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The squeaky wheel gets the lube

Can't we all just get along

I’d heard about the Tony Kornheiser’s comments about running over cyclists a few days ago. To be honest, it really didn’t faze me. He’s a sports commentator whose whole schtick is to be controversial. His bosses expect that and pay him to be controversial. Did I honestly think that he believed what he said, that it was okay to run over cyclists? No. He was talking to fill four hours of broadcast time and those words came out before his brain caught up with his mouth.

Now today it went up another notch because Lance Armstrong heard about his comments and spoke out about it on Twitter calling him a f’ing idiot and supplying the contact information at ESPN to complain. People also reached out to me to write something or join an anti-Kornheiser Facebook page, but I wasn’t going to give the ESPN commentator the satisfaction of acknowledging his existence. That’s what we all should have done.

Now he has caught the attention of Armstrong who has actually rewarded him by going on his radio show to talk about bicycle awareness. Really? Do you need to be told by Lance Armstrong that it’s not okay to run over and kill people? This is something that should have been conveyed to you in kindergarten or by a parent. When you apply for a driver’s license you need to know the rules of the road. One of those rules is DON’T RUN OVER PEOPLE! If you need Armstrong or any sports figure/celebrity to remind you not to kill anyone or just treat people with a modicum of respect then I truly feel sorry for you and as a society we are just half a step away from Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.

The person who is going to run over a cyclist is someone in an emotional state. They are angry, unhinged or otherwise impaired. This person isn’t going to stop and think before aiming their SUV into a cyclist, “Hey, I remember Lance talking on Tony K’s show about how we shouldn’t run over and kill people. You know what? I’m just going to wait a moment and drive around when it is safe to do so. Thanks Lance!”

D-bag or a man who knows how to get listeners. Maybe both?

So let’s all stop being emotional for a moment and think what we can do. One is if you want to do something don’t listen to his show and tell his sponsors that you are boycotting their products. If an advertiser didn’t like something I said, I was called into the principal’s office. Nothing gets the attention of your boss in the media world like a pissed off sponsor threatening to yank ads.

Also get people involved in cycling. They don’t need to be racers, commuters or fitness enthusiasts – just get them to ride a bike. The reason people hate someone, whether it is a cyclist, runner, person of a different ethnic or religious background, is because they don’t know them. If everyone knew a cyclist it wouldn’t be such a “us” versus “then” mentality. It’s a lot harder to hate when you know that person.

In the short term the winner out of all this is Tony Kornheiser. He got a bump in listeners and an “A” list sports figure to phone into his show. I would respect Armstong if he went on the show and tore him a new ass, but he won’t. He will be stern, but cordial. Kornheiser will apologize and Armstrong will accept that and invite him to some Tweet-Up ride.

I’ll be optimistic and think in the long-term maybe someone in his audience will become cycling-friendly. However, Armstrong will be preaching to the choir (listening because Lance is on the show) since from what I understand, Kornheiser’s usual audience isn’t in the cycling demographic.

Also, I finally got off my ass and blogged again, so I’m happy about that.

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20 Responses to “The squeaky wheel gets the lube”

  1. Joe Kelly March 18, 2010 at 8:37 pm #

    Spot on as usual Neil. Excellent work.

    Me, I just wanted to ruin the bastard.

    JK

  2. bill March 18, 2010 at 8:49 pm #

    interesting take but you fail to realize that change doesnt happen if you ignore the issue as you say people should have…if black people never spoke out against racism then who knows where we would be today…in other words if someone goes on a radio show and makes racial comments joking or not we as a society must speak up and correct this behavior and not let it become the norm or acceptable…joking about running down cylists enforces people who feel that way about cyclists the same way that joking about racism enforces racists people to think its ok for them to be racist…the media is a powerful tool and affects people so at the end of the day cyclists win because hopefully just hopefully the next time someone goes to make a comment about running down cyclists they think twice about it…not only that but i am pretty sure that tony k will in fact be enlightened by lance talking to him and will help the cause next time instead of hurt it…

    • neilroad March 18, 2010 at 9:56 pm #

      Thanks for commenting however I’m not saying totally ignore him, I said be smart about it. Boycott his sponsors and don’t go on his radio show to give him more press. And to be honest I think its naive to think the Korneiser will be enlightened by Lance and change his mind. He is a professional broadcaster who knows how to get ratings.

