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I Fight Fauxthority

12 Apr


(not verbatim, contains typos, and sometimes I go off-book)

So today I’m going to take aim at—god, I don’t even know what to call it. Authority? Nah, sounds too punk rock. Old fogeydom? Well, there’s nothing wrong with being an old fogey, per se—many of them are quite entertaining.  North Korean press release syndrome? Eeeeh, too topical. I’m just gonna give you some examples that’ll hopefully make it a little clearer what I’m talking about.

So this past Sunday—that’d be Paris-Roubaix for those of you out there with short memories—NBC Sports Network was all “hey, checkout our live coverage, starting at 8am, Eastern”. And you know, as much as that network and I have had our differences in the past, I’m gonna attempt to reward the effort, you know? Give credit where it’s due.  

I mean, TV is still so neanderthal that its analytics rely on magical boxes delivered to an allegedly representative cross section of the US audience that is somehow immune to response bias, so it’s not gonna make a difference one way or another whether anyone without a Nielson box watches, but hey—I am an INFLUENCER. I can still tweet an atta-boy or two, maybe polish up that NBC Sports Network Reputation just a touch.

But when I flipped on the ole’ boob tube, I got some serious deja vu. No big deal, I thought, just recapping what happened 20 minutes prior. But then I got the post-Arenberg regrouping. Then a commercial. Then more of what I’d already seen. I tweeted. They tweeted back, said they’d be live eventually, but…eh, that never happened. Didn’t apologize or correct themselves. But they did say, and I’m quoting “Can't win. Go live at 8 miss Arenberg. Everyone complains. Delay + show Arenberg then live. Everyone complains.”

Alright, numbnuts, lets game that out. People are upset either way so upsetness cancels. Option A: miss Arenburg, show the race as live. People still watch your show because it’s what’s happening right then and there on the roads of France. You’ll get eyeballs on your higher-image-quality, legitimately paid-for coverage AND commercials which I believe is kind of the point of that hulking dinosaur of a delivery medium—a keyed-in captive audience who never know when the content they want will return.  

Option B: delay the race allegedly so people can see Arenberg—but I think more accurately, so you, with a race running 25 minutes ahead of schedule, can fill the time allotted—especially because Competitive Cyclist bought the last 30 minutes of it. You’d think, after hockeygate and some not-so-commercial free finales in the past you’d have learned selling these things [blocks of commercial free coverage] by time [instead of KM] is a bad idea, but I guess not.

 But most of all, I think you thought you’d still get the audience—after all, NBCSN is showing it on TV and it’s only a 20 minute delay. Why would they ever watch a pirate stream that’s a mere 20 minutes ahead when they could still watch us?

And this is the attitude I’m getting at in this rant. This sort of authoritative obliviousness to the actual state of affairs. Information flows whether you’re willing to acknowledge it or not. Watching the NBCSN broadcast wouldn’t simply be a matter of turning off the pirate feed and seeing a few minutes of racing twice—it’d mean going offline entirely, skipping the fast-paced, sleep-deprived, overcaffeinated interactive routine we’ve been following for the previous seven Sundays. If any of us had planned to just sit there and ignore the rest of the world,  we’d have slept in and caught the 5pm show instead.

I get it NBCSN; you paid good money for the ASO’s events, and you think this entitles you to some sort of control over them. But you just don’t have the power to back it up. They days of fealty to a single flickering sybil in every living room went out with casual workplace sexual harassment and Zubaz pants. And the more you act like this lack of control doesn’t exist, the numb-er you make yourself to the the very obvious demands of you audience, the less people are going to tune in for your product.

We went through a similar thing just this week with the UCI and USA Cycling. There’s a rule that says UCI-licensed athletes can’t race in events that aren’t on national calendars. It’s been around for years, and everyone ignores it because it’s stupid. Aside from the obvious flaws in the rule—it’s impossible to define an ‘event’, it’s impossible to go to every non-calendar ‘event’ to check for UCI athletes, etc etc—it’s a pretty clear power grab. The UCI thinks it should have authority of cycling everywhere.

I try to avoid ranting about the UCI—mostly because it’s like ranting about a moth that won’t stop banging it’s stupid moth head against the glass of a street lamp—but I’ll make an exception here because it’s quick. The UCI has technical authority over cycling, but no actual power. Their nuclear option is to kick people out of all UCI events but they don’t actually own or organize any of the important races.

