coverage to races most people in the States who enjoy cycling only occasionally hear about through Cyclingnews. I also live in one of the few “the” hotbed of road cycling and pro cycling in general (Denver/Boulder corridor). But even here, most people are know nothing, nada, zip about pro-cycling. And as much as the crowds at races are great, let’s be honest…they are a pittance compared to mainstream sports.

    Want to grow the sport….you have to start long-term, growing at the youth level. Build a base or a culture around cycling as a sport, and you will get more people interested. But one night of HD coverage on a channel, where pro-bass fishing re-runs gets higher ratings than Pro-cycling races does not mean suddenly there is a groundswell of people clamoring for more coverage in the main stream press.

  15. Cat4Fodder

    Jesus – please excuse the grammar on the above post. Was editing it while writing it and dealing with office work.

  16. ben

    @Cat4Fodder…good points for sure. I also live in CO (denver) and everyone I work w/ calls me Lance when they see me kitted up for my ride to/from work. annoying.

    I wonder about the growth of cycling and the demand for cycling tv coverage. I think that right now there is at least enough coverage proportionally in mainstream media given the participation numbers in cycling. There’s certainly more/better coverage now than when I was a kid listening to John Tesh and Phil Ligget (w/ Tesh’s adult contemporary music keeping things spicy!). Hopefully someday it will be more, if not, thank goodness for internet coverage, RKP, cyclingnews.com, etc.

    I think it will happen. Soccer has its own cable network now. Though it still doesn’t get the mainstream media coverage that the big3 sports do.

  17. @Pub_Cap_Scott

    I also applaud John for this piece, especially highlighting those who would have supported cycling in the media this past weekend, but are no longer able to through their own decisions or not. We do need more coverage of our beautiful sport, not just to support those of us out there fighting cars to train, but also to educate the masses in America that there is an incredible sport they are missing.

    Cyclists might not be hitting each other to gain a few extra inches (except for bunch sprints and on the track), but they are still incredible athletes. Comparing toughness is apples to oranges with other sports though. I wouldn’t expect Johan Van Summeren to be able to take a hit from a 250 lb line backer, but I also couldn’t see that same line backer successfully riding over the cobbles. What needs to be seen by the public is the beauty and courage of a rider off the front for hours, crossing the finish line as the peloton chases a like a pack of rabid dogs a few hundred meters behind. They need to see the dust and mud covered faces that age men 20 years at a cobbled classic. They need to see the athleticism of cyclocross riders on and off the bike as they race around a ever changing course.

    This year is a chance to do it. We might have missed the classics, but we have plenty of races (ATOC, USPCC, Tour of Utah, Philadelphia International Classic, Tour of the Gila, etc) to highlight the sport, along with the the London Olympics and CX World Championships. Take the time to spread the word, and show our sport some love.

  18. WV Cycling

    @Ben – if ever given the opportunity, take a look at ESPN magazine. (your post said espn tv / SI magazine) It has a ton of great writing and interesting articles. It may almost be worth the subscription price.

    I think they even did a nice piece on either the Tour or the Giro last year with a ?full page spread photo, and three pages of text and ancillary photos?. I was very happy and mailed them a smiley face letter about it.

  19. ben

    @WV Cycling- I’ll give it a look. To be honest it’s my disinterest in other sports (at least to spend the time reading about them) and the fact that ESPN tv blatantly disregards/makes fun of cycling (see the Hoogerland accident from last TDF) that turns me off to the whole orginaization. But that’s cool that the mag did some actual coverage.

  20. LD

    its funny huh how the average slug sitting on his couch doing arm curls with his can of Bud calls cycling not a real sport or that its not tough or manly ( Cipo’s conquests I’m sure would beg to differ!). I have been doing “extreme” (hate that word and btw, that term used now applies to none of the sports that call themselves extreme) sports most of my life. From solo rock climbing, ice climbing to downhill ski racing, ski mountaineering and car racing cycling (racing) easily ranks up there as one of the most difficult, physically challenging and dangerous. There are more injuries and deaths in cycle racing than there are in MotoGP for Christs’ sake! I heard a great story from a seasoned Euro Pro about one time Kevin Schwantz was following the TdF on a descent in a team car and he was shocked at the balls the leading guys had. The average couch potato just isn’t going to get it…… ever.

  21. Tricky Dicky

    Who is Tim Tebow? I’m serious, no idea.

    My point? Different countries follow different sports until someone breaks that sport out into the mainstream. Put simply, you need local heroes to get better coverage. Lance (sort of) was for the US (doping stuff aside). It’s a shame he didn’t take the classics and other races seriously to “educate” the public on cycling’s wider appeal. Until the next winner of the Tour is from the US, the sport won’t be high profile in the US: it is the only event the US media recognises. I live in Oz – the sport is absolutely flying here because of Cadel, Greenedge and the track cycling team. The UK could say the same because of Cavendish, Wiggins, Sky and the track cycling team.