      • bill March 19, 2010 at 11:55 am #

        appreciate the comment – what good comes out of a boycott of the tony k show sponsors? even if it was impactful? does that help educate agressive dirvers or change tony k view on cyclists? a boycott gets him in trouble with his boss-sure maybe even a suspension but how does that help cyclists?????? i much prefer having lance call him on it going on the show and having a discussion that educates the listeners…sure the ratings jump up for this 20 minutes because the cycling crowd tunes in but are you suggesting that his normal everyday listeners tune out for this 20 minutes? of course not..they hear the same message and if lance is able to influence some of the listeners then success! as soon as lance left that show all the cycling crowd tuned out and the ratings went right back to where they nromaly are so its really not that much a boost to tony k show…i agree getting people to ride is a great idea that you suggest but having lance discuss the benefits of riding seems like a way to get people to ride…you seem to hold lance in a negative light because he doesnt have a dedicated organization to help wih this cause but thats just unfair…lance works with millions of cancer patients for his main cause but if the man think he can help with somethign shoudl he not be allowed? thats just silly…he shouldnt have to start an organization like dz did to help with everything wrong with the world…but if he can take 20 minutes out of his day to try and help then again i welcome that…

  3. Thomas A. Fine March 18, 2010 at 9:01 pm #

    Oh, you had me worried that you were agreeing with me.

    No, just ignoring the problem is not the way to handle it. Talking heads on radio do this sort of thing pretty regularly, and the cycling advocacy community has done a fine job of handling it through letter/email writing and generally making a big stink. This generally results in at least an apology, and sometimes more serious sanctions against the talking head. This works because yes, there is free speech, but radio is special, and falls under the FCC, and radio stations don’t like having consumers report to the FCC that this or that radio station is promoting violence against others.

    There’s plenty of examples. I think LAB has a web page with some recent incidents. the Clear Channel Radio Network had a fairly visible example a while back.

    What’s most disturing to me is that in this case, Kornheiser was already in hot water: he received a two-week suspension for making fun of a colleague’s clothing. This is called a precedent, and it gives us advocates real leverage here (or it did until Lance stepped in to smooth things over). You see, if they hand out 2 weeks of suspension for merely mocking Hanna Storm, then they’re obligated to do something more than that in this case, both because it is much more serious than that case, and because it immediately follows that other one, enough to easily count as a second strike.

    We had the potential to see something really newsworthy. At least a few months suspension, and possibly the would can his ass. That would have been a very valuable outcome, very big news all across the country, and people would pay attention to the issue. That was all right there about to happen, until Kornheiser lands this monster face-saving interview that may have just saved his career.

    Some are arguing that this is a good thing, because Lance can talk back and we will all be heard that way. Well guess what? Lance can talk back anyway. He’s not just regular athlete famous he’s superstar hollywood athlete famous, and if he wanted to go on Larry King Live, he could probably just call and set it up. He could line up ten national radio show appearances if he wanted to, and make a lot more hay out of this. And he could do all of this without saving the career of some worthless talking head, that’s now serving as a lesson to other up-ad-coming talking heads that they too can profit in their career if they just trash talk cyclists. And as I said, Kornheimer getting suspended (again) or fired would be the biggest news story of all, and get the message out to absolutely the most people.

    So, thanks for your help Lance, but how about no thanks?

    tom

  4. SW March 18, 2010 at 9:09 pm #

    Good points, it is frustrating that we unintentionally drive more attention to a blithering idiot.

    I disagree with your conclusions though. Armstrong should go on the show and personalize those hateful and stupid comments from Kornheiser…drive home the statistics about people hit not because the driver was angry and disturbed, but also inattentive, or frustrated and desiring to “teach them a lesson” by driving too close…every platform, however distasteful, is a good one to educate and inform a few additional drivers about the interplay of cars and bikes.

    Folding our arms and saying “ignore him” misses an opportunity.

  5. mrg March 18, 2010 at 9:13 pm #

    b o r i n g.

    please resume coverage of @fakefloydlandis. Get him to talk about that badass homemade altitude chamber behind his house ( a DIY norm abrams story!)

  6. jayne duvall March 18, 2010 at 9:28 pm #

    well said neil. i totally agree with the above comment though, joe kelly. i really just want to ruin the bastard. yeah but it is true. if more people ride, then more people understand. like i always say to the bastard in the car, guess what, i drive a car too, do you ride a bike? can’t make em feel unless they do it. me, i just want to kick his ass on a bike..make him feel like a piece of shit.

