Thursday, July 14, 2011

ESPN's Michael Smith: Missing the connection

I've been pretty busy lately and a bit stressed out, so I haven't had as much time as I'd like to blog, which usually helps me with my stress level, so it's sort of something I need to make time for. Because I haven't had the time I'd like, there haven't been as many pieces about the Tour de France as there would normally be. Because of this, let me catch you up to whats been going on:

  • Contador is not in top form, and is a few minutes off the pace
  • The guy in yellow right now is a Frenchman who is very unlikely to win the race
  • A great many crashes have taken their toll on the RadioShack squad that now has no chance of winning
  • Oh, and then there's this:

Thankfully both Flecha (the rider the car initially hit), and Hoogerland, (the rider thrown into a barbed wire fence by the collision) both finished the stage, and in fact Hoogerland holds the polka dot jersey as the best climber, even after receiving 33 stitches.

Adding injury to insult, on ESPN's Around the Horn, the four "sports journalists" on the 7/11 show took turns mocking and laughing at the accident (and to a lesser extent, the race) and even more so cycling as a whole. One of the regulars on the show even stated "I don't want bicycles on the road when I'm on my way to work", taking their lack of comprehension of the danger in this type of conversation way beyond the race itself.

After the show, ESPN's Michael Smith stated on his Twitter:

For real, am I wrong for laughing at that Tour de France crash? Can't get over the driver speeding off as if he didn't know he hit someone!
I'm sorry that crash is hilarious. Every. Time. 
After an entire day of defending his thoughts, he took to his twitter account to issue a formally worded apology, clearly the result of a massive effort of the online cycling community to have him reprimanded by ESPN. His follow up statements to the apology clearly indicate he is not only unapologetic, but undeterred, and has simply gone quiet on his twitter account temporarily to let the volatility out of the situation.An ongoing attempt asking ESPN dismiss him from his post can be found on TdF Lanterne Rouge's blog.

What really saddens me about the whole thing is that ESPN so clearly is missing the connection between an Olympic sport, it's fans, and everyday consumers. As bike lanes sprout up in every city big enough to pave its streets, we still see incredible anti-cycling advocacy in the general media. Dismissed as hippies or even perhaps folks who can't drive due to DUI's or other problems, cyclists in the US often do not garner the respect deserved.

Cycling is one of the few sports that to practice it, you need to make use of the public roads. Whether you're training for an Ironman or just commuting into work, it's hard to feel safe when people driving cars and trucks share the same attitudes as some of the hosts on these shows. I've had every mean thing you can think of said to me while on the back of my bike and stuff thrown at me along the way as well. And I consider myself very fortunate because I've never been involved in any serious crash nor have I come even close to being injured by a car.

As fossil fuels become more and more a precious commodity and bicycling continues its push into the mainstream of transportation in the United States, there will soon come a day when many with the attitudes like Mr. Smiths will have to face the facts that sharing the road is a responsibility of every driver whether they like it or not. I don't think Mr Smith, a father of young children, has really though out the consequences of attitudes like his and sharing those attitudes with an increasingly media impressionable audience.

I personally am not fully behind the idea of having Mr. Smith fired, I'd much rather see him be re-educated through a series of interviews with professional cyclists and triathletes like Jordan Rapp and others who have dealt with life threatening injuries from being hit by automobiles while on their bikes. When dealing with someone like Mr. Smith, it's not the person with the microphone you have to think about, it's the people with the speakers.



  1. excellent blog, thank you.

  2. Two thoughts: I have to wonder if Michael Smith would think it was hilarious if someone side-swiped his car and forced him off the road into a ditch.
    Every time I see Contador I think, "He must be riding clean this year."

  3. Hi... been spending the last few weeks lurking around your blog, enjoying reading about your progress. Wanted to give a little 'thumbs up' to what you wrote. It baffles me that ESPN's Smith actually has this attitude, although when major newspapers like the Boston Globe print things like this:
    ... it starts to paint a clearer picture of how ignorant people can be.

  4. thanks gang. It saddens me to think that this is a majority viewpoint, especially in light of that article in the Boston newspaper. I don't read that rag, and all the more happy I don't with each passing day.

  5. Its more than just people using the roads to train - it is recognising that cycling is a valid form of transport for everyone, everyday. Until the majority of people accept that, cyclists are going to continue getting pushed off the road - figuratively and literally.