Monday, June 9, 2014

What's Wrong with Cycling Journalism

Why is it that I now feel like the real thugs in cycling are the journalists?  Three years ago they were busy building up the pedestals and trying to quiet the skeptics (I'm thinking Kimmage and Walsh).  Now they're piling on their former heroes:
The essence of the krystalnacht-y tone is over at Red Kite Prayer:  “Character assassination” is a highly prejudicial term and Armstrong has no character. None. This book [Cycle of Lies] proves that.

None whatsover?  Really?  The guy who beat cancer and started a huge (albeit megalo-egomanical) wristband foundation? No character?  None?  Maybe just the tip.  Just the tip of some character?  No?

Now, I'm all for a bit of fun at the witch burning, but do we really need any more expressions of betrayal directed toward our former heroes?  

No, we don't.  Let it be proclaimed:  expressions of outrage about doping are over.  They're over in the same way Brennifer is over.  They're over in the way combining the names of a couple into a single name is over.  They're over in the way we never should have cared about couples whose names were combined in a single name is over is over.  Over.  

We don't care about Lancecapie or Hesjemillar or ZaFloydski or Vandeheimer.  

We don't care, and we're moving on.  It's over.  No more booty call hate sex.  No more.

I'm even tired of the self flagellation.  Bicycling Magazine's Bill Strickland made this confession in his semi-column titled Errata the other day:  "Willed myself to believe I believed pro racers who lied about doping, long after I should have known better. Then spent similarly unseemly amount of time judging them rather than trying to understand them."

(A confession: I stumbled on the column hoping it was Strickland writing erotica, not merely listing his errata).  My Latin, or whatever language, bad.

Moving on.

What a bizarre admission by Strickland there.  Why bother trying to understand dopers?  Really.  There are a thousand bright young stars bursting in the sky (here, I'm trying to be all literary and use a figure of speech--stars in the sky--to describe the young talent now developing) and here all the old journalists want to do is look backwards at the folks who used to race and used to dope and want to understand them.

You want to understand doping in today's peleton better?  Fine.  Go to Columbia and start digging, like this incredible work done by Cycling Inquisition.  Authorize a column by an anonymous pro, like Cycling Tips.

Why the hell do the major publications leave the best and most accurate journalism to dudes in basements? Possibly for the same reason they "willed themselves" to first defend dopers, then linger on them after the ex-pros have become old dudes in basements themselves (of a different kind, of course).

So many dudes in basements.  This is getting confusing, but I'm going to keep ranting, myself being a dude in a basement.

Another approach might be to start sifting through the peleton and talking to those clean athletes that rode through the EPO era without ever doing EPO:  all those cyclists who finished anonymously, guys like Moncouti√© and Bassons, clean riders who hung on during the doping years.  Guys who never got to found yellow wristband foundations.  Guys with clean, never-dangerously-enlarged hearts.

In fact, the best thing I've read on doping comes from Candian (candid + Canadian) cyclist Will Routley.  His glorious burn following Hesjedahl's admission.  It's not what is said necessarily--it's who is saying it.  It's just different because Routley earned his righteousness.  He's has been racing for 15 years as a professional, right through the middle of the shit.  

There's a bit of righteous anger on display in his win from the break at this year's Tour of California:

This is a postmodern bullshit era.  We talk about truths (rather than Truth) and we suggest that there are many narratives rather than a single one.  PR and selling new stuff and autobiography and good ol' Jensie telling his legs to shut up and a nice chuckle from Phil and Paul about the beefy boy trying to get up the climb--it gets old.

The unpleasantness in that world occurs in a very limited arena: on the road.  It doesn't take place in the hotel or the doctor's office or the lab.  It doesn't take place over the phone.  It doesn't happen in a press conferences or in books that look backward at the narratives of fallen superstars.

That we still don't want ol' Jensie to be busted alone is evidence that that world (e.g., SHUT UP LEGS!!) is the world cycling journalism has followed.  No major publication is pushing it.  They are content limiting themselves to dipping their tips.

A shame because--to use another figure of speech--it's not really bumping uglies unless its more than the tip.  Journalism needs to cover Routley, Columbian drug traffickers, ex-pros whose stories were lost.  It needs to link crazy Russian gangsters to our beloved sport.  It needs to do more than list the finish order of races, for god's sake.

Shit.  Now I'm really worked up.  I'm gonna Routley all the way to work tomorrow just to let off some steam.


dj cyclone said...

Thought provoking Pappy. The layers. Well done. Lots of places to shine the light but lots of dark corners I suppose. Btw the new Phil Gaimon book is pretty unflinching.

Kevin Cross said...

I've always liked Gaimon, especially since his days racing with us at Greenbelt and Black Hills. I'll check it out.