  7. Lisa March 18, 2010 at 10:05 pm #

    I think that most rational people would agree that it is wrong to promote violence against innocent people. Kornheiser’s comments were not scripted. He was spontaneous and angry. TK truly hates cyclists. We should make a big deal about this ‘because Kornheiser’s usual audience isn’t [sic] in the cycling demographic.’ After a forced apology, ESPN should terminate his contract.

    I’d love to explain more but there’s a Hitler Youth Rally starting in 10 minutes.

    Lebhaft Starkes!

  8. b | f March 18, 2010 at 10:51 pm #

    while some of your commentary may have merit, and i partially agree, that doesn’t mean we don’t ignore it. case in point, the news today that adam little was struck and killed by a car.

    • neilroad March 18, 2010 at 11:09 pm #

      My deepest sympathy goes out to Adam Little’s family. Again, I’m not saying do nothing – I mention boycotting his sponsors and hit him where it hurts. And I still don’t think Lance going on his show is the correct forum. Lance could be on any show and comment on bicycle awareness. However he’s not and is going to boost Kornheiser’s ratings. David Zabriskie has started a organization called “Yield to Life” – I wish I had remembered this earlier. If Lance wants to do something perhaps collaborate with DZ and spread the word that way. Don’t reward Kornheiser.

      • b | f March 19, 2010 at 3:09 pm #

        agreed on that Neil

  9. dbrower March 18, 2010 at 11:56 pm #

    Well, I don’t think a boycott is worth much in this case; there aren’t enough people to make an economic impact. Now, if you want to say you’re boycotting to score spin points, go right ahead. Nor do I think ignoring it is a good idea. What stink there has already been from The Cycling Advocates is probably enough, and there’s benefit to Armstrong calling him on it. I’m sure Lance will get the suck-up treatment he feels he deserves.

    Kornheiser might be happy with the attention, but he might also be one of those guys whose sense of reality is beginning to come apart.

    Never paid him any attention before– is he as big a self-important dick as Rome? (No offense to the Big Man in the [Cycling] Media).

    -dB

    • neilroad March 19, 2010 at 12:18 am #

      I disagree with you on there isn’t enough people to make an economic impact. Lance has 2.4 million followers on Twitter. When he Twitters something people listen. Can you imagine the hell that would rain down if Lance Twittered, “Don’t buy product X because they sponsor Korneisr’s show.” He also commands enough juice to go on any show to speak his mind. If you read any of my Twitters or blog posts I don’t write stuff for spin to look good. If that was the case I’d have kept my mouth shut about all this. I don’t know how he compares to Jim Rome as I haven’t listened to him either.

  10. @jonofTeamWILL March 19, 2010 at 12:22 am #

    Tony who??? Never heard of the guy before this and now it’s time for him to once again fall off my awareness radar. Lance, we need all your energies in the war against cancer, that’s where people are dying at a much higher rate than cyclists v. autos (not that it’s not an issue).

    Alas, thanks Neil for your excellent take on this matter.

    jmh

  11. dbrower March 19, 2010 at 3:05 am #

    OK, I’ll grant if Lance calls for a boycott, there would be some attention. I’d be surprised it that happened, though, because it doesn’t seem friendly to your own sponsors (say, Nike) to be slagging someone else’s sponsors, especially if there might be overlap.

    It’s the public shaming that Kornheiser deserves, and I expect he’ll be contrite on this one.

    I wasn’t saying Neil hisself is spinning — I’m saying boycott calls by The Cycling Advocates in general are unlikely to be economically effective, and would be posturing/spin exercises notable mainly for media re-telling. Even so, a boycott threat is likely to be more effective than, say, trying to circle TK’s studio or house with people on bikes like a Critical Mass. That’s a direct action tactic even less likely to be useful.

    I say let Lance skewer him, and send more letters to ESPN.