    Now, if only drivers were a bit more tolerant I’d be a happy chappy….

  22. Joe

    I don’t think one can say that one sport is more difficult than another. It’s not an apples to apples comparison, nor should it be. I have tried many sports, mostly typical American sports, but have also competed in more fringe endurance sports like cross-country & track. I have always been drawn to the bike- watching the 1 hour recap of the TDF as a kid in July was always a highlight- still remember Lemond beating Fignon by 8 seconds!
    For me I respect any sport at any level. To be good at anything takes talent,dedication, sacrifice and the competitive spirit, which transcends the specificity of the sport. That includes chess for that matter.

  23. Steve

    There’s not likely going to be a “frenzied crowd of fans on Mount Baldy at the Amgen Tour of Colorado” since that tour finish is in California.

  24. Wsquared

    The good news: the proliferation of niche media channels on TV and the Internet means that here in the US, if you know where to look, you can see lots of bike racing. But, for the most part IMO, people who watch these broadcasts are already fans of the sport.

    The bad news: due to intense competition and increasing “bottom line” pressure, the main stream media is driven more than ever before to focus on lowest common denominator stories that that believe have the broadest appeal. Its all about ratings and advertising. A Denver market sports radio station knows that the talk lines light up if they express just about any opinion about Tim Tebow. Not so with the results of Paris Roubaix.

    Lemond & Armstrong were exceptions because they were seen as Americans taking on the World & winning big time, with the added drama of Armstrongs battle with cancer.

    Now, Taylor Phinney gets an occasional brief mention in the Denver Post because he is a local boy. And there has been some of talk about the Pro Cycling Challenge, but that’s bearly a blip compared to Peyton Manning comming to town.

    That’s 21st century media.

  25. Rick

    Americans! Stop over-hyping the up and coming riders (Tee-Jay-Taylor). Levi! Stop falling off your bike. Win something and the Americans will start demanding better media coverage of this weird sport fought-out over seas between 6 and 10am every weekend. Nah, they won’t. Forget it. I’ve been watching for 30 years, leave it the way it is.

  26. Josh Kadis

    Based on my experience working for races and teams and with sponsors, I’d say that:

    a) Mainstream media coverage (if there is still such a thing as the mainstream media) is more a reflection of popularity than a cause of it.

    b) For sophisticated sponsors with big budgets, media coverage is lower on their list of priorities than most cyclists would think.

    I’m not a fan, but it’s worth looking at how the UFC got so huge a couple years ago. Basically, they have a tidy business model (controlling the fighters, all the events, and all the TV rights), they packaged themselves extremely well for television (reality show on basic cable + pay-per-view fights), and they actually generate revenue off the fans (tickets and PPV). They didn’t complain about the mainstream media not understanding their sport; they just put out a product in a format that people wanted to watch.

    Unfortunately, cycling is extremely expensive to produce for television (motorcycles, helicopters, fixed-wing aircraft, satellite trucks in remote locations, etc) and not as well suited to that medium as, for example, two guys punching each other in the face.

    We like a sport that not everyone is going to like. Oh well. I think we’re better off arguing for acceptance of cyclists as legitimate road users than for more coverage of Paris-Roubaix in our local newspapers.

  27. Shane

    Hang on – much as some of what John says here makes sense, he’s forgetting that a big part of the problem is the complete obsession many in the US media had with Lance Armstrong, including after he returned. John was one of those most noted for this, chosing the short term returns of focussing on Armstrong and maximising the publicity value of that name, rather than providing a more balanced coverage. Versus were also guilty of the same, plus several others such as Phil and Paul. Let’s not reinvent history – that’s precisely what happened. Now the same guys are bemoaning the fact that more people don’t know that bike racing isn’t just about the guy from Texas? There’s a certain irony there… If there hadn’t been such a myopic obsession with one rider, then the current situation wouldn’t be as pronounced.

    1. Padraig

      Shane: It’s pleasure to have one of cycling’s best journalists join the conversation; thanks for stopping by.

      I think part of what we have here might be termed a chicken-or-egg problem. From my seat (which I respect may be quite different from yours), it has seemed like here in the U.S. the mainstream media only covered cycling if an American won something big (and in America, for reasons that can’t be parsed, the even the Giro isn’t big). While I wasn’t wild about a 24-hr. Armstrong news cycle when he returned, he was a reliable subject to try to drive some attention of cycling. My thought at the time was that if Armstrong was in the mainstream media enough, it might lead some of those outlets to “discover” other story lines, like Levi or the new crop. I respect that some readers don’t think Taylor Phinney is really worthy of a lot of coverage, he’s a compelling story either from the standpoint of the cycling media or a more mainstream news outlet.