Pre-Team 7-11, the UCI might have had the watts to kick the US out of the international sport without igniting a firestorm of disapproval from sponsors and organizers. After all, the US presence in cycling consisted wholly of Jock Boyer, and back then riders generally were kicked around like so many heads of rotting cabbage anyway.

But now? Look, back in 2006, Pat McQuaid threatened, and I’m quoting here “Teams who participate in Paris-Nice will be thrown out of the UCI”. I realize that might not make much sense if you don’t know the backstory, but the end result was that everyone raced Paris-Nice and that no one got kicked out. And do you think
the UCI’s power over the sport has increased since early 2006? After Puerto, Landis, Rasmussen, Kohl, Ricco, Schumacher, Contador, Ricco again, Ullirch, the nullificaiton of 7 consecuive titles and a hundred-thousand dollar Sysmex machine donation. Nooooooo. it has not

For USAC, though, their fauxthority—hey, I like that. I think I’m going to go with that—their exercise of fauxthority was more duplicitous than oblivious. In the course of five days, we heard USAC say that they would “ease the transition” for non-USAC calendar events, then followed that up with the dictum that non-sanctioned events were quote “under-insuring the volunteers and/or participants” or “avoiding the USA Cycling RaceClean program”.

It gets cuter—the USAC suggested that riders unhappy with the rule should “contact the UCI to discuss potential rule changes”, but then, when the UCI backed down on the topic—like, as I explained above, they pretty much had to—none other than USA Cycling president Steve Johnson said “USA Cycling listened to the views expressed by the cycling community in America”.

Steve, buddy, we were all right here the whole time; we heard everything you said. You can’t be like “screw off, talk to the UCI” one moment and “we listened responsively the next” or “these jerk organizers are fraudsters” after saying you’re “helping them transition”. I mean, the whole crux of your argument, that “our insurance package is awesome but, aww shucks we can’t do anything about this UCI rule forces you to get it” C’mon man, we may have been born at night, but not last night.

What these Fauxthorities don’t seem to realize is that as of a few years ago, no statement goes unattended, and no access is exclusive. Word spreads readily among we plebeians who buy cable subscriptions or pay registration fees, and our opinions develop rapidly. We know your faults, your inconsistencies and the back-alley shortcuts to undermine your business. If the motivated and tech-savvy can engineer the ouster of a dictator supported by the strongest nation in the world, what sort challenge do you think is offered by men—and you do seem to always be men—so tenuously positioned as yourselves?

if I were you’d, I’d sharpen up, and remember at the end of the day who exactly it is that pays your bills.

From The Archives: Moreau '07

8 Jan

I realize that 2007 was indeed a very open Tour, but I think Cyclingnews may have been enjoying a joke at our expense when they wrote up this preview:

In fairness, Moreau had indeed been putting down some of his best post-Festina riding in 2007, winning the Dauphine and even hanging with the leaders as they made some uncharacteristically soft attacks in the early TdF climbs.

But Moreau has a long history of needing excuses. When the GC race got tight, the Frenchmen found himself caught out by a field-splitting move from a Vino’-led Astana squad, and it was all downhill from there.

Moreau can probably glean some redemption form the fact that two convicted dopers contributed greatly to his implosion, but finally finishing in 37th, over 90 minutes down, it’s hard to cast the Frenchman as a hard-luck story of “what if…”

The Day the Hard Men Cried

21 Dec

This might be old news, but it’s the best video footage I’ve seen of the legendary Gavia stage at the ’88 Giro. There isn’t all that much snow porn in this clip (certainly not compared to the famous poster), but the surprising video quality, actual racing coverage, and pure human carnage (semi-conscious Bob Roll at 6:45) are fantastic.

(via All Hail The Black Market; see also: inferior Gavia footage.)

You'd Be Concerned, Too

10 Nov

As Jens Voight’s crash reminded us this summer, there’s no end to the danger lurking in the high mountains of the Tour. But the woman in this image—taken from the excellent, free-to-use collection of the Nationaal Archief—has special reason to be concerned.


Wim Van Est was the first Dutchman to don the yellow jersey in 1951, winning the 12th stage to Dax from a break that finished well clear of the field. He was still in yellow the next day when he flatted (or misjudged a bend) and went flying off the Col d’Abisque and down 200 feet into a nearby ravine.

Miraculously, Van Est survived the tumble intact. However, the rock face he soared off of was so steep—and the state of his understandable mental collapse so total—that he had to be hoisted back to the roadway with a daisy chain of tubular tires.

I suspect that this remarkable tumble was the genesis of Vrau Van Est’s radio-and-portrait setup.