    -dB

  12. Jamie Lindsay March 19, 2010 at 8:58 am #

    Actually according to window nation, a major sponsor of the kornheiser show, lots of folks were contacting them and asking them to pull their ads. (You have my email addy and I will be happy to copy you on the email discussions I had with them). Window Nation immediately distanced themselves from the remarks. They had a conference call with station management after yesterday’s show to express their displeasure with the comments. Shortly after that conference call, ESPN Radio removed the offending show (not that all of his shown don’t offend) from their online archive.
    On their FaceBook fan page, ESPNRADIO980 originally kept removing all critical posts and actually took a shot at Armstrong. That post was also removed. Red Zebra Broadcasting, the owner of the station, was swamped with callers complaining about the remarks, as was the Washington Redskin PR department. Seems D.Snyder owns Red Zebra and the Redskins! (Make your own joke about knowing nothing about sports and sports radio HERE!)
    Armstrong’s tweets were less than friendly, and did not offer some warm and fuzzy place for kornheiser or his people to approach, but eventually contact was made. The cycling community, yes, motivated by Armstrong’s tweets and earlier by Bob Roll’s video, came together to hammer the remarks and the dangerous attitude towards cyclists offered by kornheiser. RIders rose up against kornheiser pretty much the way you advocated in your blog. They went to sponsors, station ownership, and management.
    As far as “ignoring him hoping he will go away” I have to disagree. With the internet and archives, konheiser and his followers persist far longer than in days gone by. I hate to say it, but Kornheiser and I are the same age. Far too many in my demographic are old, spoiled, and believe the world owes us a good parking spot, free healthcare, discounts on everything, and the entire road! Prior to the advent of drivers being distracted by cell phones and texting, all we had to worry about were drunks and crotchety old farts with a bad attitude trying to run us over. The remarks made by kornheiser will only serve to fan the flames of anger of his aged and pampered few and fuel their aggression every time they see a bicyclist. While I was run over by a drunk (oh how I miss the good old days) I do tire of old geezers (like me) standing on their horns every time they pass, or cutting as close to me as possible in an attempt to intimidate me off THEIR ROAD!
    So is kornheiser getting an A-lister to appear on his show? Yes, and today the show will probably have more listeners than ever. Will the Armstrong appearance encourage kornheiser to be more provocative in the future? Perhaps, but as his career is winding down, no doubt he will prove the axiom, desperate times call for desperate measures. He has offended 51% of the population with his sexist remarks about a colleague and spent two weeks on the bench as a result. He has now irritated his sponsors with his advocacy of violence against bicyclists, and not too far in the future he is sure to open his mouth and put Snyder, ESPN, and himself in hot water again, hopefully for the last time.
    Then it will be time, or past time, for kornheiser to get his special parking space, medicare, and a scooter from the scooter store which he can use to terrorize all the women at Wal*Mart. Until then, thanks to window nation for standing up to this old bully and for a donation to help fight cancer! Finally, I appreciate Roll and Armstrong using social media to alert, educate and advocate on our behalf.
    NOW GET OFF MY LAWN!

  13. dennis March 19, 2010 at 9:44 am #

    I say give K all the traffic and exposure he wanted. Make him and his unwitting sponsors become the poster boys for irresponsibility, put his face on billroards and bumperstickers.

  14. Bill Laudien March 19, 2010 at 10:12 am #

    I’d like to offer up a different take on this.

    Kornheiser comments, while perhaps not sincerely his own feelings, do reflect the sentiments of a dangerous large percentage of our driving public.

    The roads are filled with morons who expect cyclist to ride on the sidewalks and express their ignorance in fits of rage. Tony K’s comments are dangerous in that they can incite these folks or at least validate their ignorance.

    HOWEVER – and god I hate to say anything positive about Armstrong – Armstrong can very well turn this into a positive. He has a unique ability to reach the non cycling population and address the issue of cycling access and cyclist safety…and not be taken as some nutso liberal hippee.

    If the end result is that more motorist have an appreciation and tolerance for cyclists, and that we’re all safer out there as a result of this bruhaha, then I’m all for pandering and giving Tony K. the attention he doesn’t deserve.

  15. Don March 19, 2010 at 10:40 am #

    One thing this should show all of us is the Power of Social Media.

    I have been a long time listener of The Kornheiser Show, a follower of PTI on ESPN and his failed attempt at being a football commentator for Monday Night Football. Some of his comments are off-the-cuff and TK tries to be the Howard Stern of Sports Radio, sadly he fails at that.

    Is this a win for TK = Yes. His syndicated show will now have one of the most influential people in sports, now that Tiger Woods has stumbled from his throne. It will drive a whole new audience to listen to his show even if it is for 1 show only. We all know that ESPN could care less about cycling as a sport. If ESPN did care they would have more pieces about cycling instead of which big name American rider is caught up in a doping scandal.

    Is this a win for LA = Yes. Any time LA gets media coverage its great for the LiveStrong Foundation. Also it keeps LA’s name and face in public view. This might be a great time for LA to support bike safety and supporting stiffer punishments for auto – bike collisions that result in injury or death here in the US. As all of us riders know, it is truly needed.

    I am in no way condoning the comments TK made, they were reckless and foolish, but I would expect nothing less from someone that is trying to increase rating for his various programs. Some people already have a dislike to cyclist and his anti-cyclist rant does nothing more then ‘stir the pot’ with some.

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