      It seems to me that recently the only chance of getting other story lines into the media that contain cycling—but not Lance—was to do something Lance-adjacent. Tyler Hamilton would never have been on 60 Minutes had he not been a teammate of Armstrong’s and leveled accusations against him. While it wasn’t coverage of cycling in the fashion we want, I think it’s a good example of how difficult it has been to get the media to look beyond Armstrong.

      Did John’s work at VeloNews exacerbate this trend? Hard to say. I would propose that putting Armstrong on the cover of your magazine is a good way to get someone who hasn’t been reading your magazine to pick it up for the first time. Whether you capture that reader for good depends on how compelling the rest of your content is. It seems a reasonable strategy, given how often it works.

      Would you disagree? Curious to know your thoughts.

  28. Wsquared

    (Sorry, I’m not Shane)

    It’s about the money Lebowsky!

    NHL ice hockey is way down in ratings compared to the Big Three Sports in th USA. Its no longer shown on ESPN. This fact is often bemoaned by fellow my hockey fans and results in a fair amount of derision from the mainstream media. I don’t really care about that. Why? Because since the “lockout” they have gotten their financial house in order and are making good enough money to sustain viability. I can see all the games I want for the foreseeable future. I could care less that a lot more people watch US football..

    As a bike racing fan, what really concerns me is the overall, long term viability of the sport. Bike racing is based on a medieval financial model where the participating teams receive little or nothing in shared media revenues from the the event producers. Instead of commercial team sponsors being an ancillary revenue stream, they are often the only revenue stream, causing big teams fold with alarming regularity. That’s ass backwards.

    The governing bodies are full of capriciously selected entitled Eurocrats who think they govern by Devine Right and know nothing about marketing or business. Prize money is ridiculously low. (Boonen got what, less the E 40,000 for winning Flanders?) The riders don’t have a meaningful union to ensure they make a viable livelihood. Bike racing is often promoted a scattered, ad hoc way.

    The basic business model needs to be reformed, or all this talk do US stars of the future is meaningless.

  29. Dennis

    I get that mainstream news coverage might serve as the catalyst for an increased interest in cycling (someone reads a short article about George Hincapie in his 17th P-R, talks about cycling with a cyclist friend, and it takes off from there). However, it seems to me that print newspapers are (1) dying, and (2) so big and unwieldy that change is likely to be slow or impossible. Wouldn’t it be better to try to get a little bit of coverage of cycling on smaller, web-based outlets? They’re probably more likely to include at least a bit about cycling, and they seem to be healthier than the print news at this point. I’m not against USA Today covering cycling; I know this isn’t an either-or kind of choice. However, I think that if people are interested in introducing other people to cycling, this might be better accomplished by reaching out to smaller online journalists, rather than the big papers.

  30. Sterling Matt

    Meh to it all. I think the MSM is interested in what’s easy and accessible to them. Plugging into cycling is difficult if all you know is ball sports and cars. Too many nuances, too much to explain – especially working from the LCD standpoint. That said I think the cycling media acted more like wall street – get that short term gain – rather than building and educating an interested populace during Lance’s run. They did the same thing with Greg….”Hey look, here’s a feel good story that will sell some copies today.” Or even better..”Here’s a comeback story that will sell some copies this week.” Let’s go a step farther in noting that race analysis, especially pre-event, is largely anecdotal. Writers can wax poetic about the “potential” for a rider to do well, or the relative power of a team, but they can’t really do the X’s and O’s that the general public expects of sports reporting. You know that the quarterback vs the defensive back battle WILL happen, but so many variables can come into play in cycling that it comes down to speculation, rather than education. Everyone can understand Boonen’s ride at Roubaix, but few invest the time to truly understand the sport. I’ll agree with Dennis..if you want to get a new fan point them towards the good stuff that comes from intimate and educated sources…MSM lacks the panahe to do it well b/c they don’t have a reason to care…

  31. drew

    I was with you until you stooped to dissing the ‘mainstream’ sports at the end. Your opinion of golf is as stupid as the opinions of those you rail against.

  32. Jeff

    Drew is a little harsh in his wording, but I have to agree that “dissing” the mainstream sports does not in any way help our sport. We are so fringe that we get laughed at for even making the comparison, much less stating superiority.

    After reading Mr. Wilcockson’s article and then the comments I think some of us are trying to put two issues into the same argument, 1) using the sport to promote and gain acceptance of our activity (especially with drivers), and 2) purely the sport of professional cycling (which I gather is Mr. Wilcockson’s take).

    I’m going to go down a road here that even I may not agree with, but for the sake of argument let’s face it – to get more mainstream coverage we need to stop trying to convince others to watch our sport just because we think it’s great and start acting more like mainstream sports. I am not a NASCAR fan, but I am amazed at what that sport has done with in-car cameras and race info that can be viewed on the TV screen and/or selected online with subscription packages. It’s a natural for cycling to do the same. Organizer mandated front and rear cameras on bikes, real time speed, gradient, heart rate, and power info on the screen. Get rid of the bike weight limit and they’d still weigh the same with all of the needed transmitters on board. Of course, just like in mainstream sports the organizer needs to share broadcast revenue with the teams. Coverage could include cyclist vs. other pro athlete comparisons in power/weight ratio, heart rate min & max, VO2 max, LT, and others. We have just about the only sport where accurate and timely athlete measurements can be taken during the actual “playing” of the game. Why not take advantage of that? Can you time a guy’s 40yd dash during a football game?

    On the other hand, if cycling went down that road I’d most likely lose the ability to flip open the laptop on a Sat/Sun morning and watch race coverage (in how many languages?) while fixing the family breakfast, sit down to watch the finish, and head out on my own ride – all before 9am. I love that. Being small is not all bad, but is it sustainable?

  33. Ron

    I have to say that I’m pretty ambivalent about this. I don’t ride my bike, race my bike, or watch PRO races because I want cycling to be a mainstream sport. The only really positive thing I could see if it were to become mainstream would be that maybe, maybe people would actually share the road & respect cyclists more. (I always tell people – hey what do you like to do? Tennis, golf? Okay, now imagine if a sport you loved and couldn’t get enough of – if every time you went out someone nearly ran you over because they were in a rush to get to Bojangles. Would you like that?)

    I grew up playing lacrosse and played at a very high level in college. Everyone wondered why it wasn’t more popular. Ten years after I’ve graduated and now it is popular, shown on t.v. all the time, and gets far more press. And guess what? The sport has been so diluted and changed that I can’t watch it. I sometimes feel guilty. From the age of 6-22 I lived and breathed the sport; it was a family passion for us. And now it’s popular and I’m saddened that the product people are seeing is not a beautiful sport but a slow, plodding, unskilled game of overcoaching, overanalysis, and specialized players.

    I’ve pretty much given up on U.S. sports. Football is insanely slow. I hate the commercials. I hate it’s relationship with obese Americans. The NBA is a joke, one step shy of wrestling, which I actually enjoy watching for amusement sometimes. I follow European soccer, some ice hockey, and PRO cycling. And espn. Don’t even get me started. Total sports network? I actually saw my first live cycling on espn in the late 80s when off from school. Now it’s a fantasy world about drama and announcers trying to be cool. I hate the network. I hate what is has done to sports.

    I actually see a HUGE connection between mainstream U.S. sports, obesity, a high divorce rate, over consumption of alcohol, an obsession with technology/texting/etc. and the overall direction of the country. Call me crazy, but I think they are all connected in a way.

    I’m not attracted to cycling because it’s a fringe sport or gets little press in the U.S., but I feel no burning desire to have it receive more attention. Heck, I’m pretty happy to have a small group of pals to ride with, a few nice bikes, and a few good news outlets to read about the sport from, plus a few good blogs and such.

  34. Ron

    Golf should be dismissed. The sport is fine, but now it has become a “lifestyle.” A history of racism and sexism? Hmm. Knocking down huge swaths of pristine land to put up courses? Country clubs and rich boy cronyism?

    The sport is a good one, the entire culture it has evolved into is disturbing. It’s the same with the NFL for me though. I played football growing up, but football is now a religion. And it’s one related to obesity, excessive drinking, ignoring wives and children, and generally being detached from life. Just look at how many grown, obese men spend one of their two days off from work stationed in front of a television drinking and eating all day long. It’s perverse and disgusting.

    On a related note, how about females who wear around a Ben Rothlisberger jersey? Are they that blind to that guy’s behavior towards women?!!

    1. Padraig

      I gotta be honest and say Ron’s comments resonate with me. That said, the real point behind John’s post wasn’t really that other sports are bad, but that we need to speak up to get cycling on those “networks” more often.

  35. Rick

    Bubba’s victory was a great story but nothing could make up for the fact that Tiger was hardly on television that weekend and out of serious contention after Fridays round. What a huge opportunity that could have been for golf. I’ve been a cyclist for 30 years and watching it on TV for the same time. It’s boring! We had 2 hrs of PRB coverage and the last hr was watching paint dry! If I had to chose 1 or the other, I would chose golf